The Genetic Basis of Talent

As a piano teacher, I almost never encounter people who believe that talent does not exist or that it plays only a negligible role in determining how quickly musical skill is acquired or how far one can ultimately go in musical mastery, especially among my experienced piano-teaching peers.  Outside of the field of teaching, I encounter this belief once in a while, especially on the Internet.  This is what prompted me to write my Talent’s Role In Artistry article in 2009 as well as my Expertise Is Not The Result Of Pure Discipline article in 2010.  I wanted to follow up with one more article on talent, this time focusing mostly on research that addresses the genetic basis of talent.

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Studies Addressing Piano Voodoo of Tone Production

In July 2010, I wrote about The Piano Voodoo of Tone Production, which demonstrates that pianists cannot control timbre of a single note independently of volume because of the physics of piano escapement/letoff.  There are those who claim we can control the tone of a note without changing its volume, and some of these claims are made in a scientific manner.  The studies I discuss below are not necessarily for or against these claims, but rather investigations of any possible science behind it.  There are many other related studies Continue reading

The Piano Voodoo of Tone Production

The word timbre (also called tone quality or tone color) is an important part of every musician’s vocabulary. Woodwind and brass instrumentalists can affect timbre by such simple things such as embouchure or fingering choices. String instrumentalists have things such as bow speed, angle and pressure to work with. Surprisingly to some, pianists have one and only one way to legitimately manipulate the actual color of each note they play: pedals.

Some may be compelled to cite qualities such as “warm”, “harsh” and “transparent” as auditory examples of how technique and touch can affect tone quality on the piano. We can Continue reading