Musicality Unleashed: The Truth About Talent

This episode is part of the Musicality Unleashed series. Learn more and get a bonus “cheat sheet” at In this episode, we unpack the concept of “talent”, reveal why it’s a myth, and how this knowledge can help you shift your mindset to realize your full musical potential.

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Hey there podcast listener,

This is the first in a series of episodes we’re calling Musicality Unleashed.

I said in our last episode that these are designed to help you kick off a seriously strong musical 2019 – and I wanted to just take a moment to let you know where this is all coming from.

Last year, as we worked on the Foundations of a Musical Mind course we had the opportunity to step back from Musical U, and all the publishing and podcast episodes we’ve done so far and get a fresh perspective.

In the process we got a whole new clarity around what really matters – both in terms of the mission we’re on at Musical U and what matters for you personally in your musicality journey.

It’s not new stuff we’re conjuring up from scratch – so if you’re a long-time podcast listener or Musical U member then a lot of what I’ll be sharing in these Musicality Unleashed episodes will sound familiar.

But I realised we had the opportunity to really distill down literally thousands of articles and hundreds of hours of podcast content into the crucial few concepts and mindset shifts that can have the biggest impact on your musicality.

Now I could talk about this stuff all day! So I set myself the challenge to explain the most important concepts as succinctly as possible – aiming for just 5 minutes each.

So what you’re about to get is a series of short, punchy episodes, each representing a fundamental insight or mindset shift you can make – which if you truly take on board can transform your musical life for the better.

These episodes also mark the start of our video podcast so if you want to check out the video versions then please head to where you’ll find the links to our YouTube channel.

Wherever you’re at on your musicality journey and whether you’ve been with us at Musical U and the podcast for years or this is your first time tuning in, I hope you’ll enjoy Musicality Unleashed and the impact it will have you *you* and *your* musical life.

So here we go with the first one. And I figured why not start out with the biggie. So let’s talk about “talent”…

The Truth About “Talent”

Have you ever seen an incredible musician, someone who seems like they can do absolutely anything in music – beautifully, expertly and apparently effortlessly?

If so you might have thought “Wow, they’re talented!”

You probably felt inspired – but also a bit intimidated. Maybe even disappointed because you feel like you don’t have the talent it would take to be able to do that yourself.

And I can understand why. Everywhere around us society talks about “talent” and glorifies the overnight success story of the “gifted” musician.

And when you see someone step up on stage and hold the crowd enthralled with their performance, or improvise an amazing solo out of nowhere, or sit in with a group of musicians with no preparation and just jam along – it can seem magical – like they must have been born with something that you just don’t have.

But those amazing skills of the “natural” musician actually don’t require talent at all.

In fact, so-called talent doesn’t actually exist.

If you think about it, surely if the superstars we admire all had a natural “talent” then they would all have seen great success from an early age and throughout their life? Yet what you’ll always find if you dig into their backstory is years—decades even—of struggle and practice before society suddenly decides they are “talented”.

And if you go on believing that it’s talent that sets those “natural” musicians apart from the average musician you’re going to go through life feeling “untalented” and like you’re lacking the “gift” for music. And you’ll continue living your entire life feeling disappointed that you can’t play like the people who inspire you.

If you’re someone who is really passionate about music, you might stick with it anyway. But compared to those amazing “naturals” you’ll feel slow, robotic – and like everything in music is just harder than it should be.

Those skills and confidence you dream of can be yours – but only if you cast off society’s myth about musical talent.

Here’s the thing: although the idea of “talent” is widespread it’s actually totally outdated. In recent years all the scientific research has has conclusively proven: there is no such thing as “talent”.

Last year I had the chance to speak with Professor Anders Ericsson, the world’s leading expert on the question of “talent”.

He’s spent over a decade researching talent and there are two big findings from his research.

First: The traditional idea of “talent” simply doesn’t exist. Not a single research study has been able to demonstrate that some people are born with a musical gift that others don’t have.

The most you can say is some people have a natural inclination for something when they’re young. That can get you going quicker in your learning – but that headstart dwindles over time.

The second big finding is that there’s no known skill where an innate “talent” is required.

All those amazing musical skills like playing by ear, improvising, writing incredible music, performing with rock-solid confidence? Every one of them is learnable.

So what sets those amazing musicians apart if it’s not talent?

It turns out that they have different “mental models” for understanding music than the average musician. And they’ve put in hard and smart work to develop those mental models.

Dig into the backstory any of those “talented” stars and overnight successes and you’ll find a long trail of hard and smart work that got them there.

And while it might take years to get to that superstar level the truth is that it’s never too late to start studying these skills of the “natural” musician and unlocking for yourself all the amazing musical experiences they can provide.

That means the opportunity is in front of you to become that incredible “natural” musician yourself. Everything you’ve dreamed of in your musical life is possible, however “talented” or not you might have thought you were.

Learn more about the mental models and other mindset shifts required to reach your full musical potential in the rest of this Musicality Unleashed series.

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