Your brain hijacks your fingers because they speak two completely different languages. So, it’s really important to understand and recognise these two different languages.
Our logical brain – the part that processes information and adds up numbers and figures – is important in making day to day calculations. It helps us decide whether or not we should cross the road. (not something we want to rely on our gut feeling for). And it figures out if we can afford that long holiday and all that time off work.
For many people, their logical brain is a bit of a control freak. It needs to know what is going on and it’s easy to understand why. If you are in a complicated job or situation, you have every right to know what is really going on.
When we play piano or any other musical instrument, we use our hands. They are different creatures all together. Have you ever touched a hot stove? Your hands have incredible built-in mechanisms that go back to our ancient ancestors. In fact, our hands are critical to our development as a human race, they are a huge asset. When used in any physical task, our hands light up our grey matter like nothing else can. The link between hands and mind is a topic of much discussion in the scientific and philosophical worlds.
There are many reasons for this innate intelligence, which are very scientific. If you are interested enough, go and read about it, it’s fascinating. But for the sake of saving you time and research, what you really need to know is that when you play a musical instrument, your logical brain speaks a very different language to that of your hands.
Why your brain hijack your fingers
This is why so many people who study music with great intent often REALLY struggle. They never appreciate the “culture” clash between the hands and the logical brain. Your fingers don’t care about musical theory terms. They don’t care about words like ‘first inversion chord’ or ‘flats sharps and accidentals‘ or ‘F double sharp‘ or ‘Dorian mode in F sharp‘ and ‘Harmonic Minor with Flattened 5th’.
As composers , we need terms to explain and analyse music but our fingers don’t respond to words. They are not wired to that part of our brain. Our fingers are creatures of habit, as well as creatures of great ancient wisdom. Our hands build things, they experiment with shapes (think of the pottery our ancestors made, the tools of ancient times). They are creatures of action, not of intellect.
Depending on the sounds we want to create, the melody we like or music we wish to play, our hands react with the corresponding movements. If you genuinely love the sound of a driving blues bass line, your hands – once trained a little – will push themselves to make that sound. Do you much prefer the sound of a gentle cascading raindrop? Watch your hands behave accordingly once they ‘know’ what to do.
Despite all efforts to ‘phrase’ with more interest and add more dynamics, if you don’t know what music you like, your hands will never play with much ‘personality’.
Again, our hands don’t always respond to our brain’s instructions because they don’t ‘speak’ that language.
Trust your fingers!
This is when problems arise. When your brain hijacks your fingers, it starts to question things.
“Wait a minute, what is it I’m doing here again?”
“I don’t think my fingers are strong enough to do that yet.”
“What grade level is this at?”
When such instructions are sent down to the fingers, they freeze and stop functioning.
When practising a musical instrument, it is absolutely paramount you develop full trust in your hands’ ability. Your brain is required to give them many instructions to learn new pieces, songs and patterns. That’s why slow practice is required. Your slow practice must be relaxed and allow your hands to translate those instructions into their own language.
Once they’ve learned it, your hands will itch to do it again and again. Your fingers will form connections with other parts of your brain that our outside your logical mind.
It’s a truly MAGICAL PROCESS.
Self doubt in this case is a big killer, so is over calculation. Many decent concert pianists still suffer from this syndrome, and as a result, they play the notes accurately, but never truly ‘get inside’ the music. Their logical brain has intervened and limited the endless creative potential of their fingers.
Your hands are very powerful creatures, which we take for granted in our technological age. Understanding more about the language they speak will save you years of fruitless practice and boring interpretations of various piano pieces.
Now that you have this missing link, have fun practising with our video tutorials.