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  • Writer's pictureYvette Zobell

SCIENCE EXPERIMENT: Did Brahms just help me clean my house?

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

The power of music on the brain!

Science has been telling us for years how music training is good for your brain..right? According to lots of studies playing and learning music is like spinach and greens for your brain long term! It helps you with math, wards of dementia, etc. etc.

But what effect does playing music having on your brain in the moment?? Can playing music for short spurts of time rewire your your brain? According to scientific studies, yes. (Linked below) I believe that the brains of beginner to advanced musicians can be rewired in the moment (neuroplasticity ).

I have been conducting my own brain experiment with myself, my piano, and some music in my home laboratory! Lately I have felt especially mentally overwhelmed feeling frozen , numb, and distracted. I think CPBOD is a good acronym I made up that all of you can relate to! (Covid Political Brain Overwhelm Disorder).

So on with my science experiment!


Sight-reading challenging music for 15-20 minutes will relieve stress, anxiety, and brain overwhelm and thus increase productivity by neuroplasticity : rewiring the brain.

EXPERIMENT: I'm at my piano with a thick book of Brahms piano music in front of me. I pick a piece I do not know well and begin sight-reading. Think about it....these are the cognitions your brain engages in whenever you play music:

  • Key signature -(there are 24 keys or languages I have to choose from - each one a different pattern )

  • Accidentals - ( so once I have the key signature language down I have to make tons of exceptions for accidentals which throws off the predictability of the first pattern!)

  • Fingering - ( 10 different fingers and all kind of different sequences of fingering, plus I have to on the fly consider which fingers will best allow for a legato melody and a smooth accompaniment pattern)

  • Pedal - ( pedal decisions have to be made using your ear, your foot, and your inner timing, which affects the the clarity, and the musicality etc..done while doing everything else)

  • Expression- (the emotional component which is also hooked to the mental/analytical/technical component)

  • Note Reading - (lots of fun ledger lines, various complex chords, etc.)

  • Patterns - Playing music trains the brain to look for amazing patterns in music which are like a wonderful complex math puzzle.

  • Rhythm - Challenging complex rhythms ( maybe even poly-rhythms which are super fun!)

Keep in mind this is all done SIMULTANEOUSLY. This is a BIG deal for the brain. BIG. The cognition required is extreme. I'm sure my brain was majorly lighting up. But my question was.... "Will this help me regain some focus for the day and metaphorically un-gunk my brain so I can get out of my brain funk and get stuff done?"

RESULTS: Change #1: After 15 minutes, of sight reading Brahms I honestly felt joyous. I had no overwhelm. I had no stress or anxiety. Change #2: Amazingly I did my morning chores without effort, like I had a jetpack on helping me! I'm not kidding. The difference was profound. I'd say I was at a 10 for productivity and my stress had been replaced by a feeling of calm. I decided to listen to the pieces I had just sight-read through, so I put on my headphones and and quickly did the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, picked up, and started some laundry. All this was done without any great effort.... Before I sat down and played Brahms at the piano I was too mentally overwhelmed to know where to even start. Change 3: i was no longer thinking about Covid related stuff. I was on a mental high after having played some Brahms on the piano and was thinking....."I can't wait to get back to the piano to play some more."

CONCLUSION I have tried this same experiment probably 10 times in the last 2 weeks. Does playing music help my brain ungunk itself thus increasing productivity? YES, YES, YES! Every single time it has helped me overcome brain overwhelm and anxiety, and has reset my brain to a place where I can easily function and get things done without great effort.

Here are some articles of interest about how music helps your brain:

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