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the Brain and the Fiddle ( What neuroscience says about learning to play the fiddle )

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

 This is an article published in the PEI Fiddler's newsletter. For more articles check out


Fiddle Shop Talk

I'm just back from a inspiring 10 days at the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in St John's, NL. Fiddlers from Galacia, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, the US and Canada presented workshops and concerts.  Here's some very useful information on the relationship between learning and brain and neurological function.


There is a lot of research showing that learning to play an instrument has significant advantages for your brain development, regardless of the age at when you start learning. At an older age the process of learning a new instrument or even continuing to learn new tunes, etc. reduces the impact of aging.


Also, a few new aspects related to learning will help you learn easier and the information will be remembered for a longer period. Getting a good night’s sleep has been shown to be very important in learning new information. In fact getting a good sleep is as important as practicing.


The practicing you do should include the actual task of playing the tune as well as imagining you are playing the tune. Imagining you are playing sends the same motor and neurological signals to the brain and to the muscles as actually playing and this has been shown to significantly improve the tasks that are being learned. Give this a try as you learn a new tune. Once you have figured out the melody and which fingers you are using along with your bow movements take some time to just sit quietly and imagine playing the tune.


Do this for three or four times thru the tune and then get a good night’s sleep. Learning to sing or hum the melody before playing the tune is also a better approach to learning a new tune and you will remember it better.


For more information on these studies check out the following link which gives more details on the fascinating and functional relationship between ours brains, sleep and the learning process. PracticingandCurrentBrainResearchbyGebrian.pdf


Keep your bow rosined and the fiddle in tune. Roy Johnstone


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Playing Since: 1956
Experience Level: Expert/Professional

[Teaching] [Jamming]

Occupation: Musican.Composer

Gender: Male
Age: 74

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Created 3/3/2009
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"Roy Johnstone has the heart of a poet, the spirit of an adventurer and plays like the Devil." Atlantic Gig Magazine Roy Johnstone has been active in the East Coast musical community for the past thirty years. Not only is he one of the most accomplished fiddle players in Atlantic Canada but he has also received accolades for both his music compositions and his studio production. He is an active recording artist and has 5 solo albums to his credit for which he has multiple nominations for ECMA awards. His most recent CD, entitled "Live at Loon" which was recorded at the New Hampshire HighlandGames with Steve Sharratt has just been released. The Highland Council of Scotland commissioned Roy to write music to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Scottish settlers coming to Prince Edward Island. This music is featured in a new recording entitled An-t Eilean, the Island. His music has also been featured in award winning NFB and independent film productions and he has been invited to perform with many of the region's most noted artists such as J.P. Cormier, Laura Smith, Lennie Gallant and jazz pianist Doug Riley. His musical career has taken him to Iceland, Scotland, Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. He was presented with a Government of PEI Official Musical Ambassador award and he is often requested to highlight many dignitary events such as the recent Governor General's visit to Charlottetown, two Royal Visits, a Canadian Trade Mission to Iceland, Maritime tourism promtion to New England, a Maritime Premiers Conference and an Ireland Trade Commission in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As well as being an active recording artist he has co-produced and engineered for many Island artists. A recent co-production with the Queen's County Fiddlers was awarded best group of the year recording at the PEI Music Awards. He has been featured as an artist in several documentaries produced for television (Musical Gardens, a Soul Expression production done for Vision TV and CBC, and Steeplechase, a Vision TV production). Roy's love of the fiddling tradition is evident in his research on traditional tunes as well as the accoustics of the fiddle. He has given many talks and has lectured locally and in Scotland and the USA. He also teaches privately and has given workshops on many aspects of fiddle playing. He has a regular column in the PEI Fiddlers newsletter. He is well known for, and contribuites his talent to aid many social justice and community causes. He actively works to create a vibrant and healthy musical community on PEI. He has served as a board member and VP for the Island Music Association. He was the music representative on the PEI Council of the arts for several years and the PEI representative on the board for the Canadian Conference of the Arts. "Roy has that often rare combination, a superb musician and a brilliant entertainer with a tremendous capacity for reaching out and touching members of his audience with his artistry." Jack MacAndrew, Media Concepts producer "One of the Island's most accomplished fiddlers " Doug Gallant, the Guardian

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