Why musician’s can not just hear in tune, but see in tune also (What?)

Further proof that musicians are unusual beasts, recent research has shown that by learning to read music, the artistic types among us may be “tuning” what they see.


Remember that moment when you first started to read – when those shapes your teacher drew on the board finally made sense? When you could make out the word “S-T-O-P” while waiting at the lights?

Well, it’s kind of similar when learning to read music. Eventually, the dots on the page turn into notes, the squiggles become rests and as you continue to learn to read the score, it all finally becomes sound.

It turns out there may be a downside to learning music, however – it may forever ruin your brain’s ability to enjoy the random beauty and shapes of a black and white score.

Recent research issued from Vanderbilt University has discovered that, by learning to read music, artistic types among us may be also “tuning” what they see.

So, more proof that musicians are a strange breed. It turns out, a musician’s brain is more likely to identify patterns in a moving score while its melody is being played… even when accompanied by simultaneous conflicting visual information of “moving contours”.

Of course, this announcement means that researchers had to identify some participants (these are usually first year students hoping to get extra credit) who could read music, and then put them in a lab to control what they were viewing, and then play them “moving contours” plus a musical score unrelated to the audio they were hearing, in order to determine whether or not the brain was able to distinguish the difference.

This makes it sounds to me like they should have included the participants’ blood pressure. Because playing a melody and whizzing unrelated sheet music plus other visual information past a first year music major may cause a heart attack.

The good news is that eventually, the brain does learn to do the hard work of reading along with a score… even when there’s conflicting visual information. But the researchers warn, it will only do this when you’re unaware.

So, I guess the musicians among us will have to keep brushing up on our conscious sight reading skills – at least for now.

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