WHEN YOUR BRAIN HIJACKS YOUR FINGERS
Our fingers and our logical brain speak two completely different languages, and it’s 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, whether or not we should cross the road (that’s not something we want to rely on our gut feeling for after all) or whether we can afford that long holiday and all that time off work. For many people, their logical brain can be 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 after all.
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 and the link between hands and mind is a topic of much discussion in the scientific and even philosophical world.
Our hands have an in-built intelligence and there are many reasons for this 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.
Those two languages are not compatible!
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 a composer such terms are needed to explain and analyse the music but our fingers and our hands, won’t listen to such words. They are not wired to that part of our brain. Our fingers are creatures of habit, but they are also creatures of great ancient wisdom. They build things, they experiment with shapes (think of the pottery our ancestors made, the tools of ancient times) our hands are creatures of action, not of intellect.
Our hands behave in accordance to the sounds we want to create, the sounds we like and the music that we want to play. If you genuinely love the sound of a driving blues bass line, your hands – once given the know-how -will push themselves to make that sound. If you like the sound of a gentle cascading raindrop like high notes, your hands will behave accordingly once they ‘know’ what to do.
If you don’t know what music you like your hands will play, but not with much ‘personality’, despite all efforts to ‘phrase’ with more interest and add more dynamics. Again, our hands don’t always respond to these instructions because they don’t speak that language.
Trust your hands!
This is when problems arise. The brain gets in the way for so many people – 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 up and they stop.
When practising a musical instrument, it is absolutely paramount you develop a 100 percent trust in your hands. Your brain will be required to give them many instructions to learn new pieces, songs and patterns, where slow practice is required. But that slow practice must be relaxed, and let the hands translate those instructions into their language. Once they know it, they will itch to do it again and again, and form connections with other parts of your brain that our outside your logical mind. It’s a 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 they never truly ‘get inside’ the music, because the logical brain has intervened and limited the endless creative potential of their fingers and creativity.
Your hands are very powerful creatures, and we take them for granted in our technological age. Understanding more about the language that they speak will save you years of fruitless practice and boring piano interpretations of piano pieces.
Now that you have this missing link, have fun practicing with our video tutorials.