Scientists identify differences between jazz and classical brains

A new study has examined the way pianists react as they play

Scientists in Germany have identified neurological differences between jazz and classical musicians. The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPICBS) in Leipzig has published a study which examines the way different pianists move their fingers from note to note, especially when faced with a harmonically unexpected chord. 

The report, published on Medical Xpress says “non-specialists tend to think that it should not be too challenging for a professional musician to switch between styles of music, such as jazz and classical, it is actually not as easy as one would assume, even for people with decades of experience”. Keith Jarrett even identified the phenomenon when he said “Your system demands different circuitry for either of those two things”.

The scientists experimented with 30 pianists – half were jazz specialists – they were asked to replicate a piano player on screen, which regularly made mistakes with harmonies and fingering. Results show that jazz musicians responded and recovered faster, while classical musicians tended to be more careful and thoughtful in their playing – and made fewer fingering errors while imitating chord sequences.

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