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Do I Really Need to Be Talented to Be a Successful Musician?

Do I Really Need to Be Talented to Be a Successful Musician?

If you are one of these musicians who scour the internet doing research about what it takes to become musician, talent will come up time and time again. You will see articles telling you to hone your skills so you can get picked up by a record label and/or make some serious money with your music.

But if we look at various artists that have broken through over time, we have to wonder, how important is talent, really?

This article will take a look at the world of music to determine how talented you have to be to make it big.

Different Types of Talent

The first thing we need to do is define talent. Let’s start by looking at the various elements that can be considered in defining talent.

Natural Musical Talent

You know those people that seem to be able to pick up any instrument and play it, at least somewhat well? They probably can also carry a tune and have perfect pitch. Yeah, I hate those people too (Just kidding…maybe).

Those are people that have natural musical talent.

So, is natural musical talent necessary to become a musician? Not really. If you work hard enough, you will be able to master your instrument. In fact, it’s very difficult to be able to tell the difference between someone with natural talent and someone with acquired talent. This brings us to…

Acquired Musical Talent

These are the people that spend hours becoming good on their instrument. People that practice often can become just as skilled, if not more skilled than someone with musical talent.

However, it does help to have that natural talent. A naturally talented person will learn their instruments and develop skills faster and with the right work ethic, they may even excel.

Now that doesn’t mean that a person that works hard wouldn’t be considered talented. Hard work and dedication count as talents in and of themselves, at least as far as I’m concerned.

So don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t have a great ear to start out with. It will develop over time and your hard work will pay off.

Songwriting Skills

Some people may not be able to play their instrument that well, but what they do have is strong songwriting skills.

The ability to write a great song will transcend all others. If you can write a catchy hit, it can make thousands or even millions of dollars setting you up for life.

Even if you are not a strong performer, you can sell the song to someone else. It can be recorded digitally so you don’t have to worry about playing the instruments.

The It Factor

Some musicians may not be that talented, but they have that special something. It’s a combination of the right look and the right personality. They know what appeals to their target audience, and they are ready to deliver when it comes to what they wear and how they act on stage.

This is usually combined with strong networking skills. Musicians such as these often know how to push themselves forward to make the right connections. Basically, they create an illusion that makes them seem more impressive than they are, and people eat it up.

Hardworking musicians may look at people like this and dismiss them as being untalented, but when you think about it, they really are talented. They know what people want and they know how to fit that mold. This helps them get to the top. Whether they stay there or not is another matter!

Talent with Electronics

In today’s world of technology, electronics can do almost anything, and that includes making a great album. You can use electronics to play instruments for you or you can take an existing piece and use electronics to make it sound perfect.

Having the skills to use electronics will help you create great sounding music that can be shopped, marketed online or sold to other performers.

How Electronics are Taking Over for Talent

Being skilled with electronic equipment can be considered a talent but more traditional fans complain of a lack of authenticity in the music. Here are some ways electronics can be used to make up for talent.


Autotune is a process of shifting a vocalist’s voice on a recording to make it better match the pitch.

Let’s face it, recording is not easy, so using autotune here and there may not be a huge deal. However, there are singers that use it again and again in their music. It makes the voice sound mechanical, and some consider it cheating.

In fact, there have been instances when artists who use autotune won awards over artists that did not; a situation that many fans considered unfair.

Yet, autotune is often used by singers including those who aren’t nearly as talented as they seem to be on their recordings. Some lip sync at live shows so no one will be able to tell how poor their singing really is.

There are some artists who use a very strong autotune effect as a deliberate way to change the sound of their songs. Cher’s song, “Do You Believe in Life After Love?” is a good example.

Moving Notes

It is not uncommon for producers and engineers to move notes in the mixing process. For instance, if a note is slightly off beat, and it is not caught in the recording process, or the musician is having trouble getting it right, the engineer can use their platform they are working with to physically move the note so it synchs up with the other instruments.

Little fixes are not a big deal, but it can become problematic if the producer shifts the drums to match a click then further shifts the instruments to match the drums. When this occurs, the entire recording starts to sound overly processed and you need to ask yourself why they didn’t just record the song electronically in the first place.

Completely Electronic Music Production

Synthesizers were originally introduced to add something unique to a song. Now artists use them, and other types of electronic devices, to write and perform songs. Some even get up without a band at all.

While this type of music has managed to grow a considerable fan base, many people are dissatisfied with the lack of live energy that is produced. They also argue that it takes jobs away from talented musicians and allow fans to accept a lower quality of music.

How Many Musicians Have Made It Without Talent?

While we would like to think that the musicians who are bringing in the big bucks are worthy of their paychecks, the truth is, many have made it by using other musicians on recordings, lip synching, or just plain out disappointing their fans.

Here are some artists who have come under the gun.


Metallica may be the most successful metal band of our time, but they have been put under the microscope several times for their disappointing live shows and recordings. Lars Ulrich, in particular, has been singled out for his less than stellar drum timing. In spite of that, the band has gotten by due to their high energy performances and terrific songwriting.

Ace Frehley

Kiss’s Ace Frehley is one of countless musicians who does not record on their band’s albums. For Frehley, this was largely due to drug problems, but it may also be that his sloppy guitar playing which gave Kiss a unique sound live just didn’t pass off as well on a recorded format. Frehley’s addictions have also gotten in the way of his live performances and he was ultimately dismissed from the band.

Paris Hilton

Image Credit: On Milwaukee

There are countless stars who have tried their hand at being a musician, Paris Hilton being one of the most well known of the bunch. In 2006 she released two songs and she followed that up with a full album in 2013. Although there were few people that were fooled into thinking the music was a true representation of her musical talents, her LP managed to sell 198,000 copies in the United States.

Pussycat Dolls

Pop fans of early 2000’s pop will remember the Pussycat Dolls as a band of five sexy girls who sang catchy pop songs. After the band’s fall from stardom, they were featured in an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music where the lead singer, Nicole Scherzinger admitted that the entire band was a marketing scam. She claimed she was the only one in the band that actually sang and that her voice was even used for the other ladies’ backing tracks.


Pitbull has been criticized time and time again for his poor singing skills and less than stellar rapping abilities. While his first album peaked at #14 on the billboard charts, his subsequent albums showed declining success. Yet, the rapper has a net worth of $65 million. This may be largely due to the fact that he has been featured on the tracks of so many other recording artists, proof of the saying, it’s not what you know but who.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez is considered a triple threat due to her talents as an actress, dancer and reality television star. Here singing, not so much. Although her reputation as an artist is still somewhat unscathed, there is evidence that she uses ghost singers and only sings on about 5% of her songs.

Secrets to Success as a Musician

With so many talented musicians getting snubbed and so many untalented musicians getting ahead, you may wonder, what is the key to success? Here are a few helpful hints.

Be Original

When it comes to music, there is so much that has already been done. It’s hard to be original.

But if you can find something that makes you stand out, it can increase your chances of becoming successful.

You don’t want to go out of your way to be something you’re not. If you are not authentic, fans will be able to smell it a mile away. However, if you have something about you that you can capitalize on to make your act unique, go for it in a big way.

Avoid mediocrity and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Pair it with Hard Work

Once you find a formula that works for you, put it into action.

You’re not going to get anywhere sitting on your butt and putting things off until tomorrow. You need to be dedicating time to your project every day. This can include practicing, recording, booking gigs, reaching out to media, writing songs, promoting on social media and more.

Obviously, this takes a lot of effort, but if you have the desire to be successful, you will find the energy to make it happen. If you don’t have the motivation, don’t bother.

Be Confident

Musicians deal with a lot of failure. If you’re not confident, setbacks may cause you to quit entirely.

Ultimately, you need to have faith in yourself. This will give you the motivation you need to keep going, no matter what comes your way.


Musicians don’t make a lot of money. It can be difficult to live through the lean years. A lot of them give up because they decide to work a nine to five job that makes it impossible for them to concentrate on their music.

There is nothing wrong with deciding to pursue a career, but if you are in it for the long haul, you must learn to get along with less. Decide if you really need that new car. Try eating at home instead of going out for lunch.

If you can’t deal with giving up certain comforts, the life of a musician may not be for you.

Be Patient

Success is not going to come overnight, and it might not come at all. The important thing is to be patient and enjoy small successes.

You may not be a worldwide sensation, but getting your music played on a radio station, an appreciative audience or even just getting one fan to say your music touched them should go far in making you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.

The music is industry is a difficult business to make it in. It’s helpful to be born with natural talent, but that’s not all it takes to be successful. In fact, many talented musicians don’t make it, while those that are not as talented get ahead.

The tips in this article will help you achieve success no matter how talented you may be. What will you be doing to make it in this challenging industry?


What are the chances of becoming a successful musician?

Unfortunately, only about .000002% of musician become successful, and that’s being generous. The industry is highly competitive, and you need to have the right combination of skills and connections to get ahead.

What skills do you need to be a good musician?

Here we are talking about the skills you need to be a good musician, not necessarily a successful one. These are as follows:

  • Stamina: Some gigs can last for hours. You need to have the stamina to perform for a long time without getting tired and sloppy.
  • Motivation: You need to have the motivation and dedication to keep practicing and not get discouraged if your playing is not where it should be.
  • Good Communication: If you want to play well with other musicians, you need to have good communication skills. This will help you teach people your songs and it will allow you to learn other people’s music quickly. Good communication is also necessary when you’re playing live. You should have the ability to send physical cues to make sure all players are on the same page.
  • Concentration: Music is not easy to learn. Music theory, in particular, is difficult to master. People with strong concentration skills will flourish.
  • Flair for Entertainment: It doesn’t matter if you’re the front man or located all the way in back; you must have good stage presence. You should look like you’re alive and having fun at all times…without upstaging the other musicians.

Who uses the most autotune?

Earlier in the article, we discussed some artists that are considered to be cheating when they use autotune. Here are a few that are singled out for using the most autotune.

  • Cher
  • I.Am
  • Bon Iver
  • Travis Scott
  • Kesha
  • Future
  • Daft Punk
  • Lil Wayne
  • Kanye West
  • T-Pain


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