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 Post subject: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 7:53 pm 
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Where can you get a good quality bansuri in the UK? What would be a good key to go for? I can manage a concert flute in c with a little stretching but I think that's close to my limit. Bansuri have very large holes as far as I know, and I've struggled to close the holes on a low whistle in d on the couple of occasions I've tried one (apart from one I tried which had a markedly smaller gap between the bottom two holes).
Thank you in advance.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 5:31 pm 
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john wrote:
Where can you get a good quality bansuri in the UK? What would be a good key to go for? I can manage a concert flute in c with a little stretching but I think that's close to my limit. Bansuri have very large holes as far as I know, and I've struggled to close the holes on a low whistle in d on the couple of occasions I've tried one (apart from one I tried which had a markedly smaller gap between the bottom two holes).
Thank you in advance.


Hi! I'm an experienced bansuri player from Turkey. I also play other world flutes such as Turkish ney, Irish flute, Andean quena, and Xiao..

You can only find quality bansuri from India or Bangladesh. Wooden or polymer bansuri cannot compete with the sound of bamboo flutes. And western flute makers would struggle to find proper quality bamboo required for making bansuri.

Sarfuddin and Punam are the two most famous flute makers in India. I would highly reccommend Sarfuddin flutes website. Most people on youtube reccomend Punam flutes, which are 2-3 times more expensive. However the tuning of the flutes I bought from Punam flutes were flawed, so its your own risk to buy from them. Sarfuddin flutes on the other hand are always perfect in tuning, have better sound quality and far cheaper. I have more than 25 bansuri from 6 different makers and 3 countries, so trust me :)

For starting out, I would strongly reccommend G key (which gives D when all holes are closed). It is similiar in size to the boehm flute. E key is also popular and it has a more mellow sound, but it is bigger, and it will be difficult to cover the holes at first if you have small hands. E key is mostly used only in Indian classical music or meditation.. G key is better for Western music, covers or popular music. You may also buy A key if you have very small hands, but I dont like the sound of bansuri smaller than the G key (Although I use A and B keys from time to time).

Bansuri and instruments such as quena have big holes and there is an important reason for it. You can play bansuri in the chromatic range easily and fluently by the half-holing technique. So you can play any song you want. As a bansuri player, I would argue that playing in the chromatic range on bansuri is nearly as easy as the boehm flute if you learn the proper technique.

Half-holing is technically possible on Irish whistle, keyless Irish flute and other diatonic flutes as well. But it is not practical and you can not play easily or fluently in the chromatic range due to small holes. So these instruments are very limited.

We hold the bansuri with pipers grip... Which means that we donot close the holes with finger tips. We use the middle of our fingers. It may become weird at first, but when you get accustomed to it, you will see that it is much easier than covering the holes with finger tips. It is especially useful for halfholing. Even children or small sized females can easily cover the holes on bansuri with this technique.

I mentioned half-holing.. but actually I borrow this term from Irish music. Actually, bansuri players donot try to cover exactly half of the holes with their finger tips for sharp and flat notes. Normally, for fully closing the holes, we wrap our fingers aroung the hole, the fingers curved. For half-holing, we raise only the tip of the finger using the second knuckle on our finger, and keep our finger straight over the hole. This practically covers nearly 2/3 of the hole. Than we completely raise the finger for the next note. This may be difficult to understand now, so please refer to this paragraph later, when you learn the pipers grip :) This technique is very easy and becomes instinctive after a few months of practice.

For a beginner, I would reccommend the "easy flute school" channel on youtube. You need to get accustomed to Classical Indian playing style and ornamentations such as Mend and Gamak, even if you want to play Western music.

Also listen to many bansuri covers and ragas.

I hope this helps.
Feel free to ask if you have any questions.
Mustafa


Last edited by neyzen on Sun Feb 14, 2021 6:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:31 pm 
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neyzen wrote:
Half-holing is technically possible on Irish whistle, Irish flute and other diatonic flutes as well. But it is not practical and you can not play easily or fluently in the chromatic range due to small holes. So these instruments are very limited.

Ehm. No. It is possible to half-hole every note on a keyless "Irish" flute. The only note posing a problem is the Eb in the first octave because it sounds too weak -- but that also depends on the flute. So the instrument is not more or less limited than any other keyless 6 hole flute. Many notes can also be cross-fingered. And not all "Irish" keyless flutes have small holes. On the ones with big holes, of course, half-holing works better. On the ones with smaller holes, cross-fingering works better.
When flutes changed from the Renaissance design (with larger holes and cylindrical bore) to the smaller holed conical design of the baroque flute -- the reason was to make it easier to play all notes and half-notes, not harder. And that was done by cross-fingering mainly and not half-holing.
Half-holing in fast tunes is just a matter of practice. When the baroque flute developed into the romantic era flute (the "Irish" flute) -- they were made louder and more consistent over the whole range by enlarging the holes so they added keys. So basically, a keyless "Irish" flute was an afterthought more or less to the keyed romantic flute. Because for most of the Irish tunes, half-holing is rarely needed.
One more thing -- as someone who makes Quenas, flutes and whistles -- the larger the holes the better the tuning in the 2nd octave on a cylindrical instrument. Of course it will also make half-holing easier. And it will give a louder and cleaner sound the larger the holes are -- that is the reason for the development of the boehm flute where the holes are so large they can no longer be closed with the fingers but only with keys.
Half-holing on a tin whistle -- as you can see in the video, he also mostly does it by slightly lifting the finger and not actually covering a "half hole" but shading the hole. Of course -- not many players (in fact, I never saw anyone else) play like this and at this level but it is possible.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOmba730e0A


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 10:42 pm 
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Sedi wrote:
neyzen wrote:
Half-holing is technically possible on Irish whistle, Irish flute and other diatonic flutes as well. But it is not practical and you can not play easily or fluently in the chromatic range due to small holes. So these instruments are very limited.

Ehm. No. It is possible to half-hole every note on a keyless "Irish" flute. The only note posing a problem is the Eb in the first octave because it sounds too weak -- but that also depends on the flute. So the instrument is not more or less limited than any other keyless 6 hole flute. Many notes can also be cross-fingered. And not all "Irish" keyless flutes have small holes. On the ones with big holes, of course, half-holing works better. On the ones with smaller holes, cross-fingering works better.
When flutes changed from the Renaissance design (with larger holes and cylindrical bore) to the smaller holed conical design of the baroque flute -- the reason was to make it easier to play all notes and half-notes, not harder. And that was done by cross-fingering mainly and not half-holing.
Half-holing in fast tunes is just a matter of practice. When the baroque flute developed into the romantic era flute (the "Irish" flute) -- they were made louder and more consistent over the whole range by enlarging the holes so they added keys. So basically, a keyless "Irish" flute was an afterthought more or less to the keyed romantic flute. Because for most of the Irish tunes, half-holing is rarely needed.
One more thing -- as someone who makes Quenas, flutes and whistles -- the larger the holes the better the tuning in the 2nd octave on a cylindrical instrument. Of course it will also make half-holing easier. And it will give a louder and cleaner sound the larger the holes are -- that is the reason for the development of the boehm flute where the holes are so large they can no longer be closed with the fingers but only with keys.
Half-holing on a tin whistle -- as you can see in the video, he also mostly does it by slightly lifting the finger and not actually covering a "half hole" but shading the hole. Of course -- not many players (in fact, I never saw anyone else) play like this and at this level but it is possible.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOmba730e0A


I didnt mean to offend, sorry if I did. I also play the Irish flute, and I love it. I know it is possible to use half-holing on the Irish flute, and I also use it. It is possible to play many songs on Irish flute with a few sharps and flats.

But I was refering to "playing in the full chromatic range". This is much much more demanding than playing a few sharps and flats here and there. Just try playing some Mozart on a keyless Irish flute in E or B major scales.. it would be nearly impossible.. So yes, keyless Irish flute is a limited instrument. That's the reason for keyed flutes.. which is, I believe, far superior. Keyed Irish flutes have more potential than even the boehm flute, as they allow for ornamentations such as glides.

Playing in full chromatic range or B major is easily manageble on a bansuri. Some ragas require playing nearly all notes in sharps or flats, with few natural notes. And bansuri players can play Alaps (improvizations) on such ragas at incredeable speeds. And I have seen many players do that. Actually every professional bansuri player has to manage it.

I know about the history of traverse flute. What you are telling is true, but it is only part of the story. Before the middle ages, traverse flute was not common in Europe. In all other geographies where the flute is common, people used the pipers grip for ages. However, when the flute migrated to Europe, interestingly it was played with fingertips.

It is impossible to play large holed flutes with fingertips. You consider Reinessance flutes as "large holed".. but they are infact small-holed flutes. Yes, their holes are large when compared to Baroque flute. But when compared to a bansuri or a quenacho, the holes of Reinessance flutes are tiny.

Small holes was a necessity for playing with finger tips. The European music in the Reinessance era was not very demanding, so small holed flutes capable of diatonic scale were suitable for European players, who were playing with finger tips.

But as the classical music became more demanding in the Baroque era, probably it became impossible for flute players to keep up with half-holing on these small holed flutes. Since they were playing with finger tips, they never thought of making the holes bigger. Instead, they came up with even smaller holes that allowed cross-fingering as an alternative method..

I know there are Irish flutes with larger holes, but again, this is a matter of perspective. It is difficult to play on the chromatic range even with a Chinese dizi flute, which has much much larger holes than any Irish flute. You should make your comparisons with a bansuri or a traditional style quenacho.

Grip style is even more important than hole size for ease of half holing. When you try to half-hole with your fingertips, you are using the same motion both for fully closing or partial closing the holes. So, you need to actively think of how much you need to close the hole. This is almost impossible in a fast piece.

As I mentioned in my previous post, when half-holing with pipers grip , you use separate motions for partial closing and fully closing. You straighten the finger for sharps/flats, or you curve it for naturals. So you use a seperate motion for controlling flats/sharps. As a result, you do not need to actively think of how much you need to close the hole, since you use exactly the same position for each motion.

I have been playing different style flutes since I was 16 (for more than 23 years). So trust me, I have studied each of these methods for years.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2021 7:19 am 
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Maybe it is easier for me because I play with piper's grip anyway and I play a flute I made myself with very large holes. So half holing is easy. But what do you think about the video I linked? He plays on a normal tin whistle and plays at speed. So I still think it is mainly a matter of practice. The holes don't have to be super large to be able to half hole. And I play since I'm 13, so trust me - I also know what I'm talking about :D :thumbsup:
My guess is that a professional Bansuri player practices a lot. And if practicing on the keyless "Irish" flute - all of that would be possible, too. It's just not needed for Irish traditional music.
I'm not offended BTW. I think it is a very interesting discussion. Now I wanna try a Bansuri :). Do you have a link to a good shop that sells internationally?


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2021 7:22 am 
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Here is a picture to show you what I play. On the bottom is a "normal" Irish flute, my flute is in the middle and a quenacho on the top.
Image


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2021 7:39 am 
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Quote:
Just try playing some Mozart on a keyless Irish flute in E or B major scales.. it would be nearly impossible.. So yes, keyless Irish flute is a limited instrument.

Watch the video I posted, which proves that you can play fully chromatic on a tin whistle.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2021 2:09 pm 
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Sedi wrote:
Quote:
Just try playing some Mozart on a keyless Irish flute in E or B major scales.. it would be nearly impossible.. So yes, keyless Irish flute is a limited instrument.

Watch the video I posted, which proves that you can play fully chromatic on a tin whistle.


I just watched that video and I'd say that it reinforces the point that its nearly impossible. That guy has a rare talent!


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 12:13 pm 
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Nope. In my experience "talent" doesn't even exist (apart from things like "absolute hearing" which you are born with) and is an excuse for people who lack the ambition to practice enough. When I ask my neighbours (he plays the first violin in our local symphony orchestra and she is a concert pianist) they will tell you that they practiced 5 hrs each day for years and that "talent" plays no significant part in it. Sure -- the playing of Antoine Pihier is most impressive but given enough time and practice ... I am certain many people could do this. Nobody raves about "talent" when a classical musician plays those pieces.
Let's break this down to the "basics", shall we. When you can place a finger correctly on a hole, you can also place it halfway on a hole or use the necessary fingerings for cross-fingering.
I don't really see the difficulty in half-holing and cross-fingering. I played "Bouree" by Bach (the version made famous by Jethro Tull) on my keyless flute today (at least the first few notes) and apart from the fact that it is just a hard piece of music, I didn't run into any issues.
So -- no, no and no again -- a keyless flute is not "a limited instrument" only if you're too lazy to practice. I have changed my mind regarding this topic btw. I also once had the illusion that a whistle or keyless flute is basically a diatonic instrument, until I started playing Jazz pieces or classical pieces together with my wife on accordion.
And most of the time -- playing chromatically is simply not needed for Irish traditional music and most other European traditional music. So nobody practices it. While on the other hand, when playing bansuri you are encouraged from the get go to practice half-holing and playing chromatically. I think that is the main reason why it's considered easier -- because people are used to doing it. Not because it cannot be done on a "normal" keyless flute -- which differ in hole size anyway, so yes half-holing is easier with larger holes but cross-fingering is easier with smaller ones. I think I have to learn Bouree now and post a video just to show how "easy" (well playing a hard to learn tune is never easy, no matter if chromatic or not) it is :D . Might take a while though -- considering that even the "easier" non-chromatic tunes I learned, sometimes took a few weeks to play at even mediocre levels. So don't excpect a video anytime soon but believe me, when I say it can be done. Speed and precision is only a matter of practice.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 6:46 pm 
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Well, I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that keyless Irish flutes are ill-suited to fully chromatic playing.
Sure, it can be done, but not very well or very easily. That is why people pay so much extra for keys. Why buy a
keyed flute if a keyless flute is just as good? If you are going to play in keys other than D and G, and if you want
to maintain the kind of voicing that our Irish flutes have, then a keyed flute is clearly the way to go. If not, then
why are there so many keyed flutes out there?

If you want the baroque sound, then a flute with small tone holes, and other trade-offs that support fully chromatic
playing via cross-fingering, makes sense, but even then you will have an Eb/D# key. The reason for this key is because
half-holing the very small tone hole that vents E is impractical. This is simply a consequence of the trade-offs made in the
design of the instrument. Maybe some people can sometimes half hole Eb, but it is neither reliable nor very effective.
If it was just a matter of putting in a bit of practice, then nobody would bother with that key. If it was unnecessary, why
would baroque flutes have an Eb/D# key?

Keyless bansuri flutes are the instrument of choice for classical Indian music because their large tone holes enable
fully chromatic playing (via half-holing) both easily and with consistently good results. The fact that there has been
no need for keyed bansuri flutes is ample evidence of their effectiveness for that music. Again, their ability to support
this is a direct result of the trade-offs that have been made in the design of the instrument. The resulting differences in
voicing and responsiveness mean that bansuri are not going to be an instrument of choice for ITM or baroque music.
And neither are Irish or baroque flutes going to be an instrument of choice for Indian music.

So, basically I agree with the analysis neyzen presented and I appreciate the information provided. I think that post was accurate,
thorough and well presented. The fact that some people can sometimes play music in keys other than D or G on a penny whistle
is not really relevant to what was said, in my opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:14 pm 
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paddler wrote:
Why buy a keyed flute if a keyless flute is just as good?

To keep it from rolling off the table. Among other things.

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"Time is the wisest counselor of all." - Pericles

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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:20 pm 
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I still think this quote is incorrect:
Quote:
Half-holing is technically possible on Irish whistle, keyless Irish flute and other diatonic flutes as well. But it is not practical and you can not play easily or fluently in the chromatic range due to small holes. So these instruments are very limited.

You can play as easily and fluently either with cross-fingering (which is really not hard) or half-holing on a flute with larger holes. Nobody said anything about all the notes being of the same quality. And that is precisely the reason for keys. Flutes needed to be louder and have a consistent tone quality, which was the reason for the boehm flute in the end. True -- absolutely no disagreement there.
All I am saying, is that it is neither hard, nor requires talent (practice will be enough) to play chromatically on a keyless, let's call it "western" style flute, maybe -- it is even easier on a whistle, especially on a whistle with a thicker wall, like a aluminium or wooden one, as you can cross-finger almost all accidentals on those. The only note making real problems is the Eb. And only in the 1st octave. And of course -- smaller holes will make cross-fingered notes sound "muffled" or weak.
Still -- it can be done easily and fluently. That was my issue with that statement. Nobody said that the sound will be great - but perfectly fine for home use IMO. And -- as pictured above, I made a flute with really large holes, so it is probably closer to the design of a bansuri anyway compared to a "proper" Irish flute with conical bore -- I only have one proper conical bore flute and that one has really very small holes and on that one half-holing is indeed not practical. But I'd think on a pratten style flute it can be done. Mine is more of a "cross-over" design I guess. I think I will make another one with even larger holes one day -- the hole for the middle finger of the lower hand is 13mm and for me it is not hard to cover -- so I could theoretically make all the holes that large -- within limits. When I make the lowest hole this large, it will be impossible to reach. But even with a 7.5 mm hole, a half-holed Eb will at least make a sound, even though rather weak and hissy. But the sound-quality could probably be improved with practice.
Be that as it may -- learning "Bouree" was something I always wanted to do anyway :D. And where is the fun in playing it on my boehm flute? :love:


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 8:16 pm 
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OK, I see what you are saying. But I think the whole point is that when we play music on a flute we chase the sound
we want to produce. If loudness, clearness and evenness of notes is important for a certain musical genre, then
trying to produce that on a very small-holed flute is going to be next to impossible. With enough practice we may be
able to learn to produce a weak, veiled note via cross fingering or half holing, but we may never be able to produce
the sound we are chasing after. This is really the most important point, I think.

I think this is one of the beauties of flute making, actually. There is no such thing as a perfect flute, generically. There
are many possible trade-offs to make and they will not only impact ergonomics, which will impact the way the flute can
be played and the kind of techniques that can be employed, but they will radically influence how the flute sounds. Saying
that a certain kind of flute is "limited" sounds like a criticism, or a negative. I think a better way to say it is that various
flute designs are targeted to, or specialized for, a certain sound and style of play. It really begs the question of what
comes first, the musical genre or the instrument. The music is somewhat constrained by the capabilities of the available
instruments, and evolves with new developments in instrument capabilities, but also instrument designs evolve in order
to enable new capabilities and improve upon perceived deficiencies. We see this clearly in the evolution of flute designs in
Western music over the last few centuries. The flutes change, and along with those changes comes an evolution in the
way they sound. Whether this evolution is an improvement or not really depends on what music you are trying to play
and how you want that music to sound (and not just how "authentic").

Oh, and I also wanted to point out what I think was some erroneous information earlier in the thread regarding renaissance flutes.
Renaissance flutes were cylindrical bored, yes, but had very narrow bores and very small tone holes. Their tone hole size
was not large, even compared to baroque flutes. Renaissance flutes are really very different to the also cylindrical bored
bansuri flutes. Their narrow bores emphasized use of harmonics and their small tone holes emphasized use of cross
fingering. Fingering patterns for equivalent notes in different octaves were different. The advance of going to conical
bores in baroque flutes helped to partially address this. Note also that some baroque flutes had very large bores. For
example, Quantz used a larger bore than is seen in a modern Pratten for ITM, but used a tone hole matrix oriented towards
cross-fingering for fully chromatic playing rather than keys (although he did use foot keys, including separate keys for Eb
and D#!). These flutes have equivalent capabilities in terms of fully chromatic playing, but sound very different. Embouchure
hole sizes also evolved, being extremely small on renaissance flutes, progressively growing through the baroque and classical periods.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:06 am 
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What Paddler said.


It's doable, but the price is fairly high both in terms of how hard it is to do and in terms of the constraints imposed. That guy is great but he does a lot of slurring up to notes that IMHO would suit the piece better if they were played more crisply and cleanly. I think there is a really good argument to be made for letting an instrument do what it does best: eg don't try to make a sax into a violin. The history of the flute shows both the demand for and the value of keys.


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 Post subject: Re: Bansuri flutes
PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:29 am 
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Sedi wrote:
Nope. In my experience "talent" doesn't even exist (apart from things like "absolute hearing" which you are born with) and is an excuse for people who lack the ambition to practice enough. When I ask my neighbours (he plays the first violin in our local symphony orchestra and she is a concert pianist) they will tell you that they practiced 5 hrs each day for years and that "talent" plays no significant part in it. Sure -- the playing of Antoine Pihier is most impressive but given enough time and practice ... I am certain many people could do this. Nobody raves about "talent" when a classical musician plays those pieces.


I completely disagree. Hand-eye coordination and coordination in general are genetic abilities. I don't have good finger speed. No amount of practice will make my fingers move faster. Just like running. No amount of practice will make me as fast as Usain Bolt. No amount of practice will give me the ability to throw a baseball at 100mph. There are physical and mental traits that are simply genetics. Sure, you can overcome some genetic weaknesses with practice. But no amount of practice will overcome genetics.


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