It's Official: Guitarists' Brains Are Different To 'Normal' People... Really?

We're, quite simply, better than everyone else (maybe)   02-May-14

It's Official: Guitarists' Brains Are Different To 'Normal' People... Really?

A story recently posted on Policy Mic has caused a bit of a kerfuffle recently.

The article claims that guitarists brains are different to everybody else's, which has upset a few people because the scientific study in which these findings are reported could, perhaps easily, apply to any other type of musician.

The study involved guitarists having their brains scanned while playing a song, there were 12 guitarists, and they took it in turn to play the song in pairs.

What the scientists saw in the neural activity of both guitarists when they played the song was remarkably similar, the Policy Mic article uses the word "synchronize" to suggest that even before they play the song, both guitarists' neural activity is nearly identical.

It then points out, the ability to sync up in such a manner could be the reason behind why there are so many bands based on brother/close family guitar duos. Suggesting that some sort of telepathic, mindreading process is present between brothers that just isn't present between people who aren't related.

It's more likely this is down to musical talent being passed down through a family, and that if two brothers of close age both play guitar, they are quite likely to end up forming a band together.

Obviously, the study shows that it isn't just an illusion when we get on stage with our bandmates and feel like we are all on the same wavelength, we feel like we're in the zone.

It's because our brains are all thinking the same things and working in the same way. But this most likely extends beyond guitarists.

Let's not split hairs, guitarists ARE special, we're the best. But perhaps our brains aren't... erm, that special.

Most importantly, the study showed that when we play, we begin to block out conscious thought processes, we are focused, 100 per cent, but we aren't necessarily focusing on the individual notes we are playing.

Racing drivers speak of the same thing, such as the great Ayrton Senna, who said that he often had no memory of completing a lap in his McLaren F1 car.

It's why, when wanting to improve muscle memory and when practicing things like scales, it can be useful to distract your mind from consciously thinking about playing guitar by watching television or talking to somebody while you do it.

The tightest bands are those who could probably play the songs in their sleep, and perhaps this is why, because playing a piece on guitar alongisde another musician doesn't use a conscious part of the brain.

Just like driving a racing car, or playing a keyboard in a band, or all manner of other things that rely on practice.

Written by Richard Beech - follow him on Twitter.

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