How Your Brain Works: One Brain, Two Sides

top view of human brain showing left and right hemispheres

Your brain, anatomically and functionally, consists of two distinct HEMISPHERES: Left & Right…

Left Brain & Right Brain Compared

Each “side” has specical skills, siummarized as follows:

Your Left Brain is logical, detail oriented, interested in facts, verbal, rational, intellectual, systematic, abstract, and controlling.

Your Right Brain is intuitive, big picture oriented, interested in ideas, visual, emotional, inspirational, playful, concrete, and receptive.

Your LEFT BRAIN is logical. detail-oriented. interested in facts. verbal. rational. intellectual. systematic. abstract. controlling.. Your RIGHT BRAIN is intuitive, big picture-oriented, interested in ideas, visual, emotional, inspirational, playful, concrete, receptive.
Left Brain & Right Brain Comparison

Each side possesses unique ways to understand and experience reality, with profound implications for the challenge of studying and performing music…

Your Left Brain likes to name, explain, define, categorize, talk, count, and calculate;
Your Right Brain likes to experience, imagine, feel, relate, listen, and express.

Your Left Brain does one thing at a time;
Your Right Brain does everything at once.

Your Left Brain learns by structured plans;
Your Right Brain learns by exploring.

Your Left Brain likes to analyze wholes into parts;
Your Right Brain likes to synthesize parts into wholes.

Your Left Brain learns and remembers words, numbers, and facts;
Your Right Brain learns and remembers images, body movements, impressions, and relationships.

Your Left Brain is highly selective about what it pays attention to, enabling you to focus on important details;
Your Right Brain can distribute its attention to many things at once, enabling you to grasp the essence of the big picture.

Your Left Brain thinks about the past and future and is the home of plans, regrets, fears, worries, and criticisms;
Your Right Brain senses and experiences everything in the present moment.

And so, in many ways, your Left Brain is “smarter” than your Right Brain to the degree that your Left Brain can do things that your Right Brain simply cannot do.

Likewise, your Right Brain is “smarter” than your Left Brain to the degree that your Right Brain can do things that your Left Brain cannot do.

Example of Brain Lateralization & Coordination

This is your Left Brain at work…


and this is your Right Brain at work…


and this is both sides working together…


Implications for Studying and Performing Music

One reason why students struggle with music is that they are using the wrong side of their brain for the task at hand. Alas, most students (and teachers) are trapped in an educational system that places way too much emphasis on abstract Left Brain constructs that have little to do with how music actually works. Unfortunately, music instruction is so poor that it has students trying to learn and play with half of their brain tied behind their backs.

While your Left Brain is often an essential gateway for understanding and remembering important musical concepts, it is impossible to understand how music works if you study and play using only the left side of your brain.

Ultimately, in order to perform with confidence and conviction, you must play in that magical Right Brain space where logic, names, and abstract constructs cannot go.

Here, for example, is something that your logical Left Brain simply cannot do… or even understand…


… while your artistic Right Brain grasps it immediately and effortlessly.

But don’t conclude that your Left Brain is useless or that your Right Brain is better than your left.

Both sides are necessary and important… and complement each other in significant ways that enable you to construct and internalize an incredible library of musical knowledge and skills.

The takeaway: When you study or perform music, you want to use the side of your brain that is appropriate for the task at hand–allowing the natural capabilities of each side to do what is does best–while also allowing each side to collaborate with the other side as needed.

This will all become clear in future lessons committed to bridging the gap between “Left Brain” theory and “Right Brain” experience.

learn more… How Your Brain Works: The Power of Studying

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