Music and the Brain on Radiolab

Radiolab is one of my favorite podcasts: smart, funny, thoughtful, and at times mindbending. All artfully mixed and mastered into great storytelling that teaches. Here’s an episode on music and the brain that should be required listening for musicians. Covers music and the brain, music and language, sound as touch, and musical DNA. Hope you like it as much as I did.

Your Brain on Music (fMRI)

Music doesn’t make you smarter, at least not generally smarter, but playing music does make you musically smarter. In fact, there have been many recent studies showing profound differences in the brains of people who have studied music. One is that the corpus callosum, the “conduit” between the left and right sides of the brain, is…

Mistakes are Opportunities

I’ve written often about how important mistakes are in the learning process. Not just mistakes, but what you do with them once you discover them. That “discover them” part is the most important. If you discover them in the practice room, you’ve just stumbled on a place that needs attention and focused effort. If you discover them in your jazz combo during a performance, they’re not mistakes any more, they’re opportunities for communication. Here’s a wonderful video by jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris explaining and demonstrating this idea. Happy winter celebrations everyone!

Sir Kenneth Robinson, animated

Now and then I run across something that is only indirectly related to practice, but which I feel compelled to share. Here is a talk by Sir Kenneth Robinson that you should listen to and watch, wonderfully animated by the good folks at RSAnimate. Hope you find it enjoyable and stimulating. Have fun, and good…

From the Top, With Feeling: Expressive Music Practice

Feeling is everything in music. Or very nearly so. No matter what kind of music we listen to, we know it when we hear it. It’s so important that most listeners can perceive the emotional content in just a 1 second slice of sound! What is it that makes a piece of music expressive? It’s the musician herself that does, of course. But how does one go about learning how to do that? How do you convey feeling through sound? It’s the same answer as just about anything having to do with musical skill: you practice! But what does that mean? How do musicians practice the expressive aspects of music? Well, it turns out there is a piece of 2009 research that chronicles how 18 classical musicians do it

When is Not-Practicing Practice?

A new piece of research shows that the “inherently unpleasant” idea about deliberate music practice may not be entirely true. In fact, we may continue to learn when we’re doing something completely different from that which we’re practicing.