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Showing posts from October, 2011

Piano, Language, and the Brain

I decided at the age of 30 that I wanted to learn how to play piano. Unfortunately, that's about 25 years beyond the optimal age if you ever want to get "good". But since I'm fascinated by both neuroscience and music, I figured it was at least worth a shot, plus I'd have the added benefit of being able to observe my brain as it tries to learn this new skill.

I think it was this TED talk that finally convinced me to start playing. Benjamin Zander speaks about music and passion, and how classical music can tell a story. At the time, I was living in my friend's basement, and there was a beautiful Kawai grand piano in the living room that went largely unused. One day, I went up to the piano, sat down, and opened one of the books to a random song. Although I knew how to read the notes (at least the ones close to the staff), I couldn't fathom playing two independent parts (left and right hands) simultaneously, while also keeping track of the pedals, tempo, volu…