Frankenpianists? Scientists replace 10,000 hours of practice time with electricity


Researchers are working hard to see if there’s a way to shorten the time necessary to master a skill, using various forms of electrical stimulation of the brain, writes Sally Adee, technology features editor at the New Scientist.

Adee condenses recent research on skill learning and people’s ability to reach the “flow state,” where that skill has become second nature. Typically, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach that ideal.

In essence, several researchers, including Michael Weisend, from the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, N.M. — working under the auspices of the United States Department of Defense, to help make soldiers more efficient — are finding that stimulating certain areas of the brain with electricity can induce the flow state almost instantly in some people.

The writer mentions practising piano (and, presumably, any other musical instrument) as one of many instances where an induced flow state could lead to much more rapid results. Adee’s own experiences under the electrodes also show how fragile and elementary this technique still is.

You can read the full article here.

The Frankenpianist. It’s an intriguing prospect.

Now that I have 12 piano students every week, the notion of zapping some motivation and ability into them is much more attractive than when I was a blissfully ignorant educational bystander.

But in our quest to find shortcuts around hard work, it’s easy to overlook the distinctions between art, craft and skill. Making music is not a simple act of dexterity, but an act of will that incorporates thousands of judgment calls of a purely artistic nature for each piece of music.

Getting a young mind to understand and appreciate that side of music takes as many (if not more) hours than technical practice time. And there will probably never be a shortcut around that.

Then there’s Yuja Wang…

John Terauds

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