Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Natural talent vs Practice

Myth versus reality… maybe not quite


Brilliant piece… And this is exactly what I meant when I said I was so many hours behind to a video posting that showed your sudden leap in performance. In addition to the skills you have developed from several hours of practice, you have talent as well. You stand out from the crowd. That sets a genius apart! As a chess player I know this - natural talent vs practice. I too would say this does not have to deter someone from trying to get good to be to a challenge a naturally talented one.

You have keen observation skills too when you say this… “America’s got talent should be called America’s got skills”. I have a similar observation about America in politics (or government rather) - should I share? :wink:



Do share, but maybe in a new thread so as not to go off topic


Alright, created a separate thread for it…

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Hey All

great article…

Ive spent my whole life around musicians and a 3 year course when i left school studying music and i’ve seen what is called gifted and those that have to work hard at it. Now i’m a believer that some people seem to be more adept/gifted at something than others and things tend to come easier to them but talent alone is not the be all and end all.

With all what we call Gifted/Talented people theres more often than not great passion regarding their chosen instrument which you can see without question and i believe that, that passion fuels their desire to practice. My take on it is that passion, desire, motivation and practice is what we see as Gifted, Talented etc…

I agree that some people have more of a head start like those with perfect pitch and natural rhythm but these are skills that with dedication, desire and practice can be achieved

Just my take on it…


Sounds right! If they come naturally inside you, you will be gifted, talented etc. when you practice. But if you force you to have them, you may do well but you may not excel, I think.


Yep Lee, you pretty much nailed what I was trying to say


That’s some good insight. I think another thing to consider is how much instruction an individual is receiving and if they are using the recommended technique. I have taught banjo to some kids who just prefer to not anchor their little fingers, and it messes up their speed and accuracy. Also one thing to consider is how playable an instrument is. On my first banjo, I almost never played up the neck because it was so hard. Two minor things, but still important to consider.


Just to Add…

I have some first hand info on this as i was forced to learn the piano when i was young (actually it was the organ first) and i hated it and to this day even though i play semi-pro would only consider myself as an intermediate player but since turning 48 i have a passion strangely for the banjo and even though i now don’t have the time to put 6 hours a day in i consider myself a better banjo player than keyboard player after only 12 months… i know this is without doubt down to the passion i have now in my life to learn the banjo which i never had for piano…

Great topic…


Reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite US presidents.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” - Calvin Coolidge


Good conversation. I think I might land a bit differently on this topic. I do think God-given/genetic (I’ll call it GGG) ability or potential is a head start. Where I might go off the reservation is that I think it is a bigger tail-start… What I mean by that is that the ultimate potential level is often (always?) set by GGG. I don’t think one can rise to the level of “phenom/prodigy/best” without having an unusual GGG proclivity for a given task. I think most can rise to a very high level at most things based on learning/practice alone. However, some can only rise to say… mediocre based on GGG. Look at LeBron James… how many people in the world have the size, speed, agility, mental abilities and psychological makeup to be the kind of basketball player he is? Not too many. I could have had the best training, the best drive, the most practice time, and I would never have approached his ability on a basketball court, and it’s not just the height thing, it is the whole package. With all that said, learning and practice are huge and necessary. More to the point (and agreeing with much above), worrying about NOT having GGG ability is a complete waste of time because by definition, we can’t change it. All we can change is how we spend our time and efforts. So like that off-grid guy said… Get back to practice!!! :crazy_face:


Agreed. Mary Lou Retton was not considered that talented a gymanast. Deion Sanders has stated that a lot of guys were better than him growing up. He practiced harder. Will Smith said he got where he is just by outworking everybody.

Michael Jordan was cut from his HS basketball team. Robert Johnson was ridiculed for his lack of guitar skills. He disappeared for six months and came back a blues phenom.

“There’s no substitute for Practice”
-Doyle Dykes


I agree with Mike 100% and I’ll add this:

Look at some of these kids that can play better than most ever will. How about Preston Barker winning all these Flatpicking competitions before he can legally drive! He first had to grow up enough to have the strength and reach to even hold a guitar. So how much time has he had for learning, devolping the skills and practicing to become good enough to win these competitions. And I’m not talking about children’s competitions… He’s winning adult competitions! There’s many many folks out there (even pros) who have way more practice time in and just as much desire who will never be that good. I think it’s great that he was blessed with a gift and I’m sure he only puts down his guitar to eat, sleep and shower and I hope he sticks with it. Ricky Skaggs did! But being that young doesn’t allow for very many years of practice.

I also agree with Gunnar, Treblemaker and Mark that even though you’re talented, you still need to work at it. Chris Thiele comes to mind here. I read where he practices six hours a day just to gain the tiniest amount on his ability. He says he needs at least four hours to stay where he is with he can do. If he goes under four hours, he feels like he’s losing pace! Chris Thiele?! Really?!

All that the majority of us can do is be ourselves, know where we are, do the best we can and have fun with it!


Somehow, it doesn’t seem quite right (maybe prideful?) that I “like” a post that starts this way.



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100% agree with you @Lee_G,

Just clarifying that to me, all those items in your list ARE gifts in and of themselves and we ALL have them in varying levels when we start… then hone and develop them along the way. Passion, Creativity, perseverance, practice discipline, dexterity, listening, and so many more… all gifts (which are God-given in my book :wink:) that we have… and choose or not choose to develop.