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#1069672 - 04/27/08 05:11 AM Asperger's music joys and frustrations
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Greetings from Romania !

I'm 33 years old and have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (mild autism) 2 years ago, but think I had it all my life. I was a 'little professor' with many scientific interests, then a real university-level instructor in applied math.

As I showed quite good 'musical hearing' and voice, my parents tried to make me learn piano at 8-9 years of age; I learned quickly elements from a very nice children's method with 'Dwarves' (now I identify as John Thompson's Easiest Piano Course from 1955).
Found out the following varying qualities of 'links':
- Melody memory to Right-hand: quite good
- Musical note reading: possible but quite slow.

Then the old lady teaching (really from the pre-WW2 old nobility, formally trained to play as ladies befit at the times - but not pedagogically as music teacher) switched me to the Pro exercises of her time: Pischna, Czerny etc. I bogged down quickly both with technical difficulty and frustration and anti-motivation, after enough tries I (and parents) gave up. "Links" having difficulties:

- Left hand coordination: poor and/or slow
- Left hand as a separate melody together with right hand: almost impossible
- Note reading (even with training) - still slow
- Arpeggios, chords or other independent fingering - awkward, would make it even slower
- Joining mentally the # and b's near key (called a Key signature ?) with later notes (not all in same positions) to play black keys: Almost impossible in real time.

Essentially problems are with "motor multitasking" and "couplers" of too different effectiveness between various domains of perception and control.
Basically (hearing+right hand) are on a relatively 'easy' coupler, everything else on the 'slow/conscious/clumsy' coupler.

Yes, I learned some theory and reformulated it 'my way'... knew without being stated as theory a major chord is 0+4+7 and a minor chord 0+3+7 in semitones above basis... still impossible to execute in real time in any position required.

Some years ago I got a small keyboard (Yamaha PSS-102). Loved the parametric tinkering of FM synthesis...
When I tried again to just *play*, without any Must-Factor, the same technical limitations reappeared. I could improvise some melodies I heard, but not the full sound with arrangements, chords etc.
- Multi-note hearing: enough to tell when a complex arrangement 'fits' or not what I heard, but not enough to know what missing keys to press ;-)
I sort of rediscovered some 'automatic finger positions' instead: C+E+G, B+D+G and C+F+A being Tonic, (inverted) Dominant and Subdominant chords... and resorted to shifting the melody instead some odd semitones to fit the bass I could play along ;-)

In time, I had grown to like organ sounds: pipe organs (quite rare here), Hammond, Vermona (East German electronic organ - used in some former bands here) - and researched a lot into their technical bases.

Recently I got a much better keyboard (Casio CTK-800), with touch sensitive keys and closer to 'correct' piano sounds. A true acoustic piano would be desired but this is a good enough approximation for now and also gives much variety in organ-type sounds. (If only I could distinguish the component frequencies... 3 to 9)

I appreciated much this site, both as pedagogy and varied easy pieces to practice: http://jeanies_home_studio.tripod.com/
Jeanie (who is sort of a mentor now...) was very nice and recommended I try Faber's Adult Piano Adventures but I didn't find it in any music shops in this large city; the closest I found was some of the Bastien series. Now I ordered All-in-One Book 2, may arrive in a month or so here.
There also are pro materials (Czerny, Hanon) but I don't think I'll be able to reach that in a year as this veteran teacher suggested... other great tips too!
http://marthabeth.com/piano.html

I'm interested in several styles of music: melodic pop (e.g. ABBA... some nice piano parts), rock, some classical. I'd love to be able some time to play Bach's BWV565... Right now I'm struggling with Pachelbel's Canon (even a simplified version in C) and Albinoni's Adagio in Gm.

I'm still having moderate recreational interest in making music, but stumble like maybe someone who would like stories but have dyslexia problems in reading ;-) [Actually I had HYPERlexia as a kid, reading early difficult words, but less social talk]. Fortunately, the domain isn't as life-important...

Would most appreciate advice (and pointers to other Web materials) in:
- Arranging harmonization for a heard tune
- Multitasking when it has a serious "block" somewhere
- Playing with non-C "key signatures"
{Recently found a way to ease this greatly and reduce frustration: just pre-analyze the piece and write each b/# explicitly[/b]. Offloads some of the multitasking from real time playing - already too many 'threads' of coordination. Is this just "bad form" ? or a "crutch" I may grow out from ?}

... such as it's still not as much "work" as fun !

Thank you for thinking about this !

{I first posted this on the Pianoteaching.com forum, focused on Faber's methods. Some people there didn't appreciate the intrusion ? }

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#1069673 - 04/27/08 08:52 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
Hi ROM
welcome to the forum
I am afraid I cannot help you - but you should post this on the Piano Teachers Forum - I believe there are teachers over there who have experience with children diagnosed with asperger's

Also do a search on asperger's - it's been discussed before on these boards

And good luck with the new piano!
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#1069674 - 04/27/08 08:55 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
sorry - that should read -
"with adults diagnosed with asperger's'
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#1069675 - 04/27/08 09:32 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
The important thing to know is, as far as I understand it, there are advantages, strengths, also to be drawn on and used.

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#1069676 - 04/27/08 09:48 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
Oh, and by the way:

 Quote:
- Left hand coordination: poor and/or slow
- Left hand as a separate melody together with right hand: almost impossible
- Note reading (even with training) - still slow
- Arpeggios, chords or other independent fingering - awkward, would make it even slower
- Joining mentally the # and b's near key (called a Key signature ?) with later notes (not all in same positions) to play black keys: Almost impossible in real time.
I believe many beginners have problems with note reading and reading music; and probably ALL of us have slow left hand (or non-dominant hand) coordination, argeggios etc - join the club
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#1069677 - 04/27/08 12:37 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
dannylux Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 1815
Loc: Connecticut
ROMagister,

Welcome to the ABF.

With regard to Asperger's, some of the greatest pianists have had it.

Glenn Gould and Beethoven probably had it.

Among the great pianists today, Evgeny Kissin and Ivo Pogorelich have it.

Also, Lang Lang has Asperger's.

For more on pianists and Asperger's, go to http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php

Click on "Search" and type in asperger.

Good to have you here at the ABF.


Mel
_________________________
My Recordings

"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn

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#1069678 - 04/27/08 01:10 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Thank you for the interest so far !

I'm shy about thinking at too many celebrities with AS... especially as I don't target that high.

But I would delight in the technical control of a powerful system with visceral results like an organ/piano, the way I delighted in flying planes in flight simulators.

About my sight reading: it's so slowly connected to the motor control of hands (esp. left, or a 2nd independent line) that it's useless for real time playing. Two worlds that hardly link. But I can plough through an unknown melody to get to hear it and get into a mental image.

My only reasonable playing in tempo etc. is 'from mental image', with sheet music only as occasional reminders for jumps etc.
Most 'normal beginners' also do this ?

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#1069679 - 04/27/08 01:16 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Also: I understand now the Circle of Fifths is a mathematical side-effect of the fact that
2^19 = 524,288 is close to 3^12 = 531,441
Or (3/2)^12 ~ 2^7

Still doesn't help much with shifting hands on black-white-black key combinations (e.g. the chromatically descending chords in the Phantom of the Opera theme)

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#1069680 - 04/27/08 02:58 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Welcome to the forum, ROMagister! \:\) My son is on the autism spectrum, too (he jumps between Asperger's and PDD-NOS, depending on who's doing the diagnosing at the time).

I couldn't tell how long you've been studying piano from your post, but I agree with Schubertian that many of the "difficulties" you report having are common to everybody learning piano, especially in the early years, and they may not have anything at all to do with Asperger's.

In terms of coming up with harmonies to accompany melody lines, that sounds a lot like what is taught in Piano Magic, an online system for teaching playing be ear. Search the archives for Piano Magic (try it as the subject of the thread) and you'll find lots has been written about it here.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1069681 - 04/27/08 09:11 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
hotkeys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 788
Loc: Massapequa, NY
Welcome to the forums ROMagister! \:\)

I read your posts and may share similar traits but I haven't had this verified by my physician. I believe that we can overcome these obstacles, but we need to work a little more.

Secondly, a person with autism (or even epilepsy which I have) can succeed at playing the piano! That individual may have to rely on memory more but the rewards to make music are plentiful. It comes down to a question I asked myself: What is the best gift you can give yourself?

For me its music. I stayed away from pianos for a long time and one day I decided to face the situation head on. I find playing simple scales relaxing and beautiful :3hearts: to start off with! I am working on some pieces but I am keeping it simple for the time being.

I am working through the Alfred all in one books which I find helpful to refresh what I learned. I encourage you to work through the tough spots. The reward is a musical journey that will last a lifetime! Best wishes!

- Mark
_________________________
...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...

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#1069682 - 04/27/08 09:33 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
HI Mark
"What is the best gift you can give yourself - for me it is music"
Thats great - I like that!
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#1069683 - 04/28/08 02:58 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Thanks for all your ideas and support !

Following Keystring's private advice, I tried playing a main melody with LEFT hand, and it worked ! Chords with right hand too ! Slightly clumsier than normally, but not impossible.
Now I think it's more my general-purpose multitasking that it's overloaded in a more complex typical piece. My approach will be to reduce the need for conscious control by gently training usual patterns "into fingers". These include common chords and arpeggios.

You are right to separate specific problems to those universal in beginner adults.
But I think trying by hard work and willpower alone, bashing through weakness and strength alike is going to generate frustration sooner than progress ;-)
Better some well-informed 'outmaneuvering' of problems and adaptation, patience and setting achievable, strongly interesting goals.

That's why I will try with a modern method like Faber's, for gentle training with systematic pacing. The old materials I have _are_ frustrating !

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#1069684 - 04/28/08 03:49 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
My approach will be to reduce the need for conscious control by gently training usual patterns "into fingers". These include common chords and arpeggios.
This has a right "feel" to it. I was really guessing about the switched left & right hand roles but I think this is what I was after (hoping it was right)

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#1069685 - 05/19/08 04:43 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Update: since working systematically with a gentle modern method like Faber&Faber "Adult Piano Adventures" book 2, difficulties are starting to reduce, but quite slowly. (So part of the past problems was anti-motivation from technical difficulty not being recognized).

The fundamental limit on conscious multitasking reappears still obvious the more different challenges are added (reading unusual places on staff - very high or low; accidentals, left hand patterns, unusual rhythms or just fast speed).

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#1069686 - 05/19/08 11:27 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by ROMagister:
The fundamental limit on conscious multitasking reappears still obvious the more different challenges are added (reading unusual places on staff - very high or low; accidentals, left hand patterns, unusual rhythms or just fast speed). [/b]
The good news is that those are all things that get much quicker and easier with time: you'll master those high and low ledger lines; the bass patterns will become recognizable on sight; unusual rhythms will become familiar.... uh, well, I haven't learned the trick yet for mastering fast speed, but there's an awful lot of slow music I still have yet to learn! \:D
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1313149 - 11/27/09 06:38 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: Monica K.]
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Years have passed... not much systematic progress in reading. Multitasking remains limited. Did intermittent 'by ear' tinkering...

... but I succeeded to visit and play a real pipe organ for a few minutes. By ear of course ! (my takes on) Arrival (ABBA) and A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum)... with passable 2-hand coordination praying it wasn't worse, and mighty shaking of knees and elbows ;-) Testing some registrations felt the nicest part.

still not calling myself an "organist" or "pianist" or "keyboardist"...

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#1313270 - 11/27/09 11:39 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: ROMagister]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Thanks for the update, ROMagister. The important question is: have you had fun? smile
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1313366 - 11/27/09 01:54 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: Monica K.]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
This advice is late because I wasn't on the forum back when you made the origional post, but I'll give it anyway in case it's helpful. If reading is still a problem I wouldn't worry over it, I would just adapt around it. If you need to write in all the flats and sharps or circle them, or highlight them go ahead. If you need to and can memorize the song and use the music just as a reference or reminder, do it. I think you mentioned that multi-tasking is one of your weak points and that's exactly what reading and playing at the same time is. In the end, the music is really just an instruction sheet for how to play a song. How you used the instructions doesn't matter, even if you write A's, B's and C's etc. all over it to help with memorizing the notes. For coordination the only thing I can really add is that in popular music the sheet music is often not exact to the recording anyway, so feel free to make small changes in the arrangement to make fingering less awkward. As long as it still "sounds right" don't worry about it.

It really doesn't matter either if you are never able to get past this and do it like "everyone else". The piano teachers may not agree with this advice, and I'm not a music teacher. I'm just giving my opinion as a special needs educator. Your brain is wired a bit differntly, don't make yourself crazy trying to change it. Just adapt things to get the results you want and have fun!
_________________________
I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.


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#1313383 - 11/27/09 02:38 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: ROMagister]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: ROMagister
Also: I understand now the Circle of Fifths is a mathematical side-effect of the fact that
2^19 = 524,288 is close to 3^12 = 531,441
Or (3/2)^12 ~ 2^7

Still doesn't help much with shifting hands on black-white-black key combinations (e.g. the chromatically descending chords in the Phantom of the Opera theme)
smile No, you're right, it doesn't help with that. smile

Where can I find out more information about the mathematical basis of the circle of fifths? I have always told my students that nobody really understands why it works, and I would love to be able to change that.
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1313830 - 11/28/09 11:10 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: david_a]
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
david_a,

Look up Pythagorean Comma or look in books on tuning and temperament. You can also approach the circle of fifths from a group theory perspective. Also, I've seen this in older books on harmony and music theory, but I don't have the exact reference.

Quick summary:
In a perfect fifth, the frequencies are in a ration of 3:2.
Consider C to be your starting frequency, to correspond to the starting point of the circle of fifths. The frequency for G would be 3/2 times that of C. A fifth from G would be (3/2)^2 times the frequency of C.
By the time you have traversed the entire circle of fifths, the frequency has increased by (3/2)^12.

The other part of the equation is the octave. An octave has the frequency ratio of 2:1. Traversing 7 octaves increased the frequency by the ration 2^7.

The difference between (3/2)^12 and 2^7 is the pythagorean comma.

Rich
_________________________

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#1314163 - 11/29/09 12:59 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: keystring]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6078
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Originally Posted By: keystring
The important thing to know is, as far as I understand it, there are advantages, strengths, also to be drawn on and used.


I have been diagnosed with Asperger's too. I think I am a little bit clumsy in real life with my hands, but it is a miracle I can play several instruments without any problem.
At any rate, yes, I suppose there are also advantages in this disorder (?), like extreme creativity, more focus on what you really want to do...
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#1315075 - 11/30/09 12:47 PM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: ChopinAddict]
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
Monica K: Yes, I had real pleasure there with the pipe organ ! not sure 'fun' would be the right word in a former Benedictine church, but hopefully I haven't desecrated the spirit of the place. I knew these pieces are actually used in Swedish or UK church weddings...

One technical peculiarity there was the organ had a largish delay in attack (>0.3 s) due to pneumatic servo, so any mistakes were impossible to correct 'by ear' as the wrong note was already physically 'in the air' for a long time.

DragonPianoPlayer: yes, you expanded nicely my understanding of the Circle of Fifths. It may also be stated as a closest approximation by a fraction:
log2 1.5 ~ 7/12
Now, just major thirds (5/4) are harder to get into such a cyclical approximation system, so any temperament is just a compromise...

The current UK naming is "Autistic spectrum conditions" - not disorders or diseases. In the milder part advantages can be predominant too (actually as a kid they saw my advantages first, only slower through life all the correlated problems started to show). Now, my main life limitation is in "executive function" - what I say as "being one's secretary, boss and slave too". It indirectly affects music too, through that recurring frustration and insufficient ordered effort to overcome the obstacles.

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#1322402 - 12/10/09 03:31 AM Re: Asperger's music joys and frustrations [Re: ROMagister]
ROMagister Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/08
Posts: 518
Loc: Bucuresti, Romania
A long quote from "Methodology of Frpntal and Executive Function" ed. Patrick Rabbitt, 1997/2005

"
Shiffrin and Schneider (1977) and Schneider and Shiffrin (1977) have shown
that it is eventually possible for two tasks to be carried out without mutual
interference, but this only happens if they are practised together, rather than
separately. Schneider and Detweiler (1988) formally propose a number
of successive, qualitative changes which must take place before dual-task
performance becomes maximally efficient. The model envisages that even singletask
learning involves a transition between successive, qualitatively distinct,
information-handling stages. When a task is first encountered it initially involves
a very heavy memory load because it is necessary to maintain in working
memory, and to load as necessary, a variety of memory vectors, representing
almost all possible connections between representations of information and
operations that have to be carried out. In a subsequent processing stage, that of
context-controlled comparison, the representation of information is translated
into a more economical set of memory vectors, which are maintained and used.
Further practice enables Goal—state maintained controlled comparison in which
target memory vectors are directly transmitted from input to produce output;
finally, automatic single-task processing allows even more economical use of
memory vectors, and so of what might be termed, in the context of such
quantification as M-space, or mu, maximally economical use of processing space.
Dual-task performance requires at least seven further changes. In order of their
use during practice on dual tasks these are: (1) shedding the tasks of pre-loading
information for each task, and of time-scheduling its access and use; (2) letting
go of higher workload strategies that are necessary to cope with complex tasks;
(3) utilising non-competing resources, as far as possible; (4) multiplexing
transmissions over time (i.e. increased parallel processing of information from
both tasks); (5) reducing redundancy to a minimum by shortening necessary
transmissions; (6) converting interference from concurrent transmissions; and,
finally, (7) achieving economies of information processed by chunking
transmissions.
In distinction to the simplistic network model with which we began, this
sophisticated model does not merely assume that individuals improve by
carrying out fewer and fewer of a set of operations that are, essentially, of the
same kind but rather that they proceed through a decalage of successive,
independent “stages” in each of which the production system carries out a
different pattern of operations. The challenge is to invent experimental tasks in
which identifying characteristics for each of these successive processing stages
may be observed. Until this is possible empirical neuropsychologists may have to
be content with attempts to improve the sensitivity of global quantitative indices
of dual-task information load, such as mu (Baddeley, Della Salla et al., this
book), which at least allow comparative statements of the relative amounts of
capacity consumed by each of two, simultaneous and competing, tasks.
"

And I personally consider learning to control a musical instrument through increasing complexity of musical information just that needed test-task for psychologists to study...

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