CMS Webinar

11 March 2016

A Musician’s Guide to the Brain:  what we need to know and why

On this blog site, check under the categories of NeuroplasticityMemory, Practice, and Sleep for additional information pertaining to this talk.

National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) Health Advisories  If you get a NASM page saying “Search returned no results,”  type Health Advisories into Search Site, and it will take you to the page.  Same URL, just a more complicated way of getting there.

Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Wellness Resources


Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.  The Woman Who Changed her Brain.
Arrowsmith-Young changed her brain long before the term plasticity was in use, transforming herself from a child with extreme learning disabilities to an adult with above normal cognitive skills.

Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel. 2014. Make it Stick: the science of successful learning

Benedict Carey.  2014. How We Learn:  the surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens
Neither the Peter Brown nor Benedict Carey books are about music, but musicians can make use of the information.  Both look at recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines to show how much we think we know about learning is wrong.  Give techniques for more productive learning and memory.

Daniel Coyle.  The Talent Code:  greatness isn’t born. it’s grown. here’s how
This book is about extraordinary levels of talent, and how they occur.  Coyle is really talking about the myelination of axons in the brain, or plasticity, although he rarely mentions the term.

Norman Doidge.  The Brain that Changes Itself: stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science.
All about neuroplasticity; a collection of case histories detailing stories of individuals who have changed their brains – and their lives – under extraordinary circumstances.

George Kochevitsky.  1967.  The Art of Piano Playing:  a scientific approach.    Some of the science is out of date, but Kochevitsky is absolutely right about his central premise, which is that practicing happens in the brain.

Daniel Levitin. 2006.  This is Your Brain on Music:  the science of a human obsession.    The best-selling book about how we experience music and why it plays such a unique role in our lives.

Julie Jaffee Nagel.  Nagel has two degrees in piano from Juilliard and a PhD in psychology from the Univ. of Michigan.  In her clinical practice, she works with musicians suffering from performance anxiety as well as other issues.  Her book  Melodies of the Mind  “is an exploration of the power of music to move us when words fall short.”  She blogs about performance anxiety at

Journal articles

Limb, CJ, Braun, AR (2008).  Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance:  an fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation.  PLoS One, 3(2):  31679.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001679

Zatorre, RJ, Chen, JL, and Penhune, VB (2007).  When the Brain Plays Music:  auditory-motor interactions in music perception and production.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8, 547-558.  


Altenmüller, E and Gruhn W (1997).  Music, the Brain, and Music Learning:  mental representation and changing cortical activation patterns through learning.  GIML Monograph Number 2, Chicago:  GIA Publications.

Charles Limb TED talk.  2010.  Your Brain on Improv

BBC story about brain imaging.

David Vining, trombonist, talks about embouchure dystonia.  Check Narrative and Retraining Strategies in his website menu.  Retraining is possible due to neuroplasticity.