Meri’s Musical Musings

The different forms of musical giftedness

Posted on: April 20, 2012

Many people think that musical giftedness is a single ability, such as perfect pitch or being able to play tunes by ear. Yet, the reality is that there are several types of giftedness in music, some skills even having subcategories. While some skills are required for most if not all successful musicians, others are required in only certain types of music or certain instruments.

There are a few different subcategories for having a good ear for music. One of these is the classic example of perfect pitch, when a person can sing a given note just given the note name, or can identify any random pitch on the keyboard. In some cases, however, it is instrument-specific, that they can identify the pitch on say, a violin, but can’t name it on a trumpet. Another type of  ear skill is having a knack for being expressive on the instruments one plays. A third type is being able to produce a beautiful tone quality on an instrument. A fourth type is being able to pick out melodies easily. A fifth is being able to name any interval.

A second type of musical talent exists in how well musicians are able to sing. Most successful musicians can sing reasonably well, however, there are many instrumentalists who sing off pitch but play an instrument very well.

A third type of musical talent is in physical coordination. Some people, for unknown reasons, are not able to produce a sound, or a very poor one, on certain types of instruments. Other musicians have difficulty coordinating their hands, feet and eyes, as in playing a keyboard instrument or drumset. Still others find it very difficult to hold a bow of a string instrument correctly.

A fourth type of musical gift is the ability to analyze and solve problems. This one is especially important for musicians who teach, especially those who choose to teach private lessons.

A fifth musical ability is the ability to arrange music, sometimes for unusual combinations of instruments, such as violin, trombone, and clarinet. The larger the ensemble, the more you need to know in when to leave out certain instruments or voices.

A sixth ability is the ability to perform music. Some people rarely if ever have successful musical performances; others produce consistently very high quality performances where they have no sense of nervousness.

A seventh type of musical talent is the ability to compose music that are interesting and pleasing to listeners. Some people have difficulty coming up with an answering phrase even if you give them a fragment of a possible melody; others come up with at least one new melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic idea almost every day.

The ability to understand and write harmonies is another type of musical talent. Some people cannot do this satisfactorily to any degree, others come up with interesting or pleasing harmonies soon after learning about them.

Finally, rhythmic ability exists in various degrees and forms, from those who play with almost no rhythmic mistakes even in their earliest development as musicians, to those who don’t understand it for years. Another form of it is in the ability to decipher printed rhythms in musical notation, many amateur musicians can do simple rhythms accurately, but have difficulties if rhythms are complex or in a fugal style, whereas professional musicians, especially classical ones, often must be able to read and play difficult rhythms upon seeing them.


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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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