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#2295453 - 06/26/14 06:58 PM The Brains of Pianists
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 628
Loc: Leicester, UK

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#2295499 - 06/26/14 08:17 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
Atrys Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
Lol, what a silly article.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2295597 - 06/27/14 01:29 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1127
Loc: California
Two things I got from the article:

It seems the difference between left-handed and right-handedness disappears as your piano skill improves.

Good pianists not only move their fingers in the most efficient ways, but they also use their brains more efficiently. In other words, pianists' brains have developed to use less energy while concentrating, so they can do more with less effort.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2297093 - 06/30/14 09:30 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
JohnSprung Offline
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Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1243
Loc: Reseda, California

I wonder if it's even true that we have a "language portion" in our brains that also gets used for playing the piano. Maybe it's really a high speed real time processor, which gets assigned that kind of thing provided that we do a lot of it.
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2297097 - 06/30/14 09:35 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: JohnSprung]
Francisco Scalco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/12
Posts: 241
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung

I wonder if it's even true that we have a "language portion" in our brains that also gets used for playing the piano. Maybe it's really a high speed real time processor, which gets assigned that kind of thing provided that we do a lot of it.



Music is a language. A way of communication. Why wouldn't it use the "language portion" of our brain?

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#2297158 - 07/01/14 01:54 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Francisco Scalco]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7753
Originally Posted By: Francisco Scalco
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung

I wonder if it's even true that we have a "language portion" in our brains that also gets used for playing the piano. Maybe it's really a high speed real time processor, which gets assigned that kind of thing provided that we do a lot of it.



Music is a language. A way of communication. Why wouldn't it use the "language portion" of our brain?


I don't think that music is "officially" a language in the sense that used by the scientists who study the brain and how it processes language.

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#2297177 - 07/01/14 03:55 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: wr]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3504
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Francisco Scalco
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung

I wonder if it's even true that we have a "language portion" in our brains that also gets used for playing the piano. Maybe it's really a high speed real time processor, which gets assigned that kind of thing provided that we do a lot of it.



Music is a language. A way of communication. Why wouldn't it use the "language portion" of our brain?


I don't think that music is "officially" a language in the sense that used by the scientists who study the brain and how it processes language.



I agree. Most of us have been exposed to the pie-in-the-sky romanticism that gives rise to expressions like "music is a language", but even the most cursory analysis shows that music and language have mostly differences and only a few similarities. I think it should be enough to say music is music and state its features without having to give it greater depth or legitimacy by raising it to the status of a language.

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#2297196 - 07/01/14 06:04 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: ando]
Michael Sayers Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 867
Loc: Stockholms län, Sverige
Words rest upon finite definitions even when allusive of the transcendent. Music is language free of the anchor to finitude and discrete symbolism.

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#2297197 - 07/01/14 06:11 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Francisco Scalco]
chopin_r_us Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 874
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: Francisco Scalco


Music is a language. A way of communication. Why wouldn't it use the "language portion" of our brain?
Cause it doesn't use words? Can I add a Duh? to that or would that be rude?

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#2297201 - 07/01/14 06:38 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
Francisco Scalco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/12
Posts: 241
It's not pie-in-the-sky romanticism. These studies OP mentioned are there as proof. Also when you teach younger children you notice that right away... I don't understand why this would be hard to come to terms with :P

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#2297212 - 07/01/14 07:36 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7753
I think this article about the Limb study offers a much clearer picture than the description in the article linked the OP.

One thing that stands out for me is that the study was specifically based on jazz improvisation, and not on playing notated scores. And, moreover, it involved a very particular form of jazz improv that is "conversational" in nature. Another thing that stands out is that it shows that some parts of the brain, associated with the meaning of language, are actually turned off during this type improvisation, while other parts associated with the structure of language are activated.

It's interesting stuff, and, to me, instead of supporting the idea that music, specifically improvised music, is "language" it actually supports the idea that it is something else that involves just one aspect of language, at least in terms of what the brain is doing during a very particular kind of jazz improvisation. I sort of doubt that it carries over very directly into classical piano playing.

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#2297236 - 07/01/14 09:01 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 628
Loc: Leicester, UK
Actually ...

http://mic.com/articles/91329/science-sh...everybody-elses (the original link at the top of the thread)

and

Quote:


are two different articles to two different audiences. The first one is a "popular" summary written to a non-scientific audience. It cherry picks (nothing wrong with that) points from recent research and summarises those findings with the writer's point of view added in. That recent research from which the first link draws includes

(1)-http://www.musicandhealth.co.uk/articles/WatsonReview06.pdf
(2)-http://www.academia.edu/509901/Cortical_activation_patterns_during_complex_motor_tasks_in_piano_players_and_control_subjects

It also refers to an article in the Guardian that describes research of Ana Pinho, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The Guardian mentions how Ana Pinho's work builds on the Limb study

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/nov/12/scientists-creativity-pianists-brain-activity

And it draws from a Huffington Post summary of the Limb study.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/20/brain-jazz-music-language_n_4818631.html

Of course the Huffington Post is a "popular" article - it's not written to or for researchers or specialists.


The 2nd link - the Limb Study - goes to a journal that's specifically about new research and the audience for it would be researchers. For that reason it includes citations to the studies it's based on and its composed in a technical voice. But the Limb study is also mentioned in the first article in that there's a link to the Huffington Post description of it.

The relationships between all of this stuff can surely sound convoluted. I'm suggesting only that all of that stuff taken together shows the big picture and also who - which researchers or research groups and which writers are interested in what.

For my taste PhantomFive pulled the intriguing stuff from the 1st one (the article with which this thread began)

Quote:


It seems the difference between left-handed and right-handedness disappears as your piano skill improves.

Good pianists not only move their fingers in the most efficient ways, but they also use their brains more efficiently. In other words, pianists' brains have developed to use less energy while concentrating, so they can do more with less effort.



Of course none of those studies claim anything's been conclusively proven. They only talk about what was learned from working within the limits of their control group.

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#2297244 - 07/01/14 09:36 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7753
Originally Posted By: Mark Polishook
Actually ...

http://mic.com/articles/91329/science-sh...everybody-elses (the original link at the top of the thread)

and

Quote:


are two different articles to two different audiences.


I don't really imagine anyone who read both of them would be confused about that.

I gave the link to the article about the Limb study in response to the idea that the article that you linked provided a basis for saying that music is a language. It doesn't, as far as I can tell.

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#2297271 - 07/01/14 10:30 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: wr]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 628
Loc: Leicester, UK
Quote:


I don't really imagine anyone who read both of them would be confused about that.



you're probably completely right smile

Quote:


I gave the link to the article about the Limb study in response to the idea that the article that you linked provided a basis for saying that music is a language. It doesn't, as far as I can tell.



ah ... i hear you ... (and agree)

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#2297276 - 07/01/14 10:49 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1127
Loc: California
Don't you think about what you are communicating when you play?
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2297327 - 07/01/14 01:11 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: phantomFive]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3504
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
Don't you think about what you are communicating when you play?


Yes, but you think your precise thoughts in language - music goes along for the ride. Music is expressive but it acts in broader gestures and lacks all the precision and shared understanding of its features. You can't make an address to the nation using music and have the majority of listeners walk away with a similar message. Music is packed with wonderful vagaries, imitations and mysteries - but a legitimate language it is not. Why does it have to be?

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#2297384 - 07/01/14 04:00 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: ando]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1127
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
Don't you think about what you are communicating when you play?


Yes, but you think your precise thoughts in language - music goes along for the ride. Music is expressive but it acts in broader gestures and lacks all the precision and shared understanding of its features. You can't make an address to the nation using music and have the majority of listeners walk away with a similar message. Music is packed with wonderful vagaries, imitations and mysteries - but a legitimate language it is not. Why does it have to be?

I think that's a long way of saying that you don't think about what you are communicating when you play
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2297477 - 07/01/14 09:58 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: phantomFive]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3504
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
Originally Posted By: ando
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
Don't you think about what you are communicating when you play?


Yes, but you think your precise thoughts in language - music goes along for the ride. Music is expressive but it acts in broader gestures and lacks all the precision and shared understanding of its features. You can't make an address to the nation using music and have the majority of listeners walk away with a similar message. Music is packed with wonderful vagaries, imitations and mysteries - but a legitimate language it is not. Why does it have to be?

I think that's a long way of saying that you don't think about what you are communicating when you play


No, it means it doesn't matter how much you or I think while we play - it still won't be the same as having a discourse on a forum such as this.

Language can be highly precise and has standardised features (vocabulary, syntax etc.) - try writing some music that can show how to program a video recorder or assemble flat pack furniture...

There's a difference between instrumental music and opera or lieder - in the latter, they ADD language to the music. Music adds emotion, depth, power to anything - but it's still not a language.

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#2297585 - 07/02/14 04:01 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: ando]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1243
Loc: Reseda, California

Indeed, music is very clearly not a language. A simple sentence like "Have you seen my car keys anywhere?" can be translated into French or Chinese, but how do you say that in music?
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2297616 - 07/02/14 07:34 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: phantomFive]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 628
Loc: Leicester, UK
Originally Posted By: phantomFive
Don't you think about what you are communicating when you play?

It's an interesting question. I had to think about it overnight! It may be a loaded question. Because the question has a premise and it presumes an answer. It least as I read it it does.

The idea of "thinking about communicating while we play." That has a lot to do with what we think communication is. And what we think "thinking" is. Most great performers who go on the record about what's going on in their heads while they play explain, in one way or another: they're listening to what they hear - the music - and using that as the basis for what they play. Whether that's thinking about communicating in the sense of the original question I don't know. But it's definitely "thinking about communicating."

Carlos Santana (with Michael Shrieve, drums) at Woodstock as an example:



They're thinking about "something" while they play. But who knows what? Are they thinking about what they're communicating? Are they thinking - or just "listening" - to the inner muse? Is thinking the right word for what they're doing? "Communicating" probably is but who knows what they're thinking about what they're communicating? Because they're in the moment - they're playing - they're making it up as they go. We get to hear the result.

Here's a book - Thinkin In Jazz - that explores the subject in jazz.

A different take is Leonard Bernstein's Norton Lectures at Harvard - it's available as a book. LB looks at music with linguistic theories of the day (in that day it was Noam Chomsky). In other words - music as language or the language of music. Which isn't to say because Leonard Bernstein says it it that music is a language or vice versa. And it's not to say Chomsky's the last word on this stuff.

These are just examples of stuff that's "out there" and related to the discussion "in here."

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#2297651 - 07/02/14 09:27 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: JohnSprung]
Michael Sayers Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 867
Loc: Stockholms län, Sverige
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung
Indeed, music is very clearly not a language. A simple sentence like "Have you seen my car keys anywhere?" can be translated into French or Chinese, but how do you say that in music?

This is the opening sentence for the third movement of one of the Mozart piano concertos (it is about a carriage, just not one of the new horseless variety). wink

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#2297658 - 07/02/14 09:45 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: JohnSprung]
noobpianist90 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 292
Loc: India
"Where words fail, music speaks" -Hans Christian Andersen

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#2298916 - 07/05/14 02:40 PM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: chopin_r_us]
slipperykeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/03/12
Posts: 358
Loc: Dorset, England
Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
Originally Posted By: Francisco Scalco


Music is a language. A way of communication. Why wouldn't it use the "language portion" of our brain?
Cause it doesn't use words? Can I add a Duh? to that or would that be rude?


No, not rude, just rather shallow and reflective of the fact that when one person says, "Music is a language", despite the truth of the statement many only hear the whoosh.

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#2299064 - 07/06/14 01:49 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: JohnSprung]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 869
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: JohnSprung

Indeed, music is very clearly not a language. A simple sentence like "Have you seen my car keys anywhere?" can be translated into French or Chinese, but how do you say that in music?



Or how do you communicate Beethoven's Op. 109 in words?
There's a lot that words can't do!
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2299065 - 07/06/14 01:51 AM Re: The Brains of Pianists [Re: Mark Polishook]
Atrys Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
Music is a form of communication, not a language.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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