View Poll Results: Does genetics influence musicianship?

Voters
40. You may not vote on this poll
  • Directly affects

    31 77.50%
  • No effect

    9 22.50%
Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 33 of 33
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    Hi guys I was thinking about this a little bit after reading another thread (Everyone can play jazz - yes or not ?).

    Do you guys think genetics plays a role in musicianship?

    1) Directly affects musical skills such as hearing or melodic sense
    2) No effect on musicianship

    If you guys answered yes, in what ways do you think genetics manifests itself in our playing? Which aspect(s) of music does the genetic trait lend itself to?

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    If you include memory in the equation of genetics I absolutely think it plays a role. I am amazed at the ability of musicians to memorize long complicated pieces and large repertoire, and then recall it instantly if asked to play a particular tune.

    I wish I could do that. I have forgotten 95% of what I once had memorized.


    Last edited by Slide; 05-27-2015 at 01:02 PM.

  4. #3

    User Info Menu

    Hard to tell. Would probably need some studies of identical twins separated at birth, raised in very different environments.

    I have many friends who are stellar musicians and whose mother or father (or both) was/is a musician, which certainly seems to have given them a "leg up", but it doesn't tell you anything about genetics versus the environment in which they were raised.

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    I believe some people have (better or perhaps healthier) nerve - muscle systems that allow them move and execute passages in more fluid manner. I think this becomes more visibly apparent as we age.

    Danielle
    Last edited by DanielleOM; 05-28-2015 at 02:33 PM.

  6. #5

    User Info Menu

    Since "Have no clue" (possibly a genetic trait) was not an option, I answered in the affirmative. I believe there are certain mental and physical traits passed down that may lend themselves to making a person more musically inclined.

  7. #6

    User Info Menu

    A thoughtful article by a piano teacher on "the genetic basis of talent."


    The Genetic Basis of Talent - Cerebroom

  8. #7

    User Info Menu

    Sorry, folks, looks like there is now some hard core evidence that genetics plays a critical role.

    Here's the article from Scientific American: What Do Great Musicians Have in Common? DNA - Scientific American

  9. #8

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by zdub
    Sorry, folks, looks like there is now some hard core evidence that genetics plays a critical role.
    Nothing to be sorry for. Genetic factors play a substantial role in all aspects of our lives.

  10. #9

    User Info Menu

    Piano fingers!

    That is not to discount the influence of angels, or, at the crossroads at midnight, Satan.

  11. #10

    User Info Menu

    Since we live in the age of Darwinism and evolution, is there another answer besides yes to genetics?

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Since we live in the age of Darwinism and evolution, is there another answer besides yes to genetics?
    Look at your frettin hand. Four fingers to fret the notes of a 7th chord, a thumb to squeeze from the back -- that's an intelligent design!

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    no surprise
    some people are born fast runners
    some people are born smarter
    some people are born musical

    etc etc

    so what , doesn't matter
    i'm not gifted , I play anyway ....
    no-one plays like me

  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Since we live in the age of Darwinism and evolution, is there another answer besides yes to genetics?
    Oh God

  15. #14

    User Info Menu

    There's influence...musicianship is very multi-faceted. There's no single skill for musicianship, but if you were blessed with a number of aptitudes, yeah, you might find stuff easier, see bigger successes faster, be more motivated to work even harder, etc.

    Musicianship is not like "running fast" though. Musicianship is like being a good quarterback. Lots of skills combined.

  16. #15

    User Info Menu

    Great book by Oliver Sacks called "Musicophilia". Details several known cases of people getting struck by lightening, or hit on the head, who suddenly had incredible musical abilities "unlocked" that they never knew they had before. Became high-level composers, pianists, etc. People who did NO music before the accident. There are similar cases of people suddenly having unlocked incredible ability for mathematics, like being able to calculate square roots of complex numbers to the 23rd decimal place, in their heads, within 10 or 15 seconds...

    Now you tell me, nature or nurture??

  17. #16

    User Info Menu

    My great uncle is a firm believer that everything you'll come to be is determined upon conception and that the external environment accelerates or retards your progress towards denouement. I was a skeptic of this theory but the more I observe my surroundings, the more I find it to be axiomatically true. That isn't to say great guitarists are born with an inherent understanding of the fretboard or things of the like, just the tendency to have an insatiable desire to process it's complexity.

  18. #17
    It seems like the overwhelming answer to the nature vs. nurture question is nature.
    The second part of my question was to discuss how the nature would manifest ie. what exactly is musical talent?
    Of course there's no clear answer yet, but what everybody thinks might make for interesting discussion.

  19. #18

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Thecytochromec
    My great uncle is a firm believer that everything you'll come to be is determined upon conception and that the external environment accelerates or retards your progress towards denouement. I was a skeptic of this theory but the more I observe my surroundings, the more I find it to be axiomatically true. That isn't to say great guitarists are born with an inherent understanding of the fretboard or things of the like, just the tendency to have an insatiable desire to process it's complexity.

    You can press the point that free will doesn't exist and that the universe is deterministic above the level of quantum mechanics. Is that what your great uncles bangs on about?

  20. #19

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles
    You can press the point that free will doesn't exist and that the universe is deterministic above the level of quantum mechanics. Is that what your great uncles bangs on about?
    Oh God

  21. #20

    User Info Menu

    It's probably a combo of genetics and soul/spirit.

  22. #21

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles
    You can press the point that free will doesn't exist and that the universe is deterministic above the level of quantum mechanics. Is that what your great uncles bangs on about?
    No, likely because he hasn't taken quantum mechanics; he's a biologist.

    Unfortunately, I have taken quantum mechanics. I would argue that the 4th postulate of quantum mechanics infers that though we can predict the results of many repetitions of an identical experiment, the actual values of a single trial of the experiment are impossible to predict. This mirrors the idea of "free will" in my opinion. By that I mean, people, on the whole, are largely predictable yet every once in a while there will be one that deviates from our prediction some call this phenomenon "free will". The real question, in my opinion, would be, "Is it actually free will?"

    Currently I'm reading "What is Man?" by Mark Twain which an old man argues with a young one that man is in fact a machine on the basis that... Well now that I think about it, I'm at the critical point of derailing this thread so I'll spare the OP and all other prying eyes and suggest that you give it a read. It's free on the apple bookstore and quite an interesting read.

  23. #22

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Thecytochromec

    (snip)
    By that I mean, people, on the whole, are largely predictable yet every once in a while there will be one that deviates from our prediction some call this phenomenon "free will". The real question, in my opinion, would be, "Is it actually free will?"

    Currently I'm reading "What is Man?" by Mark Twain which an old man argues with a young one that man is in fact a machine on the basis that... Well now that I think about it, I'm at the critical point of derailing this thread so I'll spare the OP and all other prying eyes and suggest that you give it a read. It's free on the apple bookstore and quite an interesting read.
    But you'll also find that even "one that deviates from our prediction" will make a subconscious decision to do something before they are consciously aware of that choice. fMRI studies bear this out time & time again.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will makes my head explode. At some point ya' just gotta say, so what, lemme get on with life...

    (gonna go check out that Twain piece now. It's on gutenberg.org)

  24. #23

    User Info Menu

    -from the Jackie Vernon school of genetics: " If your parents didn't have any children, chances are, you won't either. "

  25. #24

    User Info Menu

    Being the only person in possession of any musical competence among my siblings, parents and other relatives I don't see a connection. My mother-in-law, however, is a natural musician with perfect pitch. When asked, I say that I inherited my ability from her.

  26. #25

    User Info Menu

    Genetic factors in responding to 4 year old zombie threads? Probably not.

  27. #26

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by zdub
    Sorry, folks, looks like there is now some hard core evidence that genetics plays a critical role.
    Well, that's just depressing.

    Anyone looking to purchase a nice collection of archtops and basses?

  28. #27

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by pushkar000
    Hi guys I was thinking about this a little bit after reading another thread (Everyone can play jazz - yes or not ?).

    Do you guys think genetics plays a role in musicianship?

    1) Directly affects musical skills such as hearing or melodic sense
    2) No effect on musicianship

    If you guys answered yes, in what ways do you think genetics manifests itself in our playing? Which aspect(s) of music does the genetic trait lend itself to?


    1. Without a doubt, yes!

    In what way? It depends on the genetics, and how the person chooses to take advantage of it.
    Many talented people make no use of their advantage, many less talented people work hard and create better results.

  29. #28

    User Info Menu

    FWIW, my great-grandfather on my father's side, in addition to being an EUB minister, played fiddle for saturday night barn dances. My dad and his fraternal twin had a duo act playing ukuleles from the age of four for social occasions. Dad, in addition to singing in the church choir, played clarinet in the community band. My brother and sister played clarinet, I played trumpet and later, french horn. I formed my first jazz band in bible school, repitoire consisting of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and some hymns "jazzed up." Our children both played clarinet, our daughter also played piano and our son played bass and guitar. Our daughter's children play drums & percussion, guitars and bass. Our son's daughter is a talented vocalist in addition to playing guitar and bass.The great grand children also show musical propensities and will certainly not suffer lack of opportunity to play guitar....

  30. #29

    User Info Menu

    I did read the "this is your brain on music" book and found the author's BS about the only ingredient necessary for becoming a top virtuoso is 10,000 hours of practice, as if we're all created musically equal, to be preposterous. Mozart, Wes Montgomery, et al clearly have a genetic leg up.

    I came to my conclusion of nature over nurture after 11 years of teaching private guitar lessons full time and observing that one individual would waltz in as a beginner and show a tremendous musical natural aptitude, where another of the same age would display nothing of the sort.

    So I informed any student less talented that they were a horrible loser, they'd never amount to anything, and to get out of my sight.

    Ha, seriously though I found that students who weren't naturals but were enthusiastic and dedicated could still garner some wonderful skills and do nicely.

    Plus the individuality and vision factors that have been mentioned can be such a nice contribution from those who can express it in more popular forms of music, even if they didn't ever present the type of natural ability that would be required of a top classical musician.
    Last edited by MattR; 12-28-2019 at 10:27 PM.

  31. #30

    User Info Menu

    I prematurely voted to no genetics, based on my understandings of perfect pitch which considered as a very unique musical skill but recently become clear (hypotesis) it is a learned skill in special brain functions only availabe in baby ages.

    However reading the posts I realized that you are right many aspects of a musical talent has to something to do with genetics like memory or motoric skills, I did not considered that. My first and limited aspect was only regarding musicanship as an expression language (in artistic level) and did not thought about the technical details, that music must be executed.

    Anyway the genetics-talent correlation is a vey interesting topic mainly because it is almost impossible to conduct experiments which would provide exact proofs. If anyone further interested, is shocking to know that Judit Polgár who as a girl beated chess champions like Karpov, and considered the stongest player in the word has the story of no genetics instead of a planned experiment of proving that geniuses are made and not born... her father was a psychologist

    her "father László Polgár, in an attempt to prove that children could make exceptional achievements if trained in a specialist subject from a very early age.[11] "Geniuses are made, not born," was László's thesis"


  32. #31

    User Info Menu

    The Polgars is an interesting story.

    Similarly, there's the "Dan Plan" in which 30 year Dan McLaughlin - who had never played golf - decided to give the 10000 targeted hours thing a go in an attempt to get a handicap of 2, and eventually get on the PGA tour. I remember reading his blog many years ago - and he did brilliantly. I think he got down to 2.5 which put him amongst the top golfers in the world, before injury caused him to give up. Had he started at three, imagine how far he might have got.

    Neither of which prove things one way or another - had Dan had the right genes maybe he'd have made it to a handicap of 1, even starting at 30 years of age. Who knows?

    But both cases prove that hard work is required. And preferably from a young age. And it would probably help if the environment is conducive to whatever area you want to excel in, too. I remember at school the best musicians all happened to be the sons and daughters of music teachers. Coincidence?

  33. #32

    User Info Menu

    I suspect that genetics does have some influence. In my case, neither of my parents played an instrument but both loved music. Growing up, there was always music in their household. I also had two uncles from both sides of my family who played guitar and I attribute that influence on my own interest and development. But perhaps more importantly, my family strongly encouraged me with lessons when they realized that I was serious about learning the guitar. Without that encouragement, I would never have developed as a musician.

    Since I retired a few years ago, I decided to pursue our family's genealogy. Part of that quest was try to find a link between my musical interest and any long dead ancestors who might have had the same interest. In looking at family photographs, I discovered several pictures of individuals (all of whom were unidentified) playing a guitar - probably from the 1920s. But more interestingly, I found the WWI military records from two of my relatives. Both participated in the same battle, both were wounded on the same day, and both were officially listed as "musicians." Both, thankfully, also survived.

    Fast forward to 2019. My 12 year old grandson has shown a strong interest in the guitar, so he has formally started lessons. He asked me if I would give him lessons and I am honored to do it. My daughter in law is a classically trained musician so its easy to see the genetic connections. But without her encouragement of him and my own special interest in his development, I am not sure he would have pursued it.

    So I guess in the end, our natural interests and abilities have to be nurtured in order to fully develop. Perhaps as musicians, that is the most important lesson for us.

  34. #33

    User Info Menu

    I don't believe there is a single definitive answer to the question. Do children born to musicians inherit musical ability genetically, or do they tend to be musicians because their parents encouraged them, and music was a normal part of their early life? Or is it some of both? I tend to think that it's a complicated issue, and impossible to determine given our current knowledge. It seems likely that genetics has at least some influence, but exactly how much, and how it is expressed, is currently undetermined. There are theories, but they conflict, and thus can't all be true. We just don't know enough about how genes are expressed to be able to reach a definite conclusion, but I think that both genetics and environment play a role to some degree.