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Re: Neuroscientist debunks the myth of musical instinct

Perhaps this brief story applies:

My daughter for her 5th grade science fair project built a rat maze and ran her two rats, whose names now slip my mind,  through the maze several hundred times each over the course of two week period.  She measured the duration of each run and tracked the results in a spreadsheet where we could create a trend chart showing increase / decrease in average completion time.  

Now one of these rats was the epitome of a bubbly personality (for rats) the other was lethargic and dull by comparison and so, her hypothesis was that one was smarter than the other and that this ability would be demonstrated in the results of the maze test. 

What we found was quite different than this.  The "Smart" rat did run the maze quickly-- the first 25 times or so.  There after, she was bored with it -- and started trying to crawl up and over the walls to reach the bait.  Smart, right? She had become an EXPERT.   

The so called dumb rat, ran the maze faithfully each time.  Getting a little faster with each attempt.   Enter a change.  We redesigned the maze.  The smart rat, relying on her expertise, did not want to run the new maze at all.  Instead, she began by trying to climb the walls and wound up getting lost in the maze most of the time-- seldom getting to the bait.  While the more plodding and goofy rat meticulously hammered away at the new maze and, once it found the bait, had no trouble returning to it until the maze changed again and once the maze changed again, the goofy rat , though slower, was the first to find the bait in the majority of races.  

Most interestingly, over the course of two weeks, the average speed of the two rats in achieving the bait converged around the same number.  They both had their maximum achievement in different parts of the learning arc and their overall achievement over time was about the same!     Perhaps talent, smarts, proclivity for skill development-- are simply to complex to be compared like Apple's to Apples.  

On Feb 22, 2012, at 8:53 PM, Rick Walker wrote:

On 2/22/12 7:29 AM, Sylvain Poitras wrote:
Eventually, I took lessons with a local pro who shared much of his experience being the lousiest player around, having all the faults you can imagine and working through them to become a phenomenal player.
I've privately taught over 3,500 people how to play music in my teaching career.
The very slowest learner I ever taught was a young kid who wanted to play the blues.
He learned at such a snails pace that I honestly thought he just didn't 'have' it.
He was the first person I ever truly thought this about.

But he kept coming religiously.........we kept working on the same material,  basic blues
beats which are quite simple for over a year.

One day,  he was warming up as I chatted with a talented student from the hour before
and my student said,  "wow,  he's really sounding good in there."

I was astonished...."He does?"   I asked somewhat incredulously.

and my student said,  "Yeah,  really, really solid"

and then it hit me, like a Buddhist monk hitting me over the head in meditation,
I so had this guy in a 'place' in my mind that I was not being present and not
really listening to him.

It changed my entire perception about music and musical skill.
Passion, energy and discipline frequently trump so called 'talent' and speed of learning.

This man has grown up and is a professional blues drummer.
I'm absolutely certain that he makes more in his career than I do in mine.

I'm really friggin' proud of him and only sorry that it took me so long to
'hear' him.

Whenever I get students who are insecure about how long it takes them to learn something,
I always have this salutory story to give to them.

rick walker