Does Biology Matter?

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
Rognvald
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Does Biology Matter?

Post by Rognvald » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:27 pm

For those who have spent a lifetime in the dark Art of music performance, untold hours of non-paid practice and endless plateaus of music knowledge and performance gains, an obvious reality becomes apparent: there are some players that will never perform at a high level no matter how long they have played. And, for me, this is more of a function of biology than hard work. It is my belief that biology/genes control every function in one's life from the tastes you find most appealing to the skills/artistry you achieve playing music. As a young person, I could never have been a very good/great basketball player since my biological body type was more suited to football/baseball/soccer. No matter how many hours I devoted to basketball, I would always be relegated to the status of a marginal player although, I excelled in the other sports. Why is this any different from music? I once attended a CG concert in Chicago by a locally "famous" CG who was both a performer and a teacher. He played all the right notes-- at the right tempo and utilized all the dynamic indications of the music. However, his performance was dead, lifeless . . . although technically correct. I have also known CG "aficionados" who practice 2-3 hours daily under the guidance of a good teacher, for many years, and never really progress beyond a certain level. Can we assume that we cannot contravene biology or will time and hard work override nature? What do you think? Playing again . . . Rognvald
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Mollbarre
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Mollbarre » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:46 pm

Of course biology matters! I'm not athletic. I have no speed. I am not coordinated for sports. I have asthma. That doesn't mean I didn't jog, ride a bicycle, ski, dance, etc., but I am not remotely able to engage in any of those at a competitive level. I am muscley though, probably could've been a body-builder. :mrgreen:

I am artistic - as a visual artist. But - sadly - it did not translate musically. Every note I play successfully has been hard-won. I'm one of those players you mentioned that will never perform at a high level. My goals at this point in time are to see how 'good' I can get and to indulge my interest in different instruments and how they function, play, harmonize...etc. Funny thing too - I've been wanting to do 'music' since I can remember...but lacked opportunity on top of my inherent lack of ability.

Overall, I've noticed that I have a slow reaction time. Not that anyone else would ever notice, but I always seem to react half a second slower than the world around me. I don't know that I'm actually slower, or that I need to overthink everything first...either way it seems to affect my sports attempts, music, etc....
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riffmeister
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by riffmeister » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:34 pm

Yes, everything matters!

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Tomzooki
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Tomzooki » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:35 pm

Of course! Any movement we do, any thought we have, involves the binding of a neurotransmitter to a receptor. There is a lot of interindividual differences, most of them subtle, some of them giving an advantage or a disadvantage. Those interindividual differences is a great thing, both for diversity and for evolution. In an artistic field it is easy to see the advantage. Some may be advantaged in some aspects, some in others, and overall everyone has its own artistic « signature ».
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Andrew Pohlman
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm

Biology definitely affects our musical ability. If you look at the hands of adept guitarists, they always tend to have really long fingers. Long fingers make it far easier to play. If a passage is easier for you, it will take less work to become proficient.

Fine motor versus gross motor? Yuppers - biology again. Some folks simply have better fine motor control regardless of training time.

It's difficult for me to believe that musical interpretation is biological though. For example: what tastes better to you, Korean kimchi, or a baked potato with sour cream? You probably prefer whatever your mom served while growing up. That is the subjective aspect of "nurture". Music is simultaneously physical and intellectual. Does someone's interpretation suffer because of minimal physicality, or insufficient intellect, or normal cultural biases? And who is the judge? It is really hard to say that interpretation is affected by biology alone.

So to answer the thread's question: yes, biology matters, but it is not the ONLY factor when analyzing any/all performance dimensions.
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Sebastian
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Sebastian » Fri Mar 08, 2019 5:23 pm

Definetely, it defines our learning speed and maximum reach of our level. If we want to reach our maximum capacities, well, then it depends on our own discipline.
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muirtan
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by muirtan » Fri Mar 08, 2019 5:34 pm

Surely we shouldn't be worrying about 'biology' more about how we can achieve the highest possible with out limitations. . Over coming limitations as far as possible . I have arthritis in the hands should I just say oh well I can't play guitar because ...... with a good teacher I've actually acheived far more than I ever thought possible. OK being realistic I will never make a living out of performance because I can't do the ' showy, fast stuff' but music has enhanced my life beyond belief.

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Bernhard Heimann
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Bernhard Heimann » Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:30 pm

Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
Biology definitely affects our musical ability. If you look at the hands of adept guitarists, they always tend to have really long fingers.
...
Do they really? I always thought that there are professional players with remarkably short fingers like Matthew McAllister.
But of course, biology can make things easier in many cases. It is a helpful prerequisite, but not necessary in most cases.

Bernhard

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:43 pm

Bernhard Heimann wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:30 pm
Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
Biology definitely affects our musical ability. If you look at the hands of adept guitarists, they always tend to have really long fingers.
...
Do they really? I always thought that there are professional players with remarkably short fingers like Matthew McAllister.
But of course, biology can make things easier in many cases. It is a helpful prerequisite, but not necessary in most cases.

Bernhard
Or Kyuhee Park, her hands and fingers are tiny, but she probably has the best guitar technique around. Not sure where Andrew got that idea from.

jake39
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by jake39 » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:13 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:43 pm
Bernhard Heimann wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:30 pm
Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
Biology definitely affects our musical ability. If you look at the hands of adept guitarists, they always tend to have really long fingers.
...
Do they really? I always thought that there are professional players with remarkably short fingers like Matthew McAllister.
But of course, biology can make things easier in many cases. It is a helpful prerequisite, but not necessary in most cases.

Bernhard
Or Kyuhee Park, her hands and fingers are tiny, but she probably has the best guitar technique around. Not sure where Andrew got that idea from.
Also look at Cecilia sequeira's hands from Duo Sequeira Lima
She has tiny hands but she nails everything with a smile on her face. It's too easy for her!

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Sebastian
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Sebastian » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:02 pm

Bernhard Heimann wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:30 pm
Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
Biology definitely affects our musical ability. If you look at the hands of adept guitarists, they always tend to have really long fingers.
...
Do they really? I always thought that there are professional players with remarkably short fingers like Matthew McAllister.
But of course, biology can make things easier in many cases. It is a helpful prerequisite, but not necessary in most cases.

Bernhard
I will add something to the OP: fingers length is not the only factor determinated by biology: our phyisical system is VERY complex and very different from person to person.
The lenght of our arms, the proportion of the forearms, rotation of shoulder, pronation and rotation of wrists, EACH our our phalanx, our joints, consitution of flexors, extensor, elasticity, etc... etc..., etc.... it is determinated by everything. And also our mental system also very complex.


I also do believe long fingers is not entirely demanding for guitarists, maybe for pianist who want to play Liszt or Rachmaninoff piecec which uses heavy distentions (10th intervals), but for most guitar pieces not... the only places where very long fingers are helpful are for some bars in Barrios' Las Abejas and on two bars of Lauro's Waltz 3, where there are super stretches with notes which must be maintained for the whole bar of large part of it.
As you said, McAllister might have overall short fingers, and he compensates that with other anatomic features.
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:00 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:43 pm
Bernhard Heimann wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 6:30 pm
Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:49 pm
Biology definitely affects our musical ability. If you look at the hands of adept guitarists, they always tend to have really long fingers.
...
Do they really? I always thought that there are professional players with remarkably short fingers like Matthew McAllister.
But of course, biology can make things easier in many cases. It is a helpful prerequisite, but not necessary in most cases.

Bernhard
Or Kyuhee Park, her hands and fingers are tiny, but she probably has the best guitar technique around. Not sure where Andrew got that idea from.
Ahem, How did I get that idea? Observe below. And I didn't mean to say that short fingers will prevent excellent guitar work, rather that long fingers are an advantage:
PageFingers.jpg
vai01.jpg
VaiFingers.jpg
YngwieFingers.jpg

Of course, the extra finger in the Vai pic is faked, but the length is actual. And if you look around, you will easily find photos of many guitarists and their fingers. I have one such photo comparing many guitarists, but it won't upload.

And lastly, a related quote from Vai's:
VaiQuote.jpg
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Tony Hyman
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Tony Hyman » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:14 pm

If I had short fingers I probably would not have played guitar at all. Drums maybe, where stretch is not a factor. Not that I play all that great with relatively long fingers, but enjoy the gifts that I have received biologically.

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bear
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by bear » Fri Mar 08, 2019 9:55 pm

The nature/nurture debate has been going on forever. I believe it's a combination. When I was shoeing horses, some owner would talk about entering a competition. My response was usually "I can't nail on talent".
I am not a talented guitarist. I took up guitar and Martial arts at about the same time. I excelled at Martial Arts. There were no musicians in my life back then but my neighborhood required that every time I went outdoors, someone was going to try and kick my arse.
If, I were surrounded by musicians instead of gangs, would I have excelled in music? I don't think so. I am limited by my talent, I do think that I'd be better than I am.
If, I had grown up in a nice neighborhood, would I be able to fight as well, I don't think so. Talent needs to be motivated and exercised.
I have often wondered how many Mozarts or Einsteins are living in a jungle.
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Mollbarre
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Re: Does Biology Matter?

Post by Mollbarre » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:19 pm

Re: finger length.

I think it may be less about finger length than about flexibility.

I have big hands and reasonably long fingers, but I have very stiff hands. Other people have wonderfully bendy digits...
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