Does playing the piano influence the brain?

I’ve recently been practicing the piano after a long-time hiatus from music in general. My skill level has increased noticeably over the past six months. Since I was originally trained on the violin, my brain has had to get used to “two-hand” performance. It used to be frustrating not being able to play pieces with complicated left- and right-hand parts, but now I’ve gotten the hang of it.

Sometimes I find that as I practice, trying to get my left and right hands to do their own thing, there’s a magical moment when my brain clicks and it figures out what to do. The magical moments make piano playing so fun for me.

My question: Has there been any studies done on the effects of long-term piano playing on brain functioning? Also, do piano players tend to be more ambidextrous than others? Do they fare better after brain damage? Or am I making too much of the “magical moments”?

Monstro, I don’t have an answer, but let me join you in the question. I know what you mean about the “magical moments”. Often people ask me “how can you remember all those notes and play them so fast?” I have to answer: I have no idea. I can say I remember a few key positions, and certain trick fingering, but mostly, I just listen and watch as I’m playing.

I’ve heard it said that trained musicians listen to music using a different part of their brain than folks who are untrained.

I also note that I am unable to speak or respond to questions (any more than a grunt) while I’m playing. I don’t think everybody is like this. (singing along is no problem).

One day I started playing the piano again after a year or so without punching a note, I would start the few notes I remembered of a certain piece and then WHAM! off it comes the full thing, my theory is that while practising once and once again a piece you hardwire neuronal paths that once triggered create a uncoincious chain reaction. It´s like tieing your shoelaces, you don`t even think about it, you´ve done it so many times that the fingers seem to move on their own.

Also I think that learning new stuff in general helps to keep the brain in good health, making new sinaptical connections. Playing the piano does the same.

Well, your cerebellum does “remember” complex muscle movements, which is why practice helps, whether in music, sports, or other activities. Another example could be typing–when I was first learning how to touch-type, I had to be consciously aware of what key I wanted to type. But now, things seem to be on “automatic pilot.”

I mostly play guitar, but I find that it takes my brain a while to process a new piece. I’ll practice one bit for half-an-hour, then leave it for a couple of days. When I go to play it again, my execution is much better than it was when I finished practicing. What’s up with that?