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-   -   Why are some better than others? (http://forums.bobdunsire.com/forums/showthread.php?t=170302)

hooks 10-24-2020 10:39 PM

Why are some better than others?
 
I am sure most of us have pondered this question at some time.
It could refer to sport , art or a thousand and one other activities.
In particular I am interested to know why some bagpipers are better players than others. Leaving aside the obvious things such as amount of time spent practising, quality of teacher and age why do some players become world renowned medallists while others struggle at grade 4 level ?
As brilliant a physicist as was Einstein would he have been an equally brilliant piper ? I think not necessarily so.
What is that inert " something "that sets us apart ?

Dave

Garry 10-25-2020 12:16 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
Answers to this are endless. I have been referred to many a glowing report of some highly regarded person outstanding in his/her field and have occasionally (to someone who understands my sense of humour) replied "Ah yes, a great man, but can he play the bagpipes?" I loved one response to me "Yes, a great man, but not THAT great".:willy:

William McKenzie 10-25-2020 01:09 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
I think it's just that some don't work on the individual components. They try and mash it altogether as one thing in every practice session. I know for myself I spent years trying to make everything get better when really the Highland pipes are very individual pieces that work in harmony.

For example, blowing absolutely steady. That alone. Become automatic at that. One drone, one note. As long as you can stand until it is eventually all drones, any note. Fully automatic and at ease. Look at posture next, become completely relaxed in the shoulder and the forearm. Keep turning off the tensing until it too becomes automatic.

Separately work on fingering on a practice chanter. Play doublings and movements open. Make them even more open than you think is already open. Feel every individual finger, play so slow and frustratingly that you are forced to completely relax every digit and feel and separate every movement. Now put that together more and more as you stay relaxed.

Combine these on the full pipes. Fully relaxed hands, relaxed as possible body and posture. Realize you're hearing clean movements and steady tone. Rinse and repeat.

el gaitero 10-25-2020 07:33 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
Inspiration, a bit of talent and perseverance.

Wishing doesn’t make it happen. Only YOU...

Even with lesser talent one can still go pretty far with the other two attributes.

colinmaclellan 10-25-2020 07:56 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
I think environment has a lot more to do with it than many might think. Talent, yes, can't do without that. Practice, yes, but who that wants to be good doesn't practice?


What you experience as terms listening, hearing, seeing, and the opportunities to do so has to be one of the main factors as to how good someone eventually becomes - along with support and encouragement.

pancelticpiper 10-25-2020 09:09 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by hooks (Post 1348995)
I am sure most of us have pondered this question at some time.
It could refer to sport , art or a thousand and one other activities.
In particular I am interested to know why some bagpipers are better players than others. Leaving aside the obvious things such as amount of time spent practising, quality of teacher and age why do some players become world renowned medallists while others struggle at grade 4 level ?
As brilliant a physicist as was Einstein would he have been an equally brilliant piper ? I think not necessarily so.
What is that inert " something "that sets us apart ?

Part of it is the longstanding "nature versus nurture" debate.

What I find interesting is how the public perception, or at least the tradition or appearance of public perception, varies depending on the field of human endeavour.

You go into the Doctor's office. You see certificates hanging on the walls. These documents attest only to training. In effect, they tell you that your Doctor sat in a seat at X institution for X years and passed the exams.

The message is: in the world of medicine it's all about training.

But anyone who has studied the American Civil War takes such with a grain of salt. Because most of the leaders on both sides had identical training, the great and the horrible alike.

Where I work we employ professional musicians. The door to their break room has a single word: Talent.

The message is: in the world of music it's all about talent.

But nearly all those people have Music degrees! Some have Masters, some have Doctorates! Why don't they hang their degrees behind them when they're performing on stage?

In the art world (my world) there's an influential teacher and author Betty Edwards who more or less denies the role of talent in art, and says, and has regularly demonstrated, that the most important thing is training.

I think the world of sports gives the public the most balanced story. As everyone probably has heard over and over, in the world of sports it's said that the the people that get to the top have supreme talent AND a supreme work ethic AND an intensely competitive nature. It takes all three, it's said, to rise to the top.

Certainly the pipers I've known who have done well in solo competitions have had great teachers, are extremely talented, put in countless hours of practice, and have a competitive nature.

BaggyMcPipes 10-25-2020 09:13 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
So, so, so many factors figure in, surely. Nature, nurture, age, etc, etc. But going to the original idea of exposure to other players, etc - I do think that could play a part. If a piper's sights are set on playing in a parade, maybe they'll never really listen to Gordon Duncan, Fred Morrison, FMM, etc? Never listening to such performers, the parameters of possibility may never expand beyond common marches.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

CalumII 10-25-2020 10:13 AM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
I think this is a great question, and there are many, many perspectives on it, and many of them are useful. As Colin says, environment makes it so much easier; it's no accident so many of our great players are related or otherwise associated with each other.



One thought I have as a teacher is that a student's belief in their own will *and* ability seem to be the deciding factor between those who become independent, self-driven musicians and those who "float", for want of a better word. These people both "know" they are capable of doing it, and expect and want to work hard to get there. I've never taught anyone like that who doesn't make really significant progress in relatively short timespans.



Conversely, I'm sure any teacher will recognise that some of their students are the opposite of this and probably finds teaching such individuals frustrating in some way. There are only so many ways to say diplomatically, "you could be progressing much faster than you are..."

Green Piper 10-25-2020 05:38 PM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
People’s abilities to successfully play bagpipes also simply boil down to natural variation in humans.

Think about this:

1. Unless, we’re identical twins, we’re genetically unique. This is without getting into the discussion of epigenetics, etc.,

2. Think about differences in height - graph human height and there’s a graph with a normal distribution. This is because height is genetically controlled by many different genes, not to mention the effects of the environment. This concept can be applied to many other traits in humans.

3. Ability to play a music instrument such as the pipes, involves a whole slew of different traits, each under different genetic control: fine motor control of fingers involves the nervous system, neuron mapping within the brain. This is effected by physiology. In other words, the genetic variation within humans with regards to playing the bagpipes must be incredibly variable. Case in point, Stuart Liddell early today in a seminar said that he has to put extra work into e-doublings especially after a short F. Another top-flight player may have their own bugbear movements.

4. Now add genetic variation with how different people learn!

So, IMO, genetics plays a huge role in our piping abilities (or lack thereof). Then we need to factor in the effect of environment (nurture) which would include aspects of upbringing, work, time for practice, and goodness knows what else.

Thankfully, we’re not genetic clones of each other. Genetic variation is incredibly important for evolutionary robustness in a species (and we’re no exception).

Sorry for the ramble.

Charlie

John Dally 10-25-2020 09:05 PM

Re: Why are some better than others ?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by colinmaclellan (Post 1349007)
I think environment has a lot more to do with it than many might think. Talent, yes, can't do without that. Practice, yes, but who that wants to be good doesn't practice?


What you experience as terms listening, hearing, seeing, and the opportunities to do so has to be one of the main factors as to how good someone eventually becomes - along with support and encouragement.

Couldn't agree more.

Malcolm Gladwell's OUTLIERS is a study in how a nurturing environment is as important for success as other elements, like talent and intelligence.


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