About Talent

About Talent

Tackling the subject of “talent” in music always fascinated me. When mentioning that someone had talent I naturally meant that they were good in their field but I didn’t necessarily mean that they were special; I knew that talent was possible for all of us.

I would like to express that I am fed up with this unending notion of people who are so “talented” in knowing what talent is (pun intended). Who wouldn’t be fed up? Talent here, talent there, talent everywhere. For some, even a brick wall is extremely talented, since it knows how to stop a car.

“Oh, my Auntie is playing the trumpet, she is so amazing!” Or,”My mother in law is performing the banjo tonight with the local singers, she is so talented”! No, she is not. She just happens to play the banjo, and you’re not.

But enough of my moaning and twaddle.

 

What Talent Is

Talent is a glorified way of saying you do something. Basically, when you cannot do something you’re not talented, whereas if you can do it, you are. Simple.

All that about having a gift or flair are completely misguiding and can do more damage than good to the young and eager to learn.

 

We are All Equal

Every human brain, in my poorest of opinions, is the same; every human being is equally blessed to do amazing things and has the same quality of capacities no matter the place of birth, the race, etc. We all have the capacities to create divine music and perform wonderfully no matter what our financial backgrounds are, our parents’ upbringing or if the stars align properly on the 1st of march.

That being said, we must also appreciate that in this cruel world there are many people plagued with disabilities; however, those people still create wonderful things. They excel in sports, in the arts and sciences. Except, of course, in the unfortunate event when a person has a medical condition, that prevents the brain or the body to function properly. But even then, this unfortunate individual is equally important in shaping the world’s future; is equally talented.

 

We are All Equally Talented

So, the only thing that can truly separate us from each other is our personal provenance; that is, our life experiences, our unique interests and leisure activities, and other personal paths that by the sheerest of chances we happened to follow.

Let me elaborate with an example: say you were living in the mountainous area of Oymyakon in Siberia, and didn’t have the access to play the piano but nevertheless adored it; still, you wouldn’t have been considered a talented pianist, because simply, you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have “met” the piano altogether. Whereas, if you, the same person who adored the piano, were growing up in New York city, a more approachable and rounded musical environment, if it happened that you played the piano amazingly, you would have been considered a talented pianist.

 

Why Talent is Irrelevant

Talent is irrelevant for humans because the absence of it cannot prove that this world can not move forward successfully. One might even argue, that absence of talent can be advantageous to the natural continuation of things in this extremely partially understood world. Can you disprove this? I can’t, but I can’t prove it either.

Earth will still be able to revolve even if you don’t write the next Hamlet. Roses will still be able to bloom in spring, even if you don’t manage to complete your thirty-sixth symphony and instead be left with only thirty-five completed ones. Birds will still be able to exquisitely twit even if you don’t throw eight touchdowns in a single game.

All is needed and all is equally important in the continuation of this perfectly evolved world. Thus, the notion of talent is overrated and perhaps irrelevant.

 

Talent Depends on Provenance

As we are all equal, I’m afraid once again and hate to burst a couple of bubbles, that talent depends on some of the following factors:

Past experiences: The more relevant experiences you’ve had in your chosen field the more chances to be vainly considered talented. Say that your neighbor liked listening to classical piano and lent you a couple of CDs to taste some classical pieces. This immediately makes you more educated regarding classical music and favors you in comparison to another pianist who didn’t have access to quality classical music, and this already puts on track to be considered “talented”. Doesn’t surprise you that a lot of good musicians’ parents are also musicians? That doesn’t mean of course that your parents have to be musicians for you to succeed in music, but that’s another story.

Liberal access to the subject in question: Simply put, it’s a matter of access to available resources. Again, it’s like the vitamins our doctor prescribes; the more you consume healthy foods the more your chances of leading a healthy life. In our case, as long as you are exposed to a lot of quality music material and being in the company of relevant and knowledgeable people of your subject, you increase your chances of becoming proficient in your chosen field; and being proficient, equals to being considered talented in this world.

Assistance from others: How much others are willing to help you realize your potential/interest. To succeed (and therefore to uselessly manage to be considered talented) you will need support and lots of it.

Say that you want to learn the piano and become a virtuoso pianist. This is your dream and you know that you can do it. Similarly to a previous example, you live on a remote island and the only way to play the piano is for your parents to buy you one from the mainland. Well, if they don’t buy you one, I’m afraid you’re doomed to forever live in the land of “untalented” pianists. And of course, you’ll never know if you were ever going to be considered a “talented” pianist. It sounds unfair, but that’s life.

Do you begin to be getting the gist of this “talent” nonsense? I hope you do because the sooner you realise that talent means absolutely nothing and kindly dismiss the talent proclaimers, the better are your chances to succeed in music; and, why not, become a more level-headed personality- that never hurts.

 

Talent Requires the Element of Comparison

In order to be considered talented, you need to always be compared to someone or something, well… “less talented”.

So, for example, if you could only play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with your right hand, but your friend can play a sonatina by Kuhlau hands together, he can arguably be considered more “talented” than you (especially if the person judging is not an expert). But if your friend, who plays the sonatina, is compared with someone who plays Liszt’s b minor sonata in London’s Wigmore Hall, your friend quickly becomes less talented. So unfair, isn’t it?

 

Talent is Depended on Who is Judging

The more experienced the judge, the strictest they become when judging talent. So, if you’re eager to be considered talented, make sure you are only be judged by gentle judges.

Thus, to the eyes of a friend of mine I could be considered an amazing mind who writes prolific articles, a great piano teacher and pedagogue and a wonderful human being, whereas to the eyes of an internationally acclaimed pianist or critic, I could only be considered a deluded amateur, and a wannabe writer who writes nonsensical and laughable articles with shrill tone. What do you think? ?could I be one?

Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Esau,_цирковой_шимпанзе_за_фортепиано._1900.jpg

 

The Importance of Talent

As much as I cringe at the very idea of “talent” I must concede that, somehow, we need the notion of talent and we need talent itself. We need the talent seekers, we need our groupie aunties, we need friends who think we are the next Hemingway or Christian Blackshaw and we need the word talent to be heard as often as possible.

I would like to conclude this article by expressing that even if talent means absolutely nothing, at least hunting for it can inspire us to reach new heights.

How to Afford a Piano

How to Afford a Piano

Please, do not email this website regarding piano prices or where to buy a piano. I would suggest that you visit a local piano dealer and discuss your requirements in person. This way, you will have a better understanding of what your needs are.

Disclaimer: if you are a sensitive individual, if sometimes you take what you read personally, if you occasionally are ever so slightly uptight about what you read, then please DO NOT read this article. This article contains exaggerated opinions and harsh, disrespectful and informal expressions to facilitate an enjoyable read. Everything below should be approached with a humorous aura. No advice below is to be followed. The following article is meant to be a humorous text only. Read at your own discretion. 

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“Oh dear me, I can never afford a piano”

“Ah, life’s unfair. Only the rich can afford a piano”.

“Boohoo boohoo, I can’t buy that piano…”

…and the moaning continues…
Who hasn’t heard those extra-boring expressions?
…Meanwhile, me with a snobbish expression: *Yaaaaawn*

Really? You can’t afford a piano? I just don’t believe you, my dearest friend! Shush! Yes, you’re lying! Read below how to “afford” that piano! And yes, I’m not talking about the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand – It’s not everything or nothing. I’m talking about the sensible upright you’re postponing buying for so long.
(Minimum values used below)

How to afford a piano

Covenant: no excuses after reading this.

In order to be able to afford a piano you need to do some of the following:

  • STOP buying that takeaway coffee from that expensive coffee chain. Yes, you know which coffee chain I mean; the one that is full of expensive laptops and mobile phones with which people are pretending to be “working” with. Exactly. That one. You remembered? By avoid depositing your money to them you could save a minimum of £2 a day. That’s £14 a week, £60 a month or around £730 a year …And you call yourself frugal.
  • STOP buying expensive technological novelties. For instance, Instead of buying that £300 phone, buy the one that costs £150 instead. (You see? Minimum values used… Some people buy even more expensive mobiles – And then they complain that they only live to pay bills.) Remember that some technological appliances such as computers and mobile phones depreciate very, very quickly. So by avoiding novelties (as I call everything that you don’t actually need), in a couple of years, you could have saved a minimum of around £400-500.
  • STOP buying “designer” things. Do you really need that “designer” bag? You worth it, uh? No, you don’t. I might be worth my weight in gold, but should I be stupid enough to believe it? No. So, let me think: £600 designer piece of leathery material (bag), vs second-hand upright? Not a difficult answer for some super-savvy and ambitious pianists that I know of.  Your choice, though. However, I don’t want to hear you later complain why your technique hasn’t developed enough through the years.
  • STOP going on that holiday that costs £1000? You deserve that too? No, you don’t. Think again: You deserve a piano, remember? Don’t go to the Caribbean. Just go to the “other holiday”, say in Carmarthen (if in the beautiful Wales) that costs £500. And voila! Here’s a little bit more piano appear on your doorstep out of nowhere. And if it was me, well, I would have stayed at home altogether, skipping the holiday and save myself a whopping £1000! But, I guess that’s why I have two pianos already, and I’m not rich. Read on!
  • STOP eating out. I beg your pardon, but eating out basically means that you are willing to taste every other person’s dirty hands and most of the time, “behind the scenes“ there’s a dump for preparing the food, no matter how suspiciously clean it looks. Well, I’m exaggerating. But: Food at home is much, much better – your granny was always right about that. It’s tastier, healthier, lovingly made and you don’t have to face the horrible faces of the cranky waitresses and their bosses. Not that all of them are cranky I guess, most of them are of excellent qualities, and I have to admit that some restaurants keep traditions and all, but why risking it? Plus, you save moneys by the bucket!
  • STOP naming everything you buy “tools of the trade”. You just need to stop doing that. Not everything is “tools of the trade”. I’m sick and tired as a friend of mine used to say, of hearing this “tools of the trade” nonsense. You’re not a carpenter, you’re a pianist. Honestly, I’m going to open an office to offer free advice to the general public on how to spend their hard earned cash. Yes, tools of the trade are tools of the trade. A mobile phone, for example, isn’t. If you want to do serious work or show off your “portfolio”( ? ), you need a laptop. Mobiles are not made for serious work just of yet; not in the arts, not in music creation. A passenger car is not a tool of the trade – especially a new one. A track is. I’m not saying that you should show up on your first professional meeting on a tractor, but be sensible and buy a cheap and reliable brand – and always second hand of course. An expensive watch is not “tool of the trade”; a cheaper Casio should be enough for the trendier of us. An expensive suit combined with the “irresistible” aroma of unwashed underarms is not tool of the trade. However, a modest suit worn after you showered and tidied yourself up, is. I hope some of this starts to make sense to you. So, just don’t buy silly “tools of the trade” and save yourself half a piano.
  • STOP exiting your house. Yes, you heard me right. Every time you leave your front door chances are that you are going to spend money. Don’t. With the added advantage that you’re not going to be run over by a car. Stay at home! Home’s great! Make yourself a nice cup of tea, and read that dusty novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that you always meant to read. You’ll save thousands in a couple of years.
  • STOP using air conditioners and the house heating system. That alone can save you hundreds by the end of the year. Freezing cold house in the winter is great because, apparently, it kills the bugs too. Look: Just hang an outfit behind every door and you’re set. For example, wear a casual winter jacket while cooking in the kitchen and then when you’re in the living room, add a robe on top of that jacket for added connoisseurship. This way you can also enjoy your aperitif in style. During the summer, air conditioners are of course a waste of money and earthly resources. You’re excused of course if you reside in very hot countries, but still, perspiration from heat expels all the toxins from your body. Remember, for thousands of years humans survived fine without the use of air conditioning, and they even managed to write the Hamlet. So again, no excuses here.
  • STOP buying jewellery. Jewellery and other stones and metals as I call them, such as gold, silver, etc, are completely worthless. Why do you need metals hanging over your neck it’s beyond me. Unless you sell them for profit before you die, they’re utterly worthless. Natural beauty. Simple. Keep clean and tidy and no jewellery is needed. And who likes jewellery after all? Not the pianists. Pianists have better things to do instead of buying metals and stones; they buy pianos to practise.
  • STOP texting and calling. Becoming a hard-to-find person is and was always fantastic. Plus, everybody gullibly is going to think that you are some sort of an artistic personality since you do not care about the trivial things in life. Texting and calling only costs just a bit of money of course, but that adds up to quite a bill by the end of the year; instead, buy a pay-as-you-go phone and use the internet to communicate with everybody.  Emails and the horrid social media are great for that reason: Since everybody’s unfortunately 24/7 hooked on their social media, you can contact them at three o’clock in the morning and they’re going to jump up to get back to you. However, do avoid social media for any other use other than instant communication and perhaps building up your businesses. They’re wasting your life really.  Calls and texts are to be limited to family and close friends only.
  • STOP treating the others when out.  Always pretend that you’ve left most your money at home and so you “unfortunately” must buy the cheapest thing on the menu. Also, be kind enough and swiftly give the others the “pleasure” of footing the bill. Just make sure that you do not carry through this endeavour far too often, for risking to be labelled “stingy”. I know some people that have elevated stinginess to an artistic level that could be envied analogously by the greatest sculptors of the ancient times. Meanwhile, those people manage to buy their desired things far more easily than many of us.
  • STOP using paid transportation (or transportation that consumes money earned after tax). Just use as often as possible one of the greatest inventions of mankind, the bicycle. Ask my friends and acquaintances, but I used to save around eight hundred pounds a year by cycling alone. I calculated that in seven years I saved a minimum of £5000! That could have been basically a beaten-up grand, but who cares? It’s a piano after all – a most wonderful friend and companion.
  • STOP having a life. You don’t need a life, you need a piano! I’m only kidding of course, but some things in life need sacrifices. I hope that you can get the gist behind my harsh expressions and words. You are to decide which things are of importance to you and worthy of sacrifice. In our case here, piano is our ultimate goal. If not, then yes, go and buy a golden necklace.

That’s all for know. I might be adding to this list in the future. For now, I hope this article helped a little bit in your attempts to buy a piano, and take what I wrote above with a pinch of salt and not too seriously. As they inelegantly say, it’s food for thought.

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Please leave your message below if you feel I’ve left something out. And if you liked this article, please consider sharing it and like our page on Facebook. 

Many thanks to Rick Harris page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc479Xgfse8, for the image used.

Instill Talent

Instill Talent

In this article, I will experiment with the notion of creating talent “from scratch”, as they say. It’s a hypothetical scenario of the highest order, but, why not? This is my article, after all.

One of the pillars of my teaching philosophy is, that following the right strategy we can assign a random disciple to any chosen person and actually make that person talented at it. Basically, what I mean by that, is that everyone is capable of becoming talented in any disciple; I don’t believe that there are “special people”; If Mozart was growing up in Africa, he wouldn’t have been the Mozart we perceive today.

If you have read through my articles, you’ll find that I strongly believe that the notion of talent was actually invented. It was invented by innocently gullible people who simply can’t do an action in the same way some other people can, and at the same time, they admire that action those people do. This “admired action” doesn’t necessarily have to be ethical, noble or generally politically or otherwise well perceived; often, we hear people say, he is a “talented thief”, or “he is a great gambler”.

So, talent is a simple admiration for a skill that we haven’t practised properly, in order to be able to reach a universally admired level of that skill. Talent is a trivial, non-important notion. If you could paint a person’s face and the depiction is so convincing like a mirror to that face, then, for some, you are talented. However, your painting immediately compared to Picasso’s abilities, and your talent loses at least half of its value. Oh, and I do not believe in auras, inclinations, flairs and all that nonsense.

So, can you instil talent? Can you make someone who is “untalented” per se in a disciple, to become “talented” in that disciple? Well, I believe you can, and I’ll try to explore this a bit in this article.

So, to recap, this, ludicrous for some task, entails to take any person in this world, and assign them with a random subject, and then use strategically the right techniques to make them talented at it.

So, let’s explore some of those techniques and try, if ever possible, to find the recipe for this word that I do not love (hate): “talent”. Why I hate the notion of talent? Let me save you some time – and years of psychotherapy and endless soul searching – by simply stating: because I’m not talented.

Recipe for Talent

DEFINITION
The first thing we need to do in order to instil talent is simply to define what talent is for us or for the person who’s defining it.

You need to clearly have an idea of what is the universally level of talent in your given disciple.

For example, you might think that a child is talented in maths if by the age of 6 can answer how much is 2 plus 14. To another person, however, this might sound easy enough and so according to them, this child should not be considered talented in maths.

So, find what you consider to be “talented” and make this your ultimate target.

Time

The second “ingredient” is time: Apparently, for some, life is ever-fruitful for all and there’s always time to do things even in the last minute before you give your last breath and this and that. WRONG! Wishful thinking all the way. I have to become a bit horrible here and say that, yes, you always need to be optimistic and have goals in life, but you should become vigilant and careful towards people who, in order for you to think that they care about you, they gently push you to try and achieve unachievable things. I have to protect you here. Macabre-alert follows:

Here’s a simple example out of zillions, that I (I = me, Nikos- Maybe you can do everything) cannot do whatever I wish and dream in life: Say that I am in car accident and I lost one leg and one arm, broke my ribs and I’m in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. While I’m losing blood uncontrollably, I overhear the driver whisper to the nurse next to him.”He’s not gonna make it tonight, his time is up”. Do you think the right thing for me to do is to jump up and say to the driver, “No, I’m not dying. No Siree Bob. I’m gonna become an astronaut! But that’s only after I gave my maiden solo violin recital at Carnegie Hall playing Bach’s complete solo works for the violin”. Now, I don’t have the slightest interest in attacking people who passed away from serious accidents or recovering from them, but do you think that I have the right to say those things to the driver? Do you think I have the right to express myself and have faith until the end? Of course, I have the right to do those things. That’s the point of the so called “hope”. I also have the right to dance the tango with Al Pacino in the original set of “Scent of a woman”…. but no, we need to be pragmatic in this short life of ours. It would be unethical to promise, say, to a ninety-five-year-old beginning pianist that they can become virtuoso pianists. Maybe they could become virtuoso triangle players, yes, but so sorry, not virtuoso pianists. No way. Maaaaybe, they might manage to play wonderfully a Sonata, if they are lucky, but to make them “Talented”, there’s no time I’m afraid.

Plus, you are not allowed to delude people. It’s not your business to lie to people. Yes, we should encourage and yes, we should give hope; but honest hope. We should always be honest. That’s more ethical than uncontrollably ask people to do things they simply can’t. Let me remind you just in case it slipped your mind, that we happen to be mere humans susceptible to mortality.

So, make sure there’s sufficient time left to basically live, and then ample time available in order to excel.

 

Top Teaching

You need a top instructor if you want to make a stone play the banjo. You need top teaching in order to achieve talent; the better the teaching the more the chances for your guinea pig to become talented. That’s needless to say. Of course, not all teachers teach the same way, and not all teachers are of the same subjective quality, otherwise, we would only need one teacher for the rest of our lives.

Also, make sure that the teacher is not only top notch, but also “compatible” with the person that you want to make “talented”. For instance, I, Nikos, the writer of this article, can be a wonderful teacher with lots of knowledge in piano, one of the greatest minds to have emerged from the southeast of Europe, a food connoisseur and a Michelin star worthy cook, but be a crappy and horrendous teacher for a particular student.

So, the search for great but also compatible teaching is paramount.

 

Proper Equipment

You can’t become a professional basketball player if you practice on a low-height basketball hoop; it helps if you were practising on a proper terrain and with a basketball that has the universally accepted specifications.

You can’t become a talented cook if the ingredients available to you are always potatoes, salt, water and a pan; you need many more ingredients to practice cooking with, more appliances to master and more spices to enrich your cooking.

You can’t become an Olympic gold medalist in swimming if you only practice in a ten feet long swimming pool wearing armor. I think you get my gist.

Thus, talent dictates that we acquire the best possible equipment available for our expertise. This way, we accelerate the process of creating talent.

 

Desire (aka Love)

Even if your protégée had all the time in the world, the best teachers, the greatest strategists tailoring their every move, the best and most up to date equipment and a cruise ship, if your protégée couldn’t be bothered, then you won’t be able to infuse them with talent, I’m afraid.

Our protégée needs desire and love for excelling in its assigned subject.

And this is the hardest task you will have to accomplish in order to instill talent to someone. Because you cannot instill hunger, aka the unstoppable desire to do something. The desire is almost impossible to instill to a person. And to be honest, it’s not ethical to try to instill desire to start with. Desire should be left alone to flourish on each one of us, without pressure. However, for the purpose of this article, this is what we somehow need to do: instill desire; tough.

However, deep inside me I still believe that a person, who hasn’t got the desire to become talented at something, can still excel at that subject by just following the beaten track of the subject’s instructional zeitgeist.

 

Final thoughts:

Despite all this drivel above, I still believe somehow that you can drive someone to reach their highest personal level of potential at something.

Everyone of us is unique and everyone of us is talented at something, I suppose.

I just hope that the talent we carry can only be used for noble causes. Because talent can only create talent.

How to Practice Piano: Tips for Exercises Off the Keys!

How to Practice Piano: Tips for Exercises Off the Keys!

We all know how important practicing is for aspiring piano players! But sometimes it can be a challenge to fit into your schedule. Luckily, there are ways to practice your technique while you’re at work, in the car, or practically anywhere else! Continue reading this guest post by Spring Lake, MI piano teacher Val L. to find out how…

As you practice piano, taking the time to think about rhythm and technique is a huge challenge! You should always include scales and exercises in your piano practice routine because they are the tools that will provide the muscle development and coordination needed to improve. But what should you do if you’re pressed for time? If you have a tight schedule, you’ll want to use every precious minute you have at the piano to work on your songs. Fortunately, there are also ways you can practice your piano technique… even when you’re not in front of your instrument!