I’ve been considered weird by my friends and family for as long as I can remember, and I started playing and singing at the age of 13. I don’t know when I started classifying myself as a musician, but perhaps the two go hand in hand. I decided to take a look into the brain functions of a musician and their lifestyle to perhaps get to a conclusion of why so many people consider musicians to be weird.
Musicians are sometimes classified as weird because their perception of the quality of life and material objects can be different from other people. This could be due to their unstable lifestyle and being on the road for so many years. The brain functions differently for a musician but with no indications relating to making them weird.
We will take a detailed look into the mind of a musician and then into their lifestyle. Hopefully, covering these two bases that should be pretty impactful on their personality, we will determine and get down to what makes a musician weird.
Why are musicians weird?
Well, that all depends on what your definition of weird is? The term “weird” is relative, just like most things if we consider them. Is eating with your fork in your right hand and using the knife in your left considered weird? Or, after Sunday lunch at a hotel, do you jump into the feature fountain in the courtyard for a little dip with the bass player (true story). All things considered, we can kind of draw a line between eccentric and weird. I would have to say that all musicians from my own experience are eccentric, and then a few are really weird.
All in all, I’d have to say some are downright strange even. However, for this article, we will consider why musicians are weird. I’m sure you know the musicians I’m talking about. It’s the ones that wear tight thin spandex in the middle of winter, they are not even at a show, and they have been standing in line outside the coffee store in a blizzard for their frothy mocha latte. How about the musicians that put ketchup on their chicken burgers. You know who you are.
Let’s look at what factors come into play, making a musician weird or seem weird. I’m weird in my own ways, and thinking about it; I concluded that It has to be because some parts of my brain are hardwired wrong, or my brain must function differently compared to regular folk.
We do find this out in the next section of the article. Apparently, learning to play an instrument requires both sides of the brain, and there is a smorgasbord of going-ons in the brain while learning to play and being able to play an instrument. This could definitely be why musicians and I myself are considered weird. Maybe the neurons in the brain fired one too many times. Let’s take a look.
Does a musician’s brain make them weird?
Musicians’ brains really do work differently, according to neuroscientists. What has been happening over the past couple of decades is that neuroscientists have been testing musicians’ brains in real-time with instruments such as fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanners and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanners. What do these instruments do?
When someone is hooked up to these machines, the scanners can observe different parts of the brain showing activity, such as when they read or do mathematics. When they got people to listen to music, they saw increased activity throughout the entire brain. Taking it a step forward, when they set up the instruments to test musicians who played instruments, they found that the activity throughout the entire brain was off the charts.
how does a musician’s brain work?
The neuroscientists deemed that playing an instrument was the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout. They concluded that why this happens is that playing an instrument practically engages all parts of the brain simultaneously. These areas of the brain that were effect tremendously were the visual, motor, and auditory cortices.
They concluded that because learning to play an instrument requires dedication, structure, patience, and practice, they would develop those skills and would be able to apply them to other aspects of their life.
Both hemispheres of the brain are required in learning to play and being able to play a musical instrument. Being able to play an instrument requires the linguistic and mathematical precision of the brain’s left hemisphere with the novel and creative left side of the brain.
This effect of using the left and right side of the brain simultaneously could affect how a musician thinks and functions in both an academic and social setting. This could definitely play a role in why musicians are weird. This way of utilizing the brain can affect attention to detail, memory, planning, and strategizing.
Watch this Ted-Ed YouTube video by Anita Collins and Sharon Colman Graham go into detail about what I just discussed.
So, could we consider that if a person (in this case a musician) used one side of the brain (the right side) more than the other, by doing so would that make them weird? Well as we just found out, musicians use both sides of the brain and in fact, the left and right side of the brain theory is incorrect.
The left brain vs the right brain myth
Back in the day, two neurologists Broca and Wernicke, examined patience who had a problem communicating. What they discovered is that the patients had sustained damage to their left temporal lobes. Hence, they suggested that the left side of the brain controls language.
The theory then exploded with Robert Louis Stevenson taking it a step further with his classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. However, this theory did not hold up when patients with different damaged parts or missing parts of the brain were tested. They found that they all exhibited cases of logic and creativity.
There is no evidence to suggest that musicians are right-side dominant or that a mathematician is left side dominant. In fact, music and mathematics are closely related and require both sides of the brain.
Hence, we can somewhat conclude that the brain functions, and neither the right nor left side of the brain plays a role and affects a musician being weird.
Watch this Ted-ed YouTube video by Elizabeth going over the left and right brain myth.
Does a musician’s lifestyle make them weird?
What about the lifestyle of a musician? Could that play a role in them being weird? I know from experience that the lifestyle of a musician has its ups and downs. Sometimes you are living in a 5-star hotel playing to thousands of people, and sometimes you’re living in a van playing in a club to the sounds of your own echo and tumbleweeds.
This doesn’t pertain to all musicians. If you are a classically trained musician and play the violin or such, you probably play symphonies in an orchestra. These musicians usually don’t live out of their van and take showers with a hose pipe. However, if you’re a typical pop star/rock and roller trying to make it big and live the dream, then you will definitely end up having to wait tables, live off tips and beer, sleep in your car, and on your friend’s couches. However, things are somewhat rather easier because of the rise of the internet.
Having to deal with scenarios that “normal” people don’t usually deal with can definitely play havoc with your psyche, emotional wellbeing, your moods, your perceptions of right and wrong. I mean, when your starving, you might land up doing things that someone usually wouldn’t do to get a meal, but the last thing you do would, is to sell your gear.
Logic and reason are thrown out the window when you are a musician on the road, touring in every town and every city. You make do with what you have, and that’s that. You come to terms and understanding what you NEED and what you want. People don’t usually think this way. In that respect, a musician would think differently about things than someone else. This could definitely classify them as weird.
Take, for example; a musician would consider taking no clothes on or just the bare minimum on the road cause it’s not that necessary. You take your stage clothing and then a couple of other things because there is no room for unnecessary items in the car or van. All your clothes for months would consist of only a backpack filled with clothes, and you would have no problem washing them when and where you can. Now normal people would take 3 suitcases filled with luggage for the weekend because they don’t know what the weather will be like.
Musicians don’t think about themselves when it comes to the weather or don’t care about the weather, as a matter of fact. Their only concern is if it will affect the gig and the turn out at the gig. Living like this for years can and does definitely alter your perception of material things and the necessities you need to survive.
WatchR.J. Ronquillo, who has been a touring musician for over 17 years, go through his top 5 tips you need when going on tour, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. One of his tips is about having comfortable headphones when you sleep. Now, this might seem strange and weird to a normal person, but when you’re on the road in a dingy hotel or sleeping on a couch, and there is no tv or radio. You want to listen to some music to relax and sleep, and R.J. Ronquillo breaks it down in a superb manner, even giving you options for a sleep headphone, which is a headband.
The two aspects we can perhaps contribute to a musician being weird is because of their brain function and their lifestyle. The only thing we found out about a musician’s brain was that they utilize both sides of the brain. They are good at developing other skills and implementing them into other areas of their life because it takes dedication, structure, patience, and practice to learn an instrument.
Perhaps the brain is involved in making a musician weird, but there is no evidence on that at the moment.
The other aspect we can definitely contribute to them being weird is because of their lifestyle. As discussed, a musician does not have a regular lifestyle, and it is far from stable. Having to endure this lifestyle over the years and even decades can most definitely affect their perception of the quality of life and material objects. In doing so, they don’t or may not have a regular perceived perception of the way things should be, and thus regular folk would deem them to be weird.
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