Musical Talent – Fact or Opinion?

If you’re like me, music is an enormous (or at least very significant) part of your life.  Finding new artists to obsess over and rave about to your friends is a normal part of your day.  So when you find out that one of your friends hates your new favourite artist, the first question (or exclamation) you have is, “WHY?!”

Why, indeed?  Personal opinion is all well and good, but when you’re talking about an occupation or activity that requires some talent to succeed, is there actually a set definition of “talent” to follow?  I’ve often wondered this when my friends and I differ on what music artists we like, or even who we think is “better” than who.  (Usually, we’re talking about the musical talent of the artist, not necessarily the genre of music that artist falls under, since my friends and I all tend to like the same kinds of music…)

So is talent something you can really measure or even define?  Or is it something that must be purely based on others’ opinion and the parameters of the genre or job description?  I mean, I don’t particularly like screamo rock, but that’s because I don’t think it takes much talent to scream into a microphone at the top of your lungs for four minutes straight.  But then again, I don’t know that genre very well, so I could be missing out on a lot of really great artists who do have a lot of talent…..  I don’t think I am, but you never know.

Or here’s an interesting angle: is our taste in music (specifically our talent-taste, not genre-taste) dependent or at least somehow related to our own musical proficiency?  For example, if we’re tone deaf, does that mean that we can’t hear when other people aren’t hitting the notes perfectly on key?

“She’s pitchy on the high notes too often.”  “He has a weird vibrato.”  “Her voice is too nasally.”  “They don’t harmonize well.”  Are these facts or opinions or both?  And does the answer to that question determine whether that artist is talented or not?

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts!

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