Unlock the Piano:
A Scientific Theory
To fully illustrate this theory, I have divided its content into four sections. In the first section, I share why unlocking the piano is one of the most stimulating activities for the brain. In the second, I describe different states of consciousness and how consciousness can be influenced by sound and music. The third explains how music can also influence emotions to cleanse the soul. Lastly, in the fourth section, I describe how an individual can connect with a greater universal consciousness through music, specifically the energy and mathematics of sound. Unlocking an instrument, especially the piano keyboard, can in some ways be representative of unlocking one’s self. We may not see the sound waves we create when we play our instrument, but we can listen and feel the music and apprehend the mental, emotional, and spiritual energy it contains.
My theory of unlocking the piano states that grasping the keyboard's inner workings to produce sound and music effectively results in a flow of energy that connects the individual with the universe. In short, mastering the sounds of the keyboard can allow an individual to connect with the source of life. A sound is a form of vibrational energy that is interrelated with the material universe because it needs a medium to travel. The harmonic structure of musical instruments gives us a unique way to interact with sound. From our embodiment with music, we form a personal relationship with the physical universe through its structure and energy.
The way we appreciate music is intuitive; playing musical instruments can generate a “flow” that makes us “one with the music.” In this state, we have the freedom to create and manipulate sound to produce what we feel. This sensation stimulates our bodies, minds, and souls, allowing us to feel in tune with the music. To compare, as an athlete, I trained for years to develop mind-body awareness through regular practice and focused-skilled drills. Through this training, my body became capable of reacting during games based on instinct or feeling. At the same time, my mind was able to quickly analyze real-time situations and make decisions that my body would automatically follow. This made sports easy for me: I developed my craft to the point that my role became second nature; propelled by adrenaline, I entered a state of spiritual euphoria on the field.
Similar to practicing a sport, technical and improvisational exercises are practice to unlocking an instrument. The keyboard unique is that it is the ideal division of sound based on harmoinc ratios. Simple yet complex, the keyboard clearly represents the mathematical structure of harmony, allowing individuals to explore the harmonic nature of sound freely. I believe that my theory of unlocking the piano describes the most stimulating activity for the brain among all musical instruments. Simultaneously, internalizing the piano’s inner workings can allow an individual to explore the depths of their own consciousness and even cleanse their soul of negative energy. This is possible because musical instruments allow us to experience the divine principle of harmony through sound that underlies the universe's structure and the self.
I find that the artistic and aesthetic aspects of learning to play a musical instrument are different from any other activity studied. Learning to play an instrument can physically restructure the brain. It can also improve the brain’s executive function, working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. These faculties affect an individual’s ability to strategize, retain information, regulate behavior, solve problems, and adjust plans to changing mental demands (A).
The mental effort of learning to play an instrument is analogous to a full-body workout for the brain because learning to play music engages practically all brain areas at once. Monitoring the brain using fMRI and PET scans, neuroscientists have found that listening to music stimulates multiple brain regions simultaneously, and playing a musical instrument enhances these stimulations (A). Learning to play a musical instrument increases grey matter volumes in the motor, auditory, and visual-spatial regions of the brain (B). Grey matter processes information in the brain. Grey matter also helps distribute nutrients and energy to neurons and improve neuron functioning and communication (C). Learning an instrument is also associated with an increase in the corpus callosum volume, which connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Having a larger corpus callosum allows messages to travel more quickly and through many paths between the brain’s hemispheres (A), resulting in a stronger and more well-connected brain.
Additionally, a study monitoring the brains of musicians and non-musicians listening to music revealed that musicians’ brains fire neurons more symmetrically than non-musicians when hearing music. The degree of symmetry varies depending on the instrument they play (D). Professional keyboard players’ brains responded more symmetrically than those of other musicians because playing the keyboard requires a more mirrored use of the hands and fingers. The complex and varied bimanual coordination in playing the keyboard is challenging for the brain to process (E). While one hand maintains a rhythm, the other plays the melody, though neither hand is restricted to these roles. Playing the piano with skill requires a complex integration of memory and muscular coordination that no other human activity similarly amounts to. Therefore, achieving this skill and unlocking the piano is one of the most stimulating activities for the brain (F).
Consciousness is defined as the state or quality of awareness of one’s own existence, thoughts, sensations, and surroundings (G). There is a spectrum of human consciousness produced by the brain's electrical impulses known as brainwaves. The different types of consciousness along this spectrum consist of delta waves, theta waves, alpha waves, beta waves, and gamma waves (H). These waves correspond with various consciousness states, ranging from deep, dreamless sleep to higher conscious perception.
Brainwave entrainment is the use of pulses of sound or light to influence brainwaves (I). Repetitive pulses elicit a brainwaves response that causes brainwaves to resonate with the frequency of the repeated sound or light pulse. Listening to or vocalizing particular tones and rhythms can alter our states of consciousness and shift our perception of reality. For instance, the pulses of rhythmic drumming and chanting in shamanic rituals, such as those of the Native Americans, can induce a deep trance-like state that allows one to discover the unconscious mind and other dimensions of consciousness (J).
In particular, theta waves correspond to the mental state that bridges the conscious and unconscious mind. When our minds are in a theta state, such as when we are sleeping, or in deep meditation, our senses withdraw from the external world and focus on internal signals, producing a sensation of detached relaxation, in this state, we experience dreams, vivid visualizations, profound creativity, and exceptional insight. Theta waves facilitate many positive mental phenomena, including the storing and accessing of long-term memories, the exploration of unconscious material, emotional healing, recovery from addiction, and the development of a sense of unity and deep spiritual connection with a higher power of the universe (K). In unlocking the piano, maneuvering the keyboard’s structure and sounds can become second nature allowing an individual to enter a meditative state of playing. In this theta state while playing the brain hones in on the mind’s internal signals allowing it to lucidly explore the depths of one’s own consciousness.
We experience various types of pain and suffering throughout our lives. Some painful experiences can be so extreme that we repress them deep in our unconscious mind. As a result, this extreme pain and suffering affect our everyday behavior and emotions without consciously registering those negative feelings. Thankfully, sound and music can serve as therapy to heal the negativity that troubles us. Music has an inherent quality that promotes internal peace and harmony. Sound can naturally purify the soul, a person’s deeply-felt moral and emotional nature, by lifting the lingering burdens that seem to weigh on us.
The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras is credited with discovering the harmonic intervals or mathematical ratios of harmony. These ratios established the seven-note scale of the Greek system that is the basis for the modern Western music system (L). Though Pythagoras codified the scale mathematically, musicians before him had long been using the scale for its naturally pleasant sound. Nonetheless, he investigated the therapeutic value of harmony and discovered that the seven modes of the Greek music system had the power to incite or allay various emotions (M).
Certain attributes of music, such as intensity, tempo, dissonance, and pitch, are strongly associated with emotional expressions. Music played in particular modes and with particular tempos and rhythms can affect how we feel. For example, melodies played at a slow tempo tend to evoke emotions with low energy such as sadness, whereas melodies played at a fast tempo tend to evoke emotions with high energy, such as anger or joy (N). When we listen to or play music that is uplifting or deeply melancholy, our corresponding emotions flare and those feelings become easier to process. In this way, music can improve many ailments such as sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, stress, pain, and trauma (O). Familiarizing oneself with the harmonic structure of sound is necessary to unlock the piano. Internalizing the piano sounds’ inner network can result in a healing and peaceful phenomenon based on the emotions freely playing the instrument produces.
A Greater Universal Connection
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration”
– Nikola Tesla
The universe is synonymously known as a cosmos because it is a highly complex yet orderly system. Two of the many factors that determine much of the physical universe are energy and matter. Everything is energy, and everything, therefore, is in a state of vibration (P). Frequencies of vibration determine how matter manifests itself because they give it its unique qualities. The study of cymatics, for example, demonstrates how the vibration and frequencies of sound physically influence matter and life—and by extension, how vibration is behind the creation of the physical universe. With cymatics, the vibration of sound waves can be observed shifting particles into geometrical patterns, and a change in frequency results in a change in the pattern (Q). As the frequencies of vibration increase, their wave patterns manifest different forms. For instance, frequencies above that of sound begin to manifest in the form of heat, while even higher frequencies assume the form of light. While frequencies of vibration determine the form of the physical universe, there must be deeper principles that govern these frequencies and the natural phenomena of the universe.
The universal principle, source, and root of all things is number. Everything is composed of the elements of number (R). Mathematics, the science of numbers, simplifies the natural phenomena of the universe into terms that we as humans can comprehend. It is known as the universal language because everything is defined by mathematical properties. While mathematics is the abstract form of the universal language, sound and music are the spoken form, and light and color are the visual forms.
Familiarizing ourselves with the harmonic ratios that determine the division of sound allows us to experience the divine, universal principle of harmony that is reflected in our own being. Understanding the cosmos allows us to understand ourselves because the individual is a microcosm of the greater universe. The universe is a cosmos because it is a whole of wholes. All things are related to it and each other through whole-part and proportional relationships. Harmony allows parts to function together as an integrated whole. While numbers describe relationships of proportion, proportion describes the principles of harmony. Through music, we are able to form a relationship with the universe that is more intuitive and unconscious, more felt than thought.
Music is more than entertainment. It is a powerful form of therapy that transcends words because it expresses universal emotions. Our thoughts and emotions are forms of energy (S). Music ironically serves as an instrument allowing this energy to flow through us and be shared rather than remain stored within. Unlocking an instrument can liberate repressed emotions from the traumas of our past, thereby dissipating negative energy and creating internal harmony.
We are all connected through music as the notes of a scale are connected. The feelings produced by music are shared by us all. Whether one is a singer, dancer, or musician, or simply a music enthusiast, the effect of music is undeniable. For me, music is the light that illuminates my darkness. Unlocking the piano heals me by filling the void left by the death of my mother. By unlocking the piano, I am not only learning a new skill that challenges my cognitive abilities, but I am more aware of my own individual consciousness and the greater universal consciousness that we are all a part of. The piano is the instrument through which I connect with God. God is, to me, the higher consciousness that is distributed throughout all parts of the universe—the cause of all, the intelligence of all, and the source of all power and energy.
The universe is energy. Consciousness and energy share vibration. The vibration of sound has a physical relationship with the material universe, and the keyboard is an ideal division of sound based on harmonic ratios. Unlocking the piano is thus one of the most stimulating activities for the brain. Knowing this, we might ask: what might the individual experience by unlocking the piano?
Whether you choose to unlock an instrument or not, I hope you come to understand the passionate feeling experienced when playing, singing, dancing, or listening to music. Though I have yet to fully internalize the complexities of the keyboard and “unlock” the piano myself, I know that practicing each day brings me one step closer to relieving the negative emotions that have weighed me down. In reflecting on my experience, I have realized that I myself could serve as an instrument to help others confront their personal burdens by sharing my story and offering the Qzye View—a new perspective of how an individual can form an intimate relationship with God through music.
Music and the Brain
X. the neuro-pianist: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3728557/
Music and the Mind
Music and the Soul
A Greater Universal Connection