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.