Digital versus acoustic piano

Buying an acoustic or digital piano?

Buying an acoustic or digital piano?

Helpful advice and considerations

The piano is one of the most popular instruments for anyone to learn. This is true whether you have a young boy or girl, or you are an adult looking to learn something new later in life. If you are lucky enough to inherit an old piano from a close relative it is a great incentive to start taking lessons and discovering the joy of learning an instrument. However, not everybody who wants to learn the piano has the opportunity to start playing immediately, either the piano you inherited is not up to much, too big for your home or you need to consider what type of piano you wish to purchase either for yourself, or your family.

This blog will provide a comprehensive guide to purchasing a piano to buy for the first time or looking to upgrade and will hopefully help you make, what can be, a very big decision. Over the next few paragraphs I will also pose real questions that many of Most Entertaining piano students have had to consider based on their circumstances, including acoustic versus digital pianos and include good advice from other industry bodies.

I personally begun learning piano formally at the age of 8 on an old upright piano that was ‘handed’ down from a relative. However, many boys and girls start piano lessons much younger, from as early as 4 or 5 years old. The UK Piano website say that ‘the best time to start playing piano is when you are very young.’ They also state that ’5 years old is ideal’. From my experience in education starting the piano at this young age of course has it’s benefits, but I believe much enjoyment and fulfilment can be had from learning the piano at any age. It is probably true that if a parent sets their sights on their child being a concert pianist, then the younger they start, the more chance they have in achieving this. Most people will start learning the piano at the age they begin to show a real interest in music and this varies from one individual to the next. When I started the piano I was not thinking about the ‘lifetime of enjoyment and intellectual stimulation’ I was going to have from playing it, but this is something that can be appreciated as an adult. (Piano Technicians Guild) I also did not know about the various tone qualities, touch and response of different pianos that I got to play, from playing the old one at home, to perhaps one at a friends or teachers home. However, I was aware that some pianos were ‘quite different’ but at the time was unsure how to express this. The Piano Technicians Guild recommend ‘discover(ing) which piano keyboard has the touch most responsive to your fingers’ and listen(ing) to many pianos to discover which tone is most appealing.’ This advice is all very well for a potential buyer, but the reality is, based on what your budget and affordability is, you will find a piano you love the ‘sound’ ‘look and style’ of but might cost more than a new car! It will be necessary to compromise on these factors. My advice for those choosing a piano is, decide on your budget and are you able to make space for a ‘real’ acoustic upright or grand piano? Or do you wish to go for a digital instrument?

A few years ago I only had the budget and space to buy a digital piano and wanted to purchase an instrument that was as close to a real piano as possible. At the time the instrument for me was a Yamaha P95 stage piano that had a decent set of 88 weighted keys, very few voice options and sound similar to a real acoustic Yamaha. Having a digital piano also meant I did not need to pay for a piano mover or for a piano tuner to come and make regular visits. Owning a digital piano, was for me, very low maintenance and when required, could be transported to gigs and rehearsals very easily in a standard sized car. The UK Piano Website advice for those going for a digital piano is ‘to go for the ‘most plain’ … that hasn’t got lots of buttons, or features …has weighted keys with a progressive piano action.’ One draw back that the Piano Teachers Guild state is that digital pianos ‘tend to have a lighter key touch than acoustic pianos and practicing too much on a digital will leave your fingers weak you will find it difficult to adjust to the touch of an acoustic piano’. This from my experience is partly true, although the touch on acoustic pianos can be hugely variable and as much an adjustment as shifting from a digital to an acoustic!

If you are buying a real piano remember, no matter how well or badly you play it – ‘it will bring music to your home for generations and at the same time, it serves as a beautiful piece of furniture’. If you are wondering whether to buy a very good upright or a grand piano, the main differences other than the obvious, e.g size, shape and cost is in the ‘action, keys and pedals’. In basic terms, the bigger the piano the better sound it makes. The Piano Buying Guide website note that there have been a number of changes in the piano manufacturing industry over the last few years. ‘The most notable change is the decline of American piano manufacturers and the rise of Asian and European manufacturers… most of the pianos that are mass-produced for consumers are made in Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, and Indonesia…’ Professional performers and serious players choose pianos that are made in Europe and the United States.

There are still a few questions you may have about buying a piano, for example, what are the differences between buying a piano from a shop versus a private seller? Or, How can I tell a second hand instrument is in good condition? Check out the links below that offer quite a comprehensive list of tips about buying a piano.

If you live in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or somewhere quite rural, please take a look at the list of well established piano specialists who all offer an honest and fair service in both digital and acoustic pianos. They can all deliver pianos throughout Scotland if there is particular piano or service you prefer. Hopefully reading this blog you will have a better idea about choosing the right piano for you and your family.

If you need the right piano teacher for you or your family, then give Most Entertaining a call on 0131 477 7821 and we can advise who would be best based on an individuals level, learning style or what genre they wish to learn. – Edinburgh based piano company – Edinburgh based piano company – Glasgow based piano company – Aberdeen based piano company – Aberdeen based music shop

Cupcake Concert

Summer Concerts – for all students

Summer is always a busy time for anyone involved in music and learning an instrument. This June is no exception, with plans well under way for children and adults learning an instrument with Most Entertaining, to perform at the annual Summer Concert.

This year Most Entertaining will provide two Summer concerts for their students. A ‘Cupcake Concert’ for children from age of 5 to 12 and a ‘Coffee and Cake Concert’ for adults and teenagers from 13 +. These informal concerts provide the perfect platform for those either performing solo for the first time or who have little experience performing in public. Above all, it is an opportunity to encourage those learning an instrument to work towards a goal and build their confidence in playing. Performing and learning an instrument should be rewarding and fun!

Playing to friends, family and fellow students is a great opportunity to perform to those who can support and enjoy the progress of an individual, whether they are playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on the recorder, strumming a song by Ed Sheeran, or playing a piano piece from the grade 6 ABRSM syllabus. It all requires much preparation and practice performing in front of others is important too.

Most Entertaining look forward to seeing familiar faces and hopefully some new ones too at these relaxed concerts. Hopefully this year’s performances will be a piece of cake!

Please see below where, when and how to get involved in these concerts.


3Ci – 107 McDonald Road, EH7 4NW - off Leith Walk (opposite Broughton Primary School)


2-4pm (Cupcake Concert – for 5-12 year olds)

5-6pm (Coffee and Cake Concert – for 13+ and adults)


Sunday 14th June


£10 (free to all performers and children under 18)  Buy tickets at the door on the day! 



Students who wish to perform – please confirm your participation by Friday June 5th.

If you have any further queries please call 0131 477 7821 or email


Trumpet Analogies

Trumpet Analogies


BY thetrumpetgy

Hey, before I start with the trumpet analogies, I’d like to take a moment to explain this blog entry. Being a trumpet player myself I can appreciate how helpful these analogies have been to me, and will, hopefully be to you as well. Most of these analogies were made by my teacher to explain certain concepts and aspects of trumpet playing. I hope they can explain things the same way, not just for trumpet players but for musicians in general, especially younger ones like myself.

What I particularly enjoy about using analogies to explain key techniques is that it brings fun and humour into explanations which would not naturally be humorous, and if you find a certain explanation amusing or strange it’s more likely to stick with you. Also, it helps you visualise things like sound quality and practice techniques. So, without any particular order, here are a few of my favourites that I found especially memorable and helpful.

NUMBER 1- Like bread and butter

“Imagine your spreading butter on toast, while your playing. You don’t want lumps of butter you want it all smoothed out”

This is of course a metaphor for your sound quality, their should be a consistency to your sound which is similar to the consistency of spreading butter over toast. Smooth with no lumps or gaps in the sound. This applies most instruments and forms of music.

NUMBER 2- Tap turns on the water

“When you turn a tap on, you don’t get a slow drizzle and then water, the water comes straight away, that’s what your sound should be like.”

This applies to all wind instruments. Your sound quality should come straight away while your playing, not gradually. This way you avoid a horrible sound.

NUMBER 3- The long and winding road

“When you’re fixing a road, you don’t do the whole thing t once, you take one pothole at a time and fill it, until you’ve fixed an entire road. Once the road is fixed you don’t keep going over it you move on to the next road. Eventually all your roads will be fixed and join up and make a big network of roads”

This is one, which I like because you can apply it to lots of things, not just music. When you’re practising or working on something, do one thing at a time. Once you’re done move on to the next task.

NUMBER 4- Paint our pictures

“If you only have one or two colours to paint with, your paintings won’t look as good as if you had hundreds of different colours to paint with. Your paintings will have lots more variety and will look better.”

If you only have one or two techniques or notes in your music arsenal, your music will sound boring. The more difference you and variety you have in your music, with notes and techniques the, better your music will sound. This is one that I always thought is easy to imagine and therefore very good.

NUMBER 5- Another brick in the wall

“When you look at a new brick wall you don’t see some small bricks, and some big ones, you don’t see some bad bricks and some good bricks or any cracks in the bricks. They are all equally good. That’s what your sound quality should be like!”

You shouldn’t have some low quality notes and some high quality notes, or any cracks in your sound. It should be a consistent sound of high quality, like smooth brick wall.

These are the five analogies which I remember being the most helpful and inspiring. I decided to share them with you by writing them down. These are not in any order, and are mostly applicable for trumpet players, as that’s what they were considered for, but if you’re not a trumpet player, I hope they helped you understand something, whether it was a concept or technique, or just how to practice. Thanks for reading!


Fredi is currently a pupil at James Gillespie’s High School, Edinburgh.

He has been learning the trumpet for the past 3 years with Finlay Hetherington at Most Entertaining.





Practicing Makes Permanent Image

Perfecting How To Practice

Perfecting how to practice your instrument takes time and patience in knowing what works best for you and demands both focus and discipline.  These latter two principles can be tricky for anyone learning an instrument or maintaining and developing their skills, regardless of age and ability.

The idea that ‘practice make perfect’ is an easy throw away cliche that could confuse many a younger, less experienced musician, who may still to learn to differentiate between playing and actual practice.  There are other phrases which I prefer to use with my students, like, ‘practice doesn’t always sound pretty’, or , ‘practice make permanent’.  Take the last statement for example, how often do you hear someone play a section of music over and over, stumbling over the same areas of either the rhythm or note reading and when it finally sorts itself out, move straight onto something new?!  I would recommend a couple of suggestions to try and avoid this form of ‘practice’ or habit.  If you have identified a ‘tricky’ section of music, then firstly you have already isolated an area to hone in on and practice.  Find a metronome or download a metronome app (see links below) – plently available for free if you don’t have one, and find a tempo/pulse that allows the section of music to be played without hesitation or a stumble.  Mark down the tempo that works for you in your designated progress/planner book and begin to play around with the music – try playing it a different dynamics, vary the articulation, ear mark any key note or rhythm, or if possible stick it down or up an octave.  It’s one way to allow the music notation to become ’3D’ – becoming more alive, expressive and most importantly more easily manageable to perform.  The tempo by this point can be gradually increased and brought up to the suggested speed.

We asked a couple of our tutors with Most Entertaining their top tips on ways to perfect practice: Here are their top 10 tips.

1. Small, regular amounts. Avoid ‘cramming’ or binge practicing, especially prior to lesson or performance.

2. Avoid practicing when tired and unfocused.

3. Start practice with most difficult sections, while fresh and alert.

4. Vary practice from what you focus on, where and time of practice.  Randomise practice.

5. Divide what time you have to practice into sections e.g 10 minute slots.

6. Minimise playing though a song or piece of music until ready and perform to friends or family.

7. Record practice. Use recordings like an audio diary.  Soundcloud is a good online resource for this purpose. See link.

8. If your attention starts to wander – Stop practicing and do something else e.g make a cup of tea

9. Listen to as much music as possible for inspiration.

10. Learn music you enjoy and find out as much as you can about the piece, song and composer. It will help with your understanding of the music and put it into some form of context.

Happy practicing!

ME Edinburgh Sound Collective poster

New student group – The Edinburgh Sound Collective

Do you play an instrument or sing and wish to play in a group with others?  Read about Most Entertaining’s new ensemble – The Edinburgh Sound Collective

The Edinburgh Sound Collective is a new inclusive music group for those looking to play in a band or ensemble, improve their playing, learn more about musicianship, arranging, composition and how to perform.

The weekly classes are open to ALL adults, who sing or play ANY instrument, especially strings, brass, keys, percussion and are of around grade 2 + or the equivalent standard.  The song arrangements will be adapted to each persons reading ability, however if someone cannot read musical notation then it won’t hinder their participation.

The group will be directed by local professional musician and Most Entertaining tutor, David Townhill, who will provide a practical insight into arranging, composition, ensemble playing and rehearse a wide range of music from film, pop ballads, rock anthems to new music to be written by the group.

The Edinburgh Sound Collective will perform a short informal public gig in a local venue at the end of June to showcase what has been learnt over 10 weeks.  All members friends and family will be welcome to come along or anyone who may wish to join the group for the next 10 week course.

Most Entertaining also look forward to collaborating with their neighbours at Summerhall, Tonegarden Studios, where The Edinburgh Sound Collective will meet and rehearse and each week.

Book Place:

To join the collective it will be £100 per 10 week course. Participants can book their place by emailing their details to or calling 0131 477 7821.

Venue links:




Why kids should learn to play the piano

Professional pianist, composer and co-founder of Most Entertaining, Will Pickvance shares how his love of playing piano first began and why it’s a brilliant instrument for kids to learn.

When I was a little boy, I asked Father Christmas for a spaceship. He brought me a piano. After getting over the initial shock, I started to realise the piano was a pretty neat present too.

Around that time I had heard a slot machine churning out Scott Joplin rags to entice people to come and play on it. “What is that cool music? I want to play that!” Being inspired by a piece of music or a performer is a great start.

It’s amazing how many kids having piano lessons don’t listen to music or have any contact with it other than through some beginners handbook – middle C is an obvious starting point, but can get pretty boring on its own. You can’t blame someone for wanting to quit that tedious drill.

Tip 1: Try listening to all sorts of music, find out more about stuff that you like. I used to pinch jazz tapes off my poor Grandpa, but now thanks to YouTube, you can discover things very easily.

Early on in my playing, I discovered that you can change notes, add notes, miss notes out. This was possibly because I was lazy or messy, but it was also because I liked the variation.

Crucially, I survived to tell the tale. Knowing how to read music is of course a massively useful skill, but when kids are able to make the distinction between music as expression and music as some dots on a page, it really frees them up. Once upon a time, before any music was written down, it was first plucked out of thin air by composers messing around on the piano – or in their head if they’re a crazy genius.

Tip 2: Try experimenting on pieces you’re already playing. Maybe try crossing hands, playing it two octaves higher or double speed. Try adding a few extra notes or even playing with your head under the piano – go on, I dare you. You might even write your own piece.

I’ve always loved the cartoon Tom and Jerry and the music in the show is great. As I was growing up, I desperately wanted to play bits I liked, but the sheet music just didn’t exist. If I wanted to play it I had to work it out for myself, using my ear. It’s very exciting when you first start playing a piece that you worked out.

Tip 3: Try picking out some tunes you like, maybe something you heard on TV or a computer game. Start with something really easy. You’ll find that you get better at it quite quickly and you can find the note you are looking for more and more easily. If you’re feeling really ambitious, maybe try a chord or two in the left hand. Remember, if you get a wrong note, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, some jazz players think mistakes are the start of something even better.

After you have been playing the piano for a little while, people start to say things like, “Hey look, there’s that person who plays the piano – quick, get them to play something right now”. This happened to me and at first I would say, “I can’t, I haven’t got my music”. And it was a bit of a shame. Then I had this great idea – what if I can play a piece for memory.

 Tip 4: Try playing one of your pieces from memory. You might be surprised how much you can already remember. Is it your hands that are remembering it or is it your head? Is it a bit of both? The posh word for your memory bank of pieces is ‘repertoire’. If you can have three or four pieces in your repertoire at anytime, that’s fantastic. It’s not just about playing to other people. It’s about playing for yourself, whenever you want. What you find when you play a piece from memory is you are free to enjoy playing it more – you can add expression, even have a cup of tea at the same time.

When I started playing, I thought composers were just a bunch of guys who lived a few hundred years ago who had funny hair. Well, that is true to some extent, but of course, they didn’t all live at the same time. Hundreds of years and miles separate Bach from Rachmaninoff, for example. I’m always wanting to know a bit more about when the music was written and what was going on at the time.

Tip 5: Try doing some detective work on the composer of a piece you are playing. When were they born? Were they young or old? When they wrote the piece? What was in the news back then? What other famous composers were alive at the same time? Just a few questions you might ask.

The most important thing…

I’ve always enjoyed playing the piano and that is the most important thing for you to remember to do yourself. If you’re finding it dull, change things. There’s so much great music, so many styles. Practising is, of course, part of it, but playing is even better if you want to get good at playing the piano.



Perform Tom Odell’s ‘Real Love’ On The Piano

Are you a piano teacher looking for a song to inspire your students, other than the usual Christmas medley of tunes?

Look no further, than the Beetle’s classic, Real Love.  The song is featured on a well-known department store’s tv commercial, after receiving a very complimentary ‘make-over’ by the young 2014 Ivor Novello singer songwriter of the year – Tom Odell.

John Lennon’s lyrics remain poignant in Tom Odell’s tasteful interpretation of Real Love.  Like most great songs, the poetry of the lyrics is boosted by a strong melody.  This is an ideal song for intermediate piano students to learn.

Instead of immediately downloading the song via the various online sheet music stores and learning straight from the score.  I suggest, listening to the You Tube video and attempting to learn the song by ear.  It is worth while starting off by considering the key and tonality (major or minor) of the music – does it change at all anywhere in the music?

As an aside – listen to the original version of Real Love, it’s interesting how it has been recorded and the sound of the piano which Lennon uses. It is not only a different key, but the piano has an authentic ‘honky tonk’ sound.

Once you have established a key from Odell’s recording, think about the chords that are used and where they change in the lyrics.  Sometimes, focussing on the bass line of the music can help with ‘harmonic geography’ and what direction it is going. It’s not a bad idea to play around the chords of the key or keys and see if there is any obvious pattern or shift.  By listening to the recording again and playing both melody and chords together as you go, you will hopefully have a good sketch of how Real Love goes.  Now, after a few more attempts, try and play through the song without any recording. Perhaps record your own version.

Now, if you need to fill in the missing notes or chords, print off Tom Odell’s Real Love and see how far you have got using just your ear.  If this is the first time your student has tried this type of exercise on the piano, they may have found it particularly challenging, even it they are an advanced student.  However, hopefully, your student will appreciate the song and melody even more and be motivated to learn other songs by ear.

Best of luck and happy listening!


Most Entertaining Summer News

Summer Music News

News over the last few weeks.
If you are interested in returning to lessons or finding out more about our workshops and tutors, please feel free to give us a call or email. You don’t have to commit to anything.  We also offer gift vouchers for lessons if you are looking for something to give a friend or family member.

Exam success

Results from this Summer’s practical exams are trickling through and already are looking overall fantastic, with merits and distinction passes. Well done to all our students and tutors for all their hard work and preparation.  We’re aware that some are working towards advanced grades in both theory and practical which are to be sat in Autumn.  Keep up the good practice!

Musical Showcase Soiree

Last week a small group of our tutors took part in the first musical soiree at Virgin Money’s Lounge in Edinburgh.  It was an opportunity to meet with some of their members and also for some of our students to come and listen to our professionals perform over a glass of wine and canapes.  We will be hosting similar soirees in the Autumn and we hope to be able to invite you then.

Rehearsal Q&A with Wynton Marsalis 

We were excited to have an amazing and unique opportunity to hear one of the world’s greatest big bands rehearse before their concert at the Usher Hall – The Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, with their trumpeter and director, Wynton Marsalis.  There was even a surprise guest appearance of the Scottish violin virtuoso, Nicola Benedetti. (See attached photo) Following the rehearsal, our students were able to have a Q&A session with the drummer and pianist of the orchestra. 

Making-Music Workshops

Our after school clubs at various primary schools across Edinburgh worked hard again this last term. We would like to welcome our new workshop leader, Johannes.  Johannes is a very talented multi-instrumentalist, who plays piano, double bass and accordion. He worked with students at Craiglockhart Primary on world cup themed samba parade.  Thanks to the parents who were able to come and watch them in action in the final session before the end of term.

Edinburgh Youth Music Festival

Most Entertaining were proud to be one of the sponsors and supporters of the first ever Edinburgh Youth Music Festival this year. The festival provided the opportunity for young people across Edinburgh to take part in performing and free workshops delivered by professionals.
Music Apps

We are all, as musicians and educators, trying to embrace technology positively and work out it’s place in music.  Some of our students and tutors have introduced us to apps and devices to help them in their practice.  Please see the links below and check them out if you’re not already!

Future concerts

We encourage all our students to perform and as regularly as possible, even if it’s just to mum and dad in the living room – it all helps.  We are constantly seeking opportunities for our students to perform and will be showcasing our all student concert this December.  In the meantime, we are working with the National Museum of Scotland to do a student showcase there in the coming year. 
All Stars

Congratulations to our mixed instrumental group, the All Stars, led by our tutor, Robert, with their debut recording or their EP.  Recorded by Edinburgh Recording Company.  Please get in touch if you wish to hear it and be part of the group.

Feedback and getting back in touch

Please feel free to let us know if you don’t wish to receive our news emails or if you wish to find out what we’re doing feel free to ‘LIKE’ our facebook page and get our latest updates.

In the meantime, we hope you have a great Summer.  
To chat or discuss your interest in lessons – piano, trumpet, guitar or violin, feel free to give us a call on 0131 477 7821.


Blast of Brass!

Title: Blast of Brass!

Leader: Finlay Hetherington

Date: Friday 11th July

Venue: South Bridge Resource Centre, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh. EH1 1LT

Length: 1 hour

Cost: FREE

Age Range: 10-18

Requirements: Bring along your own instrument if you have one (instruments can be provided)

Musical Experience Required: Some musical experience preferred but not essential. Absolute beginners welcome along to the first session!

Skills Level: First session suitable for beginners. Second session aimed at intermediate players.

Description: Finlay Hetherington from ‘Most Entertaining’ invites you to try out the trumpet and other brass instruments in these hour long workshops designed for beginner and intermediate students!

The first session – ‘Beginners’ Brass Bonanza’ : An introduction to playing a brass instrument. Learning the basics, from breathing and buzzing exercises to playing the first 5 notes, with an opportunity to perform as an ensemble, again, led by our workshop leader. (Ages 10 – 15)

The second session – ‘Carnival Brass’ : Learning to play in an ensemble, listening and following directions.  Tips in leading a group and learning 2-3 carnival pieces for brass, inspired by themes of The World Cup. (Ages 13 – 18)

Feel free to bring along your own brass instrument or let us know and we can provide you with an instrument for the workshop.

This workshop is sponsored by Most Entertaining Ltd.

If you wish to sign up for this workshop, please go on to the Edinburgh Youth Music Festival website.  See link below.  If you cannot make these workshops but would like to take lessons in trumpet, trombone, or tuba, please get in touch on 0131 477 7821.


Science Shows How Piano Players’ Brains Are Actually Different From Everybody Elses’

According to music journalist, Jordan Taylor-Sloan …

‘[Learning the] piano is the ultimate instrument in terms of skill and demand: Two hands have to play together simultaneously while navigating 88 keys. They can play up to 10 notes at a time. To manage all those options, pianists have to develop a totally unique brain capacity — one that has been revealed by science.

Because both hands are required to be equally active for pianists’ to master their instrument, they have to overcome something innate to almost every person: right or left-handedness.

In most people, the depth of the brain’s central sulcus is either deeper on the right or on the left side, which then determines which hand is dominant. But when scientists scanned the brains of pianists, they found something different: Pianists had a demonstrably more symmetrical central sulcus than everyone else — though they were born right or left-handed, their brains barely registered it. Because the pianists still had a dominant hand, researchers speculated that their equal depth was not natural, but resulted because pianists are able to strengthen their weaker side to more closely match their dominant side. Rachmaninoff would be proud:

Piano lessons are sort of like braces. For a few years, everyone’s parents paid a lot of money so their children could contort their bodies (fingers; teeth) and lie about doing something daily that, really, they never did (scales; rubber bands). Both were formative experiences.

But while everyone grows out of braces, some people never recover from childhood piano lessons. This is, in part, because true pianists’ brains are actually different from those of everyone else. In this series, we’ve already written about what makes guitarists’ and drummers’ brains unique, but playing keys is an entirely different beast. Drums are functionally pitchless and achordal, so pitch selection and chord voicings aren’t part of the equation. Guitar only allows for six notes at once and heavily favors left-hand dexterity.

But piano is the ultimate instrument in terms of skill and demand: Two hands have to play together simultaneously while navigating 88 keys. They can play up to 10 notes at a time. To manage all those options, pianists have to develop a totally unique brain capacity — one that has been revealed by science.

Because both hands are required to be equally active for pianists’ to master their instrument, they have to overcome something innate to almost every person: right or left-handedness.

In most people, the depth of the brain’s central sulcus is either deeper on the right or on the left side, which then determines which hand is dominant. But when scientists scanned the brains of pianists, they found something different: Pianists had a demonstrably more symmetrical central sulcus than everyone else — though they were born right or left-handed, their brains barely registered it. Because the pianists still had a dominant hand, researchers speculated that their equal depth was not natural, but resulted because pianists are able to strengthen their weaker side to more closely match their dominant side. Rachmaninoff would be proud:

Already, then, pianists are able to make their brains into better-rounded machines. But it turns out the heavy-tax of piano playing makes their minds efficient in every way. A study by Dr. Ana Pinho (whose name kind of explains her research focus) showed that when jazz pianists play, their brains have an extremely efficient connection between the different parts of the frontal lobe compared to non-musicians. That’s a big deal — the frontal lobe is responsible for integrating a ton of information into decision making. It plays a major role in problem solving, language, spontaneity, decision making and social behavior. Pianists, then, tend to integrate all of the brain’s information into more efficient decision making processes. Because of this high speed connection, they can breeze through slower, methodical thinking and tap into quicker and more spontaneous creativity.

Most shockingly, though, Pinho also found that when experienced pianists play, they literally switch off the part of the brain associated with providing stereotypical responses, ensuring that they play with their own unique voice and not the voices of others. Basically, it’s the opposite of Guitar Center riffage — true innovation like Oscar Peterson:

But piano is a taxing and complex instrument for the whole brain. Real pianists are marked by brains that efficiently conserve energy by allocating resources more effectively than anyone else. Dr. Timo Kringsscanned pianists’ brains as they soloed and found that they pump less blood than average people in the brain region associated with fine motor skills. Less blood flow means less energy is needed to concentrate. Though that’s likely true of anyone who’s mastered a nimble task, it only compounds the efficiency pianists’ brains develop through mutating the central sulcus and altering their frontal lobe’s function. In pianists, the change in blood flow frees them to concentrate on other things that are totally unique to pianists — like their own unique form of communication.

It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s one of the coolest things about being a pianist. When pianists improvise, the language portion of their brain remains active — like any musician, playing music is fundamentally an act of communication. But the big difference for pianists is that their communication is about syntax, not words. Dr. Charles Limb’s study showed that when pianists solo, their brains respond as if they were responding in a conversation, but they pay attention to phrasing and “grammatical” structure instead of specific words and phrases.

So pianists’ brains actually are different. They are masters of creative, purposeful and efficient communication because of the very instrument that they play. They are the naturally efficient multi-taskers of the musical world, because when you’re a player like Yuja Wang, there is zero room for doubt and hesitation.’

Thanks to Music Mic for this very interesting article on the piano and piano-players’ brains and to Jordan Taylor-Sloan for writing it.  If you would like to take piano lessons and develop your brain, please feel free to get in touch with Most Entertaining to find out about our lesson options.