A piano technique to bridge the left and right brains

After a far too long hiatus my blog is finally online again – it has been almost 2 years since a virus did its dirty work… Since then I have finished Honing the Pianistic Self-Image – the last two posts from 2008 provided me with a very nice way to round out that book; they nicely illustrate how all our obsession with physical aspects of technique must sooner or later come full circle and end up feeding musical, artistic and emotional concerns.

A piano technique to bridge the left and right brains

Recently I gave a lesson to a guy who is a computer whiz  but who, when he recently took up piano as a hobby, found he was having lots of difficulty coordinating the hands when any kind of polyphonic element appeared. It was fascinating to work with him, because I found that his process was entirely left brain. His fingers moved the keys the same way a computer typist’s fingers move the keys of a computer keyboard. And of course the notes came out, “plunk plunk plunk.” I have seldom encountered such a dominant left brain (linear thinking, arithmetical, logical), such a dormant right brain (holistic, emotional, spatial, holographic).

The pelvis can provide that bridge

I had him move his wrist forward through a five note phrase moving upwards, then backwards through a five-note phrase moving downwards. This made a difference but didn’t seem to help him get it that much so I added a rocking of the pelvis forward and back along with the wrist movement. The playing changed dramatically. His phrase now had a shape – its sound was remarkably different.

He felt extremely strange doing it. He was so bewildered that I am not even sure he noticed the different quality that had entered into his music-making at first. “Welcome to your right brain,” I told him. “Your decades of computer experience and logical thinking have developed one side of you to the extreme while neglecting your other side totally. What we want to do is get the right brain involved, and it will feel strange to you. What we need to do is build bridges across the divide between the brains, and attaching a physical movement to a sequence of musical notes is the most tangible way of transforming them from a discreet series of separate entities into an organic shape.

Since then he has been having a lot of fun fooling around with this whole idea. He still feels weird, but now he enjoys that because he knows it means something good is happening. And his movement is becoming more organic, more natural, as he learns the language of physical/musical movement. And most important, his sound is of a completely other dimension now. The notes really do flow and speak instead of coming at me like the voice of HAL from 2001 A Space Oddesey!

A nice experience for us both…


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