We’ve often heard music compared closely to language. We have even heard of music referred to AS a language. This recent study from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine in Baltimore has found a very strong link between language and music- specifically jazz improvisation.

It makes sense to focus on Jazz. It is a predominantly improvised art form, relying on the musical vocabularies of the musicians to sculpt the soundscape in an almost collaborative way. In the moment, Jazz musicians spend a good chunk of time listening intently to the other members of the band to hear what they’re “saying”.


The drummers improvised rhythms will have a strong influence on the baseline. The pianist’s chord voicing will be largely based on where the lead saxophone’s solo is going.

A very small portion of improvised jazz music is actually written down and recited. It is a live conversation between skilled linguists with massive musical vocabularies. Brain scans on these musicians have shown that the parts of the brain responsible for language are quite active when playing this kind of music.


“The areas of the brain related to language ramped way up when the musical behavior was spontaneous between the two musicians,” said Charles Limb, an associate professor in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins. Via livescience.com

This is impressive to start, however Limb explains that the mechanisms are more complex than simply thinking of music as a universal language.

“During the improvised exchanges, the parts of the brain that interpret the meaning of language — semantics — were completely deactivated,” Limb told Live Science. “I figured we would have the involvement of language areas during spontaneous musical conversation, but I did not really anticipate the semantic area would be deactivated the way it was.” Via livescience.com

This could imply that music is not processed exactly as a language. But what makes these parts of the brain shut down?

“Syntax has more to do with grammar and the structure of language — basically the rules of language,” Limb explained. “Semantics has more to do with the meaning of words. So, if music has semantics, it’s not processed in the way that is traditionally used for language.” Via livescience.com

Limb was able to sit down with two jazz pianists and use functional magnetic resonance imaging to track and measure their brain activity as they play together.

duling pianos

“Until now, studies of how the brain processes auditory communication between two individuals have been done only in the context of spoken language,” Limb said in a statement. “But looking at jazz lets us investigate the neurological basis of interactive, musical communication as it occurs outside of spoken language.”

Limb said securing funding for this type of research is tricky, but he hopes to study brain activity across various types of creative activities, including writing and painting. He is also interested in investigating whether there are differences between children and adults, or between amateurs and professionals.

Still, Limb considers himself fortunate to be able to incorporate his love of music into his life’s work. “I’m maybe the luckiest surgeon in the world,” he said.  Via livescience.com

Surgeons and Pigs Feet Prove Music Increases Productivity.

https://www.merriammusic.com/music-productivity-study/Via merriammusic.com Researchers asked 15 surgeons to sew up incisions made in dead pigs feet, because theyre most similar to human skin (nice), in their lab. The surgeons had to carry out two identical wound repairs using layered stitches, on two consecutive days. Some had their preferred music on during their first day in the lab some had it on for the second. Music has a great way of getting our mind and body working together in a rhythm.

Scientists Discovered Something Amazing About Musicians Brains – Merriam Music – Toronto’s Top Piano Store & Music School

https://www.merriammusic.com/long-term-memory-music/Via merriammusic.com The list of benefits from learning a musical instrument is constantly growing. A recent study conducted at the University of Texas showed that musicians may have far more well-developed long-term memories compared to non-musicians. Weve known that learning a musical instrument has a significant positive impact on short term memory, linguistic abilities, and spatiotemporal faculties, but this study has found the first strong evidence in regards to long-term memory.