Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I was thinking about this, for some time. Let me add, I hope the title, does not cause offence to anyone. I am asking out of pure honesty. Some people are very musical, while others have no musical ability at all. I always wondered why. One theory I have, tells me that whatever part of the brain that controls music, won’t work for some people. However, I have found that people who claim not to be musical, will listen to music and enjoy it. The well known Irish musician, Professor Micheal O’ Suilleabhain, believes it has to do with our forefathers. He says, if they were not musical, chances are, that those who follow on won’t be musical either. He is of the opinion, that it simply has to do with genes. Here is another view which I heard some days ago, and led to me starting this debate. Someone told me, that the music has to come from both sides of the family, for a person to be musical. Let me add again, I don’t want to say too much in this post, in case of offending people. Does anyone have better views, on this topic.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

And why do the non-musical ones come to sessions? = \

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Actually I disagree. Totally.
It’s not that people are unmusical, it’s simply that music has not attracted their interest enough that they want to participate. Bearing in mind the statistic that you need to do something for 10,000 hours to become really good at it, these people simply aren’t motivated enough to put in the practise. Anyone here who has tried to play for long enough knows how there is a point when things begin to click, and it all gets better.
Unmusical people simply aren’t interested enough to put in the work.
Let them go to football matches, or fly kites, or customise their cars, and let us get on with what we like to do I say !

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I’m not saying that certain aspects of the individual’s brain chemistry doesn’t exert some degree of influence over how musical they are, but I strongly disagree with the belief that it’s entirely genetic and passed down genetically from parent to child. The reason musical parents might be more prone to give birth to musical children is because the child was raised in a house where playing music was valued, and hence are more likely to play it or see it as a normal and natural thing to do.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Where does Professor O’ Suilleabhain set out his views on this ?

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

@GuernseyPete: "Actually I disagree. Totally."
So do I, but only with your theory. There are many people who are totally unmusical, and no amount of time, training, schooling or coaching will ever make them so.
I work with numerous Youth and Charity groups, providing equipment and musicians for them to record songs they like, to sell and raise money for their charities. Many many of them are totally dire, out of tune, and with no sense of rhythm, but it’s long been decided that it’s THEIR music and if that’s the way it sounds, then so be it. There are some so unmusical they can’t even beat a drum in time. They have interest, enthusiasm, even hope - but to no avail. We’ve been performing charity concerts using the same singers for the same songs for nearly three years now and some of them are still as out of tune as they were back at the start, so it doesn’t improve with time or repetition.
So: you can’t really say that music has not attracted their interest long enough; it’s been put in front of them with all the trimmings and still makes no sense to many of them.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"One theory I have, tells me that whatever part of the brain that controls music, won’t work for some people."

It has been learned from scientific research that "music" is a very large entity that doesn’t come from just one part of the brain, but from many parts of the brain.

"Someone told me, that the music has to come from both sides of the family, for a person to be musical."

To my knowledge, music has only come from one side of my family, and from even that side, it runs thin in our blood. My mom sings. My umcle is known to have a good voice but doesn’t sing. I’m the only instrumentalist for at least 2 generations, the only other instrumentalist being one of my cousins from my Great-Grandmothers(3 generations back) line.

As for my dad’s side, they are soldiers and machinists There may be a couple of musicians here and there, but since I was young I was the one to bring the music around, shamelessly packing my keyboard to every family gathering that came up.

But I do know musical families. One of my ex-girlfriends carries music from both sides, and one of my Grandmothers friends produced a large musical family. Singers and instrumentalist of several sorts all over the place.

(Personally, i’m looking to marry a musical(or artistic) woman to help me restore the bloodline.)

I believe in desire, in some form. My desire was brought on by the fascination that I could reproduce the music I heard. Desire turned into passion when I decided that I wanted to bring all of that music to true life.

Others have extended harmonic and melodic appreciations. Two of my piano students simply wanted to learn piano because it "sounds pretty".

Others want to feel accomplished. One of my piano students confessed that she wanted to learn because she’s given up on a lot of things, but really likes music and wants it to be the thing she didn’t give up on. She’s progressing nicely.

So we all of our reasons. My understanding is that it comes down to desire and resourcefulness. Terrible teachers can ruin it for a student. I myself went through a few teachers before I found my permanents. And lack of an instrument can cause lack of interest of wanting to play, especially when you’re young and don’t know how to play much anyway.

I have more to learn about these supposedly "unmusicals", but I haven’t concluded that they can’t be helped. I’ve watched some impressive instructors really set some folks up nicely that I thought were hopeless. But i’ve also watch some "hopeless" folks really frustrate impressive instructors.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I think truly ‘unmusical’ people are very rare. The vast majority of people respond to music in some way, whether they just enjoy it as a background hum whilst they work or they are driven to play it professionally. Who is deciding here whether someone is ‘musical’ or not? What are their criteria?

Whilst there is no doubt some truth in Ó Suillebhain’s assertion that it "has to do with genes," I strongly disagree that it *simply* has to do with genes - the truth is far more complex, and I am very surprised that a man of his academic standing would make such a statement. Of course a family that has generations of musicians in it is more likely to produce a child that develops a high level of musical skill, since i. the family has inherited a wealth of musical knowledge that can be passed on; ii. the child has been exposed to music from an early age and iii. perhaps the child has inherited a genetic predisposition to be well developed in certain areas of the brain that are key to acquiring musical skill (e.g. those that govern processing of aural information and fine motor control). The same factors, no doubt, give an advantage to a child of two musicians over a child of one musician and one non-musician.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

< And why do the non-musical ones come to sessions? >

Like It, But I’m not talking about The Musicians ; )

jim,,,

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I believe that the broad consensus these days is that all aspects of one’s personality develop as a result of both nature and nurture, genes and environment.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Ps,
Here’s an Example of last week Me and Friend on Guitar
Quite slipjig just for someone there… to Learn.

https://www.mediafire.com/?33uabca1ce7acdg

Must say my E string was way out, But got naffed of with
the background noise by then : )
jim,,,

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Don’t forget about listening as a component. Some people *just*don’t*listen*. They will never be musicians.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

jim,,,’s back ! 🙂

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Given that the brain is so complicated and interactions between genes, environment, experience, other factors, still aren’t very well understood with things that are pretty well studied, i.e. psychopathology, I doubt that anyone has the faintest idea why some people appear to have greater facility with music than others. It certainly cannot be distilled down to one or two variables.

Sure, you might come out with your brain wired a certain way, but I think more and more studies are suggesting the importance of neuroplasticity, how life experience and environmental interaction can affect the way those neurons fire.

I feel like waving around the QI "nobody knows" placard.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Oh, and what is the source of your quote from Prof. O’ Suilleabhain? I would like to think that there’s more of a context for it, and as an academic, one would hope that he wouldn’t come up with a daft, overgeneralization with dubious supporting evidence like that.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

100 years ago it was rare to find someone that didn’t play music of some sort, so I think it is cultural rather than genetic IMHO

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

As with everything, some people got it and some people don’t. Pointless to ask why. My parents and my brother are as non-musical as you get. I’ve been working on tunes since grade school.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Some of my family are very good artists, they see things that I don’t, when they draw, or look at other people’s work, there are things that they see and care about that I don’t understand. When I was at school one of my parents would help me with "art," and they’d show me what they’d do and I’d laugh because it was so nice and so clever - but I still couldn’t do it, although I could do a clear and accurate drawing of "something."
But with music…..

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

It is all about genetics.

Of course it is also cultural, however there are naturally better musicians than others. Some people are born with a knack to music, painting, math, sports, etc… Environment has a key role too. If two highly intelligent people have a baby, that baby will probably be intelligent. But if they do not give the baby proper nurturing, that could have an impact on its intelligence.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

It’s all about myelin.

Also, there’s an interesting autobiography about a person who "just wasn’t musical". He tried many times to learn guitar, and even several teachers dumped him because, despite trying, he was just couldn’t get it. The book is called "Guitar Zero" by Gary Marcus. Excellent read.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"It is all about genetics. "

Boy, you couldn’t prove that by me. My parents weren’t dumb, but they were not particularly bright. They had no artistic talent whatsoever. I’m not going to say that I’m brilliant or even all that talented, but I can say there was nothing in my family background that should have produced me. I think having parents who pass on interests to their kids or an environment that fosters certain talents can bring out the best in an individual who might otherwise not have gone in a particular direction, but I think it is far more common to see people develop in areas that could have never been predicted. People like Mark Twain, Leonard Bernstein and Michaelangelo did not enjoy an upbringing or education that should have ever made them who they were. Of all the great composers, I think Bach was the only one to have fathered talented offspring.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"I think Bach was the only one to have fathered talented offspring."

Is that a joke? And my goodness, do you know how many kids that man had?! One of them was bound to be a musician!!! xD

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I don’t see the humor. Can you point it out to me?

Is there something about my point that is unclear?

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Several of the renowned classical musicians came *from musical lines and were taught by their parents. Whether they continued the line or not doesn’t disprove the idea of musical lineage because they were already part of musical lineage.

As for the humour, Bach was just a terrible example. He had too many kids, I’m sure all of them did something, artistic or not.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Bach was the only one I could think of. I truly don’t know how many kids he had, but I think the example served my larger point. Other than Mozart, name me some composers who came from musical families.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Youngsters go through "windows" of opportunity when they need to be exposed to the music at crucial points in their development

Although cultural "screens" do have impact on this, I’d say genetics have really nothing to do with it.

Hanging out at epic sessionsn when you’re in the womb could only help the process I’d say?

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Like Ailin, I don’t come from a musical family.

I was fumbling with the guitar for seven-eight years (on my own) before I even got the idea to try something new (hint: Irish music). I didn’t think I had any talent, but I knew I had decent aural skills. Nowadays, I know that my musical ear have improved, that I have a better understanding of the ways instruments work etc. If anything, my talent is an aquired skill. Maybe I pick things up faster than others, but shouldn’t I? Hardly anybody I know has devoted anywhere near the same number of hours on an instrument.

It’s a bad excuse to blame failure on lack of talent if one has never never studied hard.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"Other than Mozart, name me some composers who came from musical families."

Excluding the obvious Mozart and Bach…

Vivaldi, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Weber, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Strauss, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, all of which had at least one musical parent, several of them coming from musical lineage. Now do you see the humor?

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I guess it would be funny if you were right, but I don’t believe any of these composers had parents who composed. That they may have been musical hardly qualifies. Lots of people are musical, but they don’t give birth to a Beethoven. I used Bach because his sons composed and are played to this day. I think you are splitting hairs for the sake of an argument. You are isolating a single sentence at the expense of what my entire post was trying to get across. If you differ with my point, you might have taken a more persuasive route.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"I guess it would be funny if you were right, but I don’t believe any of these composers had parents who composed."

You don’t have to believe me, it’s stated in all of their biographies whether you believe me or not. And who’s talking about composing? We’re talking about instrumentalists, performers and singers, not just writers and composers. Judging from the OP’s questions, these musicians’ parents being musical perfectly qualifies. You don’t have to be a genius to be musical.

Take it or leave it man.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Before TV and Radio, everyone came from a musical family.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I’d say "genius" doesn’t really exist… (Just my opinion)

"Gifted and talented" genius "Prodigies" and all that is garbage. As most words are inventions by man. It has done more damage than good and ppl need to realize it and change the culture of learning within all aspects of education.

Posted .

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Take it or leave it man.
# Posted by LoverofMelodies

Okay. Thanks.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Although this thread seems once again to be sidetracked, the OP asks a question I’ve often thought about. I think it’s important to say that musicality or musical talent is not a monolith. I’ve known many musicians, both professional and not, and many music students, and I can say for certain that there are wildly differing skill sets among them. When I was in music school I knew a girl, a pianist who could transpose Beethoven sonatas into any key at will. Sadly, she couldn’t make any of them sound like music- no idea when to bring out themes, no sensitivity for phrasing, no idea of the musical architecture. I’ve known people who could play back almost any melody verbatim after one hearing, but can’t remember it five minutes later. I know musicians who can sight read up a storm but can’t memorize, who can figure tunes out by ear but not read, who can sing beautifully in tune but can’t keep a steady beat, who can hear melodies easily but not chords, or the other way around, etc, etc. All of these people have some degree of musicality. There are a few who are blessed with most or all of these skills, and there are those who realize their weaknesses and work hard to improve them. And then there are those who don’t.
I also think that a lot of strife on this site comes from people who assume that their natural skill set is the norm, and can’t understand why anyone else struggles with what comes easy to them. They also may assume that anything that is hard/ impossible for them is hard/impossible for all but the greatest players. Thus the assumption on a recent thread that no one could hear a tune once or twice through and play it accurately. Or the assumption that anyone can easily figure tunes out by ear. The failure to recognize these different skill sets can create some entertaining threads, but also a lot of hard feelings.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Ailin, I see your point about your parents not being artistically inclined. Genetics does play a role, however. It doesn’t mean that because your parents didn’t play, you can’t play. I am just saying that people are genetically born with a knack for music.

I have seen children on music who have played for only three years play better than some people who have been playing their whole life. I have also seen people put in a lot of effort and time into practice and not play as well as others who put in very little time or effort. People have the genes, but it is up to them to use their talent or not.

I have a brother who slept through all of his classes and never studied, yet made wonderful grades, whereas I had to study extremely hard for all of my classes to pass with A’s, but I still didn’t do as well as my brother did. New discoveries in genetics are being found constantly. We just found out we had around 23,000 genes in the early 2000’s. There is much to be found out, and many geneticists are predicting that like intelligence, artistry is also genetic.

Gardner’s Theory really makes a lot of sense when it comes to this stuff.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I agree that genetics can play a role, but I think it is wise to view that conclusion with caution. If we stipulate that you are right, it seems the only practical take-away is that children of gifted adults need to be fostered and/or children of ordinary parents should not be encouraged. I think both conclusions invite trouble, so while there is scientific value in knowing the role genetics play, I think it is dangerous to let your conclusion inform how a child is educated or encouraged. What are your thoughts?

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I hadn’t heard of "Gardner’s Theory (of multiple intelligences)" until I opened this thread, but it’s on Wikipedia, and elsewhere. Looks like deep stuff.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

we all need to constantly be exposed to music that is out of our "zone of comprehension" in order to make ourselves better musicians. Just my view. Duck.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Neither had I. It’s supporters don’t seem to be able to muster much support amongst Wikidpedia’s ‘editors’.

I liked the "attractive to many due to the suggestion that everyone can be smart in some way", but the the idea that it’s OK to be rubbish at some things also has appeal !

(that was to Trevor)

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

vygotsky "zone of proximal development" Had to look that up as my tunes get mixed up along with my research

"zone of comprehension" is my lay way of say

good discussions

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

every one is a genius and if you don’t know that you are an idiot……. lol just joking

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

kook - listening to more of any sort music seems to be widen my "zone of incomprehension"

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

… be widening …

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I’m not understanding you, you are saying other music confuses you?

Posted .

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I know someone who loves music but who just can’t sing in tune. Her mother couldn’t either, but her father could sing. She has done everything she can to improve her musicality, but she hasn’t improved all that much.

I think there must be differences in the brain between people who can compose music, remember tunes on one hearing, and/or play by ear, and those who can’t do any of this - but proving it is difficult, as often ‘unmusical’ people come from an environment that was limited musically.

It probably isn’t possible to give a definitive answer to the OP.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

@kook The more I listen to one sort of music the more I hear in it and so the more there is to comprehend. The amount I don’t comprehend increases at a greater rate than the amount that I do.

So its not a matter of being "exposed to music that is out of our "zone of comprehension"" but of being exposed to music at all.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

People may be hardwired to a degree to do some things better than others. But you can learn how to do whatever you want to put in the effort to learn, although you might not become the best in the world at it. I mean, my brother was a sh**t hot soccer player before he did in his knees, whereas I was useless at that sort of sport thing.

I had a job teaching kids to ride, and all the kids were rank beginners, every one, never been on a horse before, but there was quite a range of ‘natural’ ability. Some kids had a better seat than I did from the moment they got on the horse, while others looked like they were going to topple off in five seconds. But the latter could learn and improve and become perfectly competent riders. Maybe they would never go on to the Olympic dressage team, but then, who the hell does? Too much emphasis placed on virtuosity and being ‘the best.’ I think mediocrity should be given its due.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Now I know the reason I’ve never seen this movie…

Define your version of mediocrity

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

They had a better seat cause they had cappells in the fields lad


The other kids had no horse, been taught to stay away from mad Jimmy’s horse man

Then u come along with a proper riding edumacation

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

The kid that never seen a horse has the innate ability to be a better rider, their teacher was stuck in his mindset maybe, I’m guilty anyway.

Salud

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Wrong on all counts. It wasn’t the sort of place where people just have horses in the fields. Lad? ROFL.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Here is another side, to a person not having any musical interest, or ability. It happened here, in my own part of Ireland. Some time last year, I was telling someone about recording c.d’s. I told this person, I had recorded a new c.d. He said, "what’s a c.d"?. "I never heard of one, or even saw one of them". He told me, that musical notes, meant nothing to him. His response, knocked me out. So far, he has been the only person I have met, who simply hadn’t a clue what music was. Maybe he was proof, that some people just don’t have it in them.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

At my school we had a judo class. One of the boys was as clumsy as they come, overweight (unusual in those days), hardly any coordination, little sense of balance, slow, etc, and this went on for several months. He turned up at every training session and worked as hard as he could, so full marks for effort, but virtually no improvement. But one day over the course of a lesson it was like a switch had been thrown; everything suddenly came together, coordination, speed, the lot. Within a week or two he became one of the best in the class.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

michael, is there anything that you are not really interested in so don’t know much about ? Could there be something that other people are very interested in that you don’t even know exists ?

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"I told this person, I had recorded a new c.d. He said, "what’s a c.d"?. "I never heard of one, or even saw one of them". He told me, that musical notes, meant nothing to him. His response, knocked me out. So far, he has been the only person I have met, who simply hadn’t a clue what music was. Maybe he was proof, that some people just don’t have it in them."

Or, maybe he is proof that CDs are passe. It’s 2014. CDs are going the way of the dinosaurs.

I’ve heard people say things like "what’s a CD" in a facetious manner, implying that the person using said CD needs to catch up with the times.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that young people hadn’t heard of a cd, or that musical notes mean nothing to them. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t a clue what music is.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Gam. The fellow told me himself. I heard it, from the horses mouth, so to speak. He knew nothing at all, about music, and was honest in admitting it. I suppose, we are each put on earth, to do our own thing, in life.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

So? I know nothing at all about a lot of things. What does that prove? That this one guy you talked to ain’t interested in music. Quick! Call RTE!

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Or, on reflection, maybe The Drone News would be a more appropriate periodical.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Why do some people understand theoretical physics, while some do not?

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Gam. He was just one in a million, who didn’t understand it. I’m sure, you must have come across, people like that.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I often wonder how many things exist that i’ve never heard of, and how many of the things I would actually be interested in.

But there are people that have been musically sheltered. I remember one day out in public(sorry if i’ve told this story before) I met this tall, muscular, thug lookin’ guy. He saw my fiddle and asked me if I could play something for him cause he had never seen anything like that before his eyes. Now, he didn’t give the impression that he would run off, buy a fiddle, and jump into "our" world, but he thought it was really cool that I was interested in something like fiddle and appreciated me playing for him.

And i’ll note, enough people have asked me what a fiddle is for me to question if they’re all actually joking. Some people seriously do live in other worlds and lead alternative lifestyles. And it wouldn’t surprise me if a younger kid didn’t know what a CD was. Like teagan said, they’re going the way of the dinosaurs.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

From working in education, I know that there are some people who just can not read nor wright.

Intelligent bright people who for the life of them cannot do this. Even after years and years of learning. These people, severe dyslexics, would commit suicide - I’m sure many still do.

I was a slight skeptic before but could not be now.

As for music - it doesn’t seem too much of a leap of imagination to think that someone could never keep rhythm or song a scale.

Not at all.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"From working in education, I know that there are some people who just can not read nor wright."

But surely they can all spell?

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

" So far, he has been the only person I have met, who simply hadn’t a clue what music was. Maybe he was proof, that some people just don’t have it in them."

Maybe that was proof of how rare such people are.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I have a close friend that I’ve been trying to teach accordion to for the past four or five years. He loves the instrument and is delighted that he is able to play a few tunes on it. However I would never class him as being ‘musical’. He just hasn’t got the ability to play a tune in time and his retention of tunes is poor. For example if he is playing a tune in waltz time he taps his foot in a sort of random ‘hit and miss way’. I’ve tried….God knows I’ve tried over the years to correct his faults but in the end I came to the conclusion that he hasn’t a musical bone in his body. Still, he enjoys doing what he is doing and I enjoy his company.

Re: Why do some people constantly ask questions on the internet, while some do not? 😉

Nature and genetics has something to do with it, and nurture and environment has something to do with it. And some people who appreciate and value music do not have the innate skills to make it themselves. And everyone has different aspects of music that they are good at, or struggle with. Some have a good sense of pitch, some have a good sense of rhythm, some remember tunes well, some can sing, some can play fast, some can play slowly with feeling, etc. Some get better with practice, others struggle despite practice. We are all created equal, but we are all created differently.
I had a friend who loved to sing, but couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. He learned to chant the hymns in church, rather than singing them, and throwing off those around him. I know people who have poor senses of rhythm, and couldn’t swing if they were hanging from a tree. I myself am quite comfortable playing tunes that move slowly enough for me to think as I play, but have to work my butt off to learn to play dance tunes.
Practice can be a great equalizer, but not all people are going to make the same amount of progress in the same ways.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

This story came to me as scientifically supported but I have forgotten where it was from and can’t remember the numbers. It goes like this…

The percentage of people in China who are classed as unable to sing in tune is minute compared with in Western society. This is attributed to the need to be able to identify and reproduce the tones that distinguish words from similar ones in the Chinese language. An example (made up) which might help understand this would be, say the word music with an upwards tonal inflexion in the second syllable. Now say it with a downwards inflexion in the last syllable. Now imagine its meaning changed from "music" to "rotten".

It must make communication very difficult in China if you are genuinely tone deaf, it might seem like a mental deficency.

The long winded point I am making is, many of those people seen in our society as non-musical might just have been left behind by lack of experience of music, or perhaps, as I recall hearing when I was young, they were told "you will never be able to sing, stand at the back and mouth the words.."

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Spelling errors or typos I don’t mind much, as long as they don’t interfere with the sense. Some members may not have English as their native language, may be dyslexic to some extent, or simply may not have good typing skills (how many of us here do?). However, what I do find confusing is the extraordinary over-use of the comma by a small number of people - you do not have to go very far back in this discussion to find examples.

Cag makes a good observation in the previous post, particularly in the last sentence. I was subjected to that treatment in junior school and have never sung a note since, which can be slightly embarrassing in workshops when a tutor asks (tells?) the class to sing a tune. The good news is that I am now old enough to play the age card as an excuse 🙂

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

The partner of a friend who I play tunes with was told as a child to "stand at the back and mouth the words". She likes music, goes to concerts and in the house sings along to tunes on the radio - out of tune and out of time. They accept that its just the way things are.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

(but with an apostrophe )

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Trevor,
I know sometimes I use a lot of commas, perhaps it was me you meant. My reason for this, not an excuse as I feel nothing needs defending, is I spent a lot of years writing sentences for others to speak and commas work well as pauses. Sometimes this leaks into my writing even though this is no longer my profession. Read what I wrote aloud and it might just work well, though its best if you know the person you are writing for so perhaps it will not work as well for you.

After many years living with writing as a tool of the trade I know the sense of superiority that comes with some element of control over language but eventually, (yes, a comma, oops, two more, no that’s three) you realise just as it doesn’t really matter if the shot of the man with the gun is slightly out of focus, or if the man describing the shooting doesn’t use perfect grammar, or even grammar I might prefer, it is really just a matter of whether you understand what they are saying. Tell me you don’t…

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I very much doubt, it was you that, Trevor, meant cag.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Cag, Ben Hall is correct. I wasn’t referring to you.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Some folks here, have used commas to excess, have had that, pointed out to them, and still, use too many commas as a, joke…

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I’m skipping the reading of everything above, but I’ll pass on what a friend of mine recently told me. It was only her theory, but this is what she’s noticed over the years.

"Music is translated different then other sounds and thoughts. In fact music only is in our subconscious thoughts where we can comprehend it. Musical people are better at the connection of the subconscious/conscious."

I’m not quite sure of the validity of this, but it’s some food for thought.
(By the way, this is coming from a so-called "non-musical" person)

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

In my own personal experience, musical ability is inherited. My paternal grandfather played piano, self-taught, and mostly his own compositions, which I would describe as semi-classical; my father was a very good (and very well taught) classical pianist; although I struggle with ITM (mainly on the fiddle), my main instrument is the guitar and principal genre is flamenco with some classical; my son is a fine classical violinist. On my mother’s side, both my grandparents were good singers as was my mother; her brother was a jazz (and earlier swing) pianist and played for years in a small group. Could not read a note of music. His son is a guitarist/singer (light jazz). One of my closest friends’ father played dixieland piano, and my friend has played jazz all his life (and can’t read a note of music). AFAIK none of these people were forced into music in any way — it just happened (with thousands of hours of work of course). When I was at university, I partially supported myself by giving guitar lessons. Of many students, I had one who was, as far as I could tell, genuinely tone-deaf (he couldn’t tell which of two notes played in succession was the higher in pitch). At the other extreme, my jazz-playing friend and my uncle could listen to someone else’s 32 bars of improvisation on a jazz standard and repeat it almost immediately.

Musical ability is very strange. Not like language, where everyone, has a high level of basic ability. Perhaps mechanical ability is similar to musical ability in not being shared out equally.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Interesting discussion. It’s probably worth noting that, after one hearing, Sergei Rachmaninoff could play every part of any symphony, concerto, opera, etc., as if he had been rehearsing for it his whole life. We are all musical idiots next to Mozart. Everything is relative. Yes, some people have far more talent than others, but are there "two kinds of people, musical and non-musical"? I think that is rubbish.

And as far as "musical inheritance" goes, Antonin Dvorak’s father and grandfather were both butchers. Beethoven’s father was the town drunk. For every example there is a counterexample.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Beethoven’s grandfather was Kapellmeister in Cologne and his father was a professional singer, violinist and pianist (yeah, early sorts I suppose). Dvorak’s father, as well as doing a bit of butchery, was a professional zither player, and sent Dvorak off at a young age to learn German and music.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Good points. I didn’t realize Beethoven’s father was so musical. I had only heard the story about Beethoven winning half on his income in a lawsuit for being a alcoholic deadbeat.

Still, I don’t think it makes sense to say people are either musical or not. It seems pretty clear that music is something like athleticism. Some people are born with more, some with less, but everyone can improve.

I also think that it is clear that, much like reading, early, quality exposure is a massive advantage. It makes sense that if you learn something young it sinks in in a unique way.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

The well known Irish musician, Professor Micheal O’ Suilleabhain, believes it has to do with our forefathers" what does he know, he is the most unmusical person I have come across

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Hey John.
I am flabbergasted, by your reply. I’m not having a go at you. I’m just debating, what you have said. Surely, he can’t be wrong. He must have some musical qualities, to get the title professor. In your opinion, he hasn’t a clue.
He is a genius, on the piano.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"He must have some musical qualities, to get the title professor. "

No, you need a PhD (in most cases) and a university willing to hire you.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I can see, you don’t have much time for him, either. So if he’s wrong, should we ask a musicologist.? Hold on a minute. Professor Suilleabhain IS a musicologist.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

No, I was just taking your post very literally and pointing out the qualities one needs in order to be professor.

I’ve not read any of Michael O’Suilleabhain’s papers (have you? can you cite them for further reading) so I don’t know what says and haven’t any views about it.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

I don’t know anything about Dr. O’Suilleabhain’s work, and I don’t know if he is being represented fairly in this discussion, but he seems to be making some claims that go well beyond his field.

Also, on a practical level, what does it matter? It just seems like a non-constructive theory. Once again, I am not disputing that talent is parceled out in different amounts, but to split humanity in musical and UNmusical just seems silly.

Reminds me of an old adage, "There are just two kinds of people: those who believe there are just two kinds of people and those that know better."

John’s comment is valid

in his opinion. Yeah, it comes across as a bit, well, harsh and judgemental but ‘unmusical’ can mean quite a lot. I’m not flabbergasted or even mildly shocked: people on the internet say stuff they’d never say at a bar.

In fact, it’s a good test of a comment on the web: just before you press ‘submit’, imagine standing in a pub with the people you’re, ahem, ‘debating’ with - then re-read what you’re just about to post in that context.

What I would probably say, standing at my hypothetical pub counter, is this: the few times I’ve seen O’Sullivan play, it left me cold; very flamboyant and highly technical. I might not say ‘unmusical’ but it’s one way of putting it. Not my kind of music at all, though the man has obvious technical abilities way beyond any I’ll ever have and he has the right to express his music however he wants.

Regards
David

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

The thread is inviting opinions, not empirical studies.
I’m not sure what the thread hopes to achieve.
However, when someone, who not very long ago was asking whether he should play along with a click track, opines that Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin is "the most unmusical person I have come across", you do have to wonder.

Skip ahead from the harpsichord playing here (which is far from"unmusical") and see and hear Ó Súilleabháin play a flute in a session:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIf8-5QBEfw


Or hear a rendition of Eleanor Plunkett here and see if you think it is unmusical:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cxqg1RHhxA


"I guess it would be funny if you were right, but I don’t believe any of these composers had parents who composed"

Assuming Jerone meant one of the Austrian Strauss composers, it might be of interest that there were three successive generations of the family who made a name as composers of light music.
Johann the 1st, his three sons Johann 2nd, Josef and Eduard, and Eduard’s son, Johann 3rd.

Not that it proves much though.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"He must have some musical qualities, to get the title professor.

No, you need a PhD (in most cases) and a university willing to hire you."

And perhaps a body of respected, published work. Perhaps some of it might be peer-reviewed? Maybe it’s all just a conspiracy between "so-called musicologists" and the joke is on us…

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Assuming Jerone meant one of the Austrian Strauss composers, it might be of interest that there were three successive generations of the family who made a name as composers of light music.
Johann the 1st, his three sons Johann 2nd, Josef and Eduard, and Eduard’s son, Johann 3rd.

Not that it proves much though.
# Posted by Weejie

It could have been Richard or Johann Strauss. I thought of them, but I consider their music sort of the fast-food version of composing, not particularly creative or indicative of talent. Sort of like sons and daughters of movie actors that work in a field they otherwise wouldn’t have a chance in. There were too many other composers in his list that simply didn’t qualify as being musical in the sense of being particularly gifted, or at least remembered. And if Jerone dismissed Bach, why would Johann be a better example?

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

" And if Jerone dismissed Bach, why would Johann be a better example?"

He didn’t. He questioned using him as an example (as the old joke goes, Bach had 20 children because his organ had no stops). However, five of his offspring (half of those who lived to adulthood) were musicians, and four of those were composers.

"I thought of them, but I consider their music sort of the fast-food version of composing, not particularly creative or indicative of talent. "

Probably as creative as "The Glasgow Reel". It seems you are picking and choosing.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

It seems you are picking and choosing.
# Posted by Weejie

It seems you are missing the larger point, as was Jerone. I am not at all persuaded that any of the composers he listed benefited from any inherited musical ability. Greater exposure and opportunity, perhaps, but nothing more. Many people carry on a family trade - it only makes sense. And I have already made clear that genetics play a role, as they do in everything else in a person’s make-up. But every notable ability starts somewhere and I would argue that for every person who can trace musical ability to their forebears, there are many more people who are like me, and can find no trace anywhere in their family.

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Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

"It seems you are missing the larger point, as was Jerone."

I don’t think so. My only point is that you were mistaken in thinking that Bach was the only one whose offspring followed on as musicians (or as composers as well).
I voiced no opinion as to whether genetics has any bearing, because it would just be my opinion.
I prefer the scientific approach.

"I would argue that for every person who can trace musical ability to their forebears, there are many more people who are like me, and can find no trace anywhere in their family."

You illustrate my point quite well.

Re: Why are some people musical, while some are not.?

Okay.

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