Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Musical Dynasties: It (Genetically) Runs in the Family

Genetics may account for musical predisposition and ability.

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and former Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder discovered in his teens that his true biological father was a musician that played guitar.

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist KT Tunstall ("Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"), "Suddenly I See" was adopted at birth. Her adoptive parents did not have much of an interest in music. However, Tunstall later discovered that her biological father, Ed Severson Jr., was a folk singer.

Even recent X-Factor finalist Chris Rene is from a musical family. Chris' father, Rafaele "Googie" Rene was a jazz and soul singer, and his grandfather, Leon Rene, was a music composer - and the creator of "Rockin' Robin".

Is musical talent inherited? Researchers are leaning towards that possibility.

A medical geneticist and her colleagues analyzed 224 family members who were either professional musicians, active amateur musicians, or were related to professional or active amateur musicians. On standard tests of musical aptitude, it was found that the heritability rate of musical talent was 50%.

Not only that, but some family members with no musical training scored the same as professional musicians on the tests. It was also discovered from blood tests of study participants that two chromosomes had genes that were linked to musical ability (Jarvela, et al. 2008).

And how about the opposite direction - families where no one can carry a tune? One study found that even tone-deafness ("congentical amusia") is genetic (Peretz, et al. 2007).

Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC

More from Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today