Thursday, December 14, 2017

Practice May Not Make Perfect: Musical Ability is in The DNA

        I've heard people say before: "music runs in my family" and being a musician myself,  I found the idea quite interesting. When looking for an article, I found the headline: "Musical Ability is in The DNA" and within a matter of seconds, I was reading the article. A fascinating study was done in Sweden's Karolinska Institute by a doctor named Miriam Mosing. The question she had was concerning a person's musical abilities and if it has a strong connection to their genetic makeup. Is music ability due to practice time or DNA? 
       Together with her colleagues, Dr. Mosing studied 1,211 pairs of identical twins and 1,358 pairs of fraternal twins born between 1959 and 1985. Each individual was asked if they play an instrument or actively engaged in singing. If the answer was yes, she proceeded by asking the person to estimate how many hours a week he or she practiced at different ages and with that she calculated a score for their life's practice. Anybody who didn't play an instrument or sing got a score of zero. 
        Her next step was created to test a person's musical abilities. She had every person do the same exercises to test their pitch, appreciation of melody, and sensitivity for rhythm. These three areas were specifically chosen because expert musicians are exceptionally good at detecting differences within them. Most people expect that if someone puts in enough practice time, his music ability would be as high as an expert's; however, this assumption is false. In fact, it appeared to be no relationship between practice and musical abilities of the sort she was measuring. What I found amazing was a twin who practiced more than his genetically identical co-twin did not appear to have better musical abilities as a result. In another case, the difference between two such twins was 20,228 hours of practice. Surprisingly, the pair's measured musical abilities were found to be the same. 
        Dr. Mosing's findings, in no way, indicates that practice, has no value, but we can know that one with the "musical" genes have a really high chance of mastering such skills. In addition to this, her experiment showed music ability has a very strong genetic component which explains to me why I may here "music runs in my family" again. 


  1. I found your article very interesting, as someone who has never been musically talented, it is cool to me that genes could potentially play a factor in musical ability.

  2. This article caught my attention because I was never able to understand how some people were able to pick up any instrument and play it as if they had their whole life. Very interesting article I will be looking to read more on the topic.

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