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What is going on in my brain?
#3053289 12/05/20 02:50 PM
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I hope someone here can explain this phenomenon. When I’ve been away from the piano for a few days, I hear the music anew, have fresh insights into interpretation and I see things in the score I missed before. After putting down a word puzzle or crossword because I’m stumped, I pick it up a few hours later and I instantly see new solutions that I was blind to before. These are just two examples of what happens when I step away from problem for a while. I wish I could control this off/on insight. It would be nice to have a completely fresh perspective every time I sit down to practice. I am wondering if anyone can explain what is going on in my brain.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053294 12/05/20 03:00 PM
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The little men in your head get tired. When you walk away, they take a nap.

Re: What is going on in my brain?
chopinetto #3053295 12/05/20 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by chopinetto
The little men in your head get tired. When you walk away, they take a nap.

Little MEN???? I always thought they were little women. laugh


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053301 12/05/20 03:14 PM
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Not an uncommon phenomenon...

Taking Breaks at Work


Casio PX-S3000
Nope, no issues with it at all.
Took lessons from 1960 to 1969, stopped at age 16.
Started again in July 2020 at age 67. Lots more fun now!
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053309 12/05/20 03:26 PM
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Deborah:

What you are experiencing is what I experience as well, both in crosswords (NY Times, LA Times and cryptics) and in my experience with learning new music from scores. It's the restorative function that rest brings to the brain, I guess. I don't think that the phenomenon is unusual, unless we are both weird. Well, I know about me ... smile

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053311 12/05/20 03:29 PM
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Wasn't there an ancient (Greek?) term on this?

Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053313 12/05/20 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by gooddog
I wish I could control this off/on insight. It would be nice to have a completely fresh perspective every time I sit down to practice. I am wondering if anyone can explain what is going on in my brain.
That can be attributable to developing a tunnel vision when you've been involved deeply into something that you're practicing or grappling with for several days or weeks, and missing the woods for the trees - or more accurately, not noticing some important trees which had not been in your direct vision previously.

That is also partly why a teacher - or a peer, even just a musical friend - can be so helpful, because they are looking at your problems from a different perspective.

When you leave a problem for a period of time - sometimes even less than an hour - you've lost some of your short-term memory of that problem (akin to instantly forgetting a telephone number someone's given you, once you've written it down), and you're having to start again: not from where you left off, but from a little way back, and therefore maybe see things from a slightly different angle.

It happens to almost everything, which is why one shouldn't keep repeating the same sequence or train of thought if it's clearly leading to a dead end.....including practicing a difficult section repeatedly in exactly the same way if it's obvious no progress is being made. Try something different, or give it a rest, and play something else and return to it later or next day with a fresh mind.

Sometimes, very obvious solutions to problems get missed because of tunnel vision. For instance, I recently revisited a Scarlatti sonata which involves hand crossings. I'd always played it the same way, as notated in the score, but if I try to play it faster, I start to mis-hit the first note with my RH when I have to rapidly cross over my LH. On this occasion, I suddenly realized that if I switched hands just before the hand crossing, my LH would be crossing over my RH instead - the same distance, but much less awkwardly, because the LH doesn't have to reach as far up the keyboard as the RH needed to reach the lower end of the keyboard when played as in the score. So, I tried it the new way - which of course felt very awkward, but after a week, I could play it up to my original tempo.......and, a week later, beyond, still accurately.

Incidentally, I've often found better solutions to problems in my adjourned chess games when I've slept on them overnight - sometimes, even waking up in the middle of the night with "Eureka!" (These days, one would probably use a chess program to find the best solution smirk ).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053315 12/05/20 03:35 PM
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:-) Arthur Rubinstein said he had the complete Brahms Concerto playing in his head all day long w/o himself being conscious about it.

Last edited by newport; 12/05/20 03:35 PM.
Re: What is going on in my brain?
bennevis #3053317 12/05/20 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
[...]
Incidentally, I've often found better solutions to problems in my adjourned chess games when I've slept on them overnight - sometimes, even waking up in the middle of the night with "Eureka!" (These days, one would probably use a chess program to find the best solution smirk ).

Isn't that an indication of a problem that we face "these days?" We (generally speaking) don't wait and work to figure out problems, we just look up the solutions.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: What is going on in my brain?
BruceD #3053318 12/05/20 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by bennevis
[...]
Incidentally, I've often found better solutions to problems in my adjourned chess games when I've slept on them overnight - sometimes, even waking up in the middle of the night with "Eureka!" (These days, one would probably use a chess program to find the best solution smirk ).

Isn't that an indication of a problem that we face "these days?" We (generally speaking) don't wait and work to figure out problems, we just look up the solutions.
That's right - instead of working out for oneself solutions like tricky fingerings etc, we just look up a YouTube video of someone else playing it.

Even quicker than looking up IMSLP to check out different editions. Or asking the experts here in PW wink .


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: What is going on in my brain?
trooplewis #3053319 12/05/20 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by trooplewis
Not an uncommon phenomenon...

Taking Breaks at Work

That was a very interesting article. I think this addresses my question quite well:

2. Breaks help us retain information and make connections
Our brains have two modes: the “focused mode,” which we use when we’re doing things like learning something new, writing or working) and “diffuse mode,” which is our more relaxed, daydreamy mode when we’re not thinking so hard. You might think that the focused mode is the one to optimize for more productivity, but diffuse mode plays a big role, too.

In fact, although our brains were once thought to go dormant when we daydreamed, studies have shown that activity in many brain regions increases when our minds wander. Here’s a look at the brain scan of one daydreamer:
daydreaming brain scan

Some studies have shown that the mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming—something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower. Breakthroughs that seem to come out of nowhere are often the product of diffuse mode thinking.

That’s because the relaxation associated with daydream mode “can allow the brain to hook up and return valuable insights,” engineering professor Barbara Oakley explained to Mother Jones.

“When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
BruceD #3053322 12/05/20 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Deborah:

What you are experiencing is what I experience as well, both in crosswords (NY Times, LA Times and cryptics) and in my experience with learning new music from scores. It's the restorative function that rest brings to the brain, I guess. I don't think that the phenomenon is unusual, unless we are both weird. Well, I know about me ... smile

Regards,
Well, I think you are weird in a very nice way! heart


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
BruceD #3053331 12/05/20 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by bennevis
[...]
Incidentally, I've often found better solutions to problems in my adjourned chess games when I've slept on them overnight - sometimes, even waking up in the middle of the night with "Eureka!" (These days, one would probably use a chess program to find the best solution smirk ).

Isn't that an indication of a problem that we face "these days?" We (generally speaking) don't wait and work to figure out problems, we just look up the solutions.

Regards,

True, especially for members of the digital generation who are often satisfied with instant and sometimes shallow answers. I had a student tell me that it was my fault that he couldn't find the meaning word because it wasn't in Dictionary.com, the only source he checked. Patience is hard to come by these days.

Incidentally, Bruce, you recently offered to copy a score for me to share the fingering. I didn't say it at the time because I didn't want to seem full of myself, but in the context of working on problems vs. looking up solutions, I'm proud to say I've become quite adept at working out my own fingering mostly because my smaller hand size requires me to make adjustments in nearly every piece I play. I also attribute this to learning Bach's WTC and Liszt's "Gretchen". Liszt's score offered no fingering for "Gretchen" and figuring it out was a beastly but rewarding chore. As you implied - figuring out the problem has long lasting benefits.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053334 12/05/20 04:11 PM
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It's called consolidation, here is an article that explains it https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150921133948.htm#:~:text=Summary%3A,is%20consolidated%20when%20we%20sleep.&text=when%20we%20sleep.-,Short%2Dterm%20memory%20traces%20in%20the%20hippocampus%2C%20an%20area%20deep,outer%20parts%20of%20the%20brain.

Re: What is going on in my brain?
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Originally Posted by Michael Glenn Williams
It's called consolidation, here is an article that explains it

Interesting hypothesis, but I'm not sure if memory consolidation accounts for brand new insights in music and solutions to puzzles.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053359 12/05/20 05:01 PM
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Deborah, if that sort of thing interests you, you might look at the Bullet Proof Musician page run by Noa Kageyama. He reports on studies in cognitive science etc that talk about how the brain works and then applies those insights to music practice. For example, he's written about how repetitive practice is only good for a few repeats before your brain goes into auto-pilot. So, for example, say you're drilling a passage of music that's 8 measures, you're better off playing that section for no more than three times in a row, then move on to something else in the piece. Then, if you still want to work more on polishing that 8-measure section, come back to it later (even during the same practic session). You'll be more successful doing that than drilling it 20 times in a row....

He explains it much better, but hopefully you get the point! smile

So, if you want to "control" your breakthroughs, maybe try to apply this idea of working on one section for only a little bit, move on to something else, and then go back to it...

Here is Kageyama's website, if you're interested:
https://bulletproofmusician.com/

One other thing I have done (and probably should do more)... If there's something that is really giving me a hard time, I will make it a point to have that be the very last thing I work on before finishing up my practice session. And (assuming this is applicable) I will also strive to play it once through, super slow and cleanly, no mistakes etc., so that the last thing I play is that section, and I play it as slowly and correctly as possible. When I do that, and then return to it the next day, sometimes it's almost like magic the way the section is now "into" my fingers....


Started piano June 1999.
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Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053369 12/05/20 05:13 PM
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Interesting. Thanks ShiroKuro.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053382 12/05/20 06:02 PM
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Yes, consolidation fits the newer more important information into the rest of your framework, providing new perspectives.

Re: What is going on in my brain?
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Originally Posted by Michael Glenn Williams
Yes, consolidation fits the newer more important information into the rest of your framework, providing new perspectives.

Aha. Makes sense.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: What is going on in my brain?
gooddog #3053556 12/06/20 08:14 AM
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Your brain doesn't stop working on a problem because you move your focus elsewhere. If you're a control freak that's very disappointing!

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