What Every Modern Producer Can Learn From Mozart
Often, when society encounters the work of an amazing artist or producer, the word talent gets whipped out quicker than the Amen break at a drum ‘n bass festival. But what is talent really?
Have you ever wondered what music talent is? Are some of us just lucky enough to hit some kind of genetic musical jackpot? Well it does seem that way, but there is one factor that ties the greatest of the great with the humblest of beginners.
So, what exactly can every modern producer learn from Mozart?
It takes time to be good at something
Herbert A. Simon, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, determined that on average it takes ten years for anybody to acquire enough skills to fully master their particular field. In his bestseller The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shone a fresh light on the idea and the so called ten-thousand hour rule became part of the modern mythos of acquiring skills.
Although there are many studies that have observed similar figures for skills acquisition, further reading (and something we get into later in the article) shows this is not exactly the case. Practice in and of itself is not enough, rather spacing out and varying your practice seems to do the trick—as opposed to single minded focus on one outcome.
Although not connected to this article, we thought you might like to listen to a few of Mozart’s most popular pieces while reading this article:
However you slice the pie though, you still have to practice
For a lucky few, the process of acquiring skills is an unconscious and (seemingly) effortless process, but many mistake this acquisition for talent.
While a rare few seem to be born with innate abilities far beyond those of us mere mortals—Mozart composing music by age 5, Bobby Fischer Chess Master at age 15—what is often overlooked in the case of the lesser pantheon of “Talented People”, a.k.a. the rest of us, is all the blood, sweat and tears that lie behind gaining, maintaining and honing those skills.
Have a look at those figures again, although his first music was composed at an early age (put to paper by his father when Mozart was five), using his opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (composed when he was 14) as an example of his first “significant” output and success as a composer, Mozart’s significant works only really emerge about 10 years later. He composed another two operas in the following two years—Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772)—before his appointment to the Salzburg Court in 1773.
Mozart was a true, tried and tested touring musician before he turned 17. Leading up to this he had been traveling and performing (and composing) for ten years on the road in gruelling and life threatening conditions. In due course he interacted with a slew of accomplished and established musicians and composers and even committed one of the first cases of music piracy when transcribing, from memory, Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, a closely guarded “property” of the Vatican. So this interval of hard work is often overlooked when the genius of Mozart is contemplated. Indeed it wasn’t until 1773 in the Salzburg court that Mozart wrote the music that most of us know him for today.