I cannot count how many times I’ve heard these two myths in my years of piano teaching:
- “I am really good at memorizing music but my sight-reading is horrible.” [most commonly from music students in beginning through advanced levels]
- “I am really good at sight-reading music but can’t memorize to save my life.” [most commonly from advanced students, accompanists, church pianists, chamber pianists and other professional musicians]
These myths are often spoken with the implication that we’re all either born as sight-readers or memorizers. The fact is, we’re all both. It’s all a matter of what we train ourselves to do. What might come as a surprise, however, is that these two statements are not two myths. They are one myth.
It’s important to realize how critical of a role hard work plays in developing any skill, whether it be soccer, chess or music. But it simply isn’t truthful to ignore the role of talent. Many people don’t acknowledge this role nearly as much as it should be, even sometimes subscribing to the myth that there is no such thing as talent. I have noticed that this talent myth is promoted more in the field of music than in other fields, and I believe this is because music is so highly personal – and valuable – to people. For many, it’s easier to admit that they are no good at math (a nerdy discipline that some feel is of little use in their lives) than it is to admit that one probably won’t ever play music at a highly proficient level (a coveted discipline that almost everyone would love to do well in).