How Playing Piano Affects Your Brain

In recent years, science has made huge breakthroughs in studying activity in the brain.  One of the most fascinating of these were studies that explored the effects that learning music has on the human brain.  The studies were done in two categories:

  1. Non-musicians compared to musicians, then

  2. Musicians compared to musicians of specific instruments

(NOTE: This subject can get techy and nerdy quick, so for the sake of your time and my over-multitasking brain, we will focus on what they learned about piano players.)

PLASTICITY: First you have to understand plasticity.  Everything you see, hear, smell, THINK, touch, creates a thread in your brain.  And all these threads are linked together like a web.  That is why when you smell a certain smell, you can recall certain memories.  But what is interesting, is that the way we think, actually physically forms and shapes our brain.  The way we use our brain actually reshapes and activates certain parts of our brain.

(Okay…enough nerdy stuff.   The reason that is important is that science has learned that we develop our own brains in many ways.  Music is not necessarily something we are born with or without.  It is something that we can develop through thought and practice.)


  1. MULTITASKING BEAST MODE!  Evidence proves that music lessons of any kind helps focus and develop the brain, BUT PIANO IS ON A WHOLE OTHER LEVEL!  Piano is the only instrument that can use all 10 fingers, 2 hands, 2 feet, 2 eyes, 2 ears.   All of these senses, PLUS, it involves tempo, pitch and creativity over a span of 88 keys.  Learning to see a sheet of music, play, and hear it, lights up every part of the brain.  To manage all those options, pianists have to develop a totally unique brain capacity — one that has NOW been revealed by science.

  2. A MORE EVEN CENTRAL SULCUS – (That is a specific fold on both sides of your brain) It is innate in all of us, that these lobes are drastically uneven.  This will indicate if we are right-handed or left-handed.  A Pianist’s brain, however, proves to have more symmetrical central sulcus than everyone else.  While this does not make a pianist ambidextrous per say, they do have more use of the non-dominate hand.  Outside of piano, this gives a pianist rare ability to balance creativity (right brain) with logic and reasoning (left brain).

  3. FRONTAL LOBE CONNECTIVITY– Pianists have an extremely efficient connection between the other parts of the brain and the Frontal Lobe. That is important because of what all the Frontal Lobe handles: problem solving, language, spontaneity, decision making and social behavior.  Consequently, piano players have a high speed integration system that helps them make complex decisions faster while being spontaneous and creative.

  4. A UNIQUE EXPRESSION – When a guitar player solos, they shut off the conscious part of their brain and activate their unconscious part of the brain.  When a piano player solos, they shut off the part of the brain that provides stereotypical responses and activate the communication part of their brain.   This allows them to play with their own unique voice or expression. More importantly, the pianist is using music as a literal language–expressing something with syntax instead of words.

  5. A MORE EFFICIENT BRAIN – While we have shown that the pianist brain is extremely active, another unique aspect of the pianist’s brain is that their brain requires less bloodflow to the part of the brain associated with fine motor skills–which means they need less energy to concentrate.   This allows the brain more bloodflow to areas of the brain like communication and unique expression.

So, as you can see the pianist brain is in fact very unique.  Their skill at the piano gives them an advantage in areas of multitasking, communicating, decision making, concentration and creativity.  Every instrument has its advantages and brain enhancing aspects, but piano is a great choice that can help  individuals in life, work, music, and social behavior.
*Information taken from studies by: Dr. Charles Limb, Dr. Timo Krings and  Dr. Ana Pinho, as well as an article written by Jordan Taylor Sloan

Will Your Industry Be Extinct?

Know who you are FIRST!

Smith-Corona: For Decades, this company was one of the leading typewriter manufacturer.  Unfortunately, they fixated their vision on there product. When the world began to change toward personal computers…they denied this would effect their business.  They insisted that Typewriters would always be relevant.  Because they refused to grow and change, their business collapsed.


WHERE THEY FAILED:  The founders of Smith-Corona did not establish a proper vision for their company.  A great “vision” will lead your company to ALWAYS focus on your customer’s needs…that means changing somethings but keeping others the same.  What would have happened if they realized that they were in the business of helping customers create documents instead of producing typewriters?

CHANGE IS PART OF SUCCESS: If a company is going to stay on top…they are going to HAVE to embrace change.  Just in my life time I remember creating ads by taping clipart and text onto a page and “xeroxing” it.  The quality was horrible.  That was before I knew what JPG, RAW, TIFF, EPS, CDR, PSD, PDF, or FTP was.   But that is just one small facet of my business, now think of everything else that has changed.  I went from typing book reports in school on a typewriter to saving documents on a floppy disk in college.  To now blogging my thoughts to be stored on the internet.

NOT CHANGING IS AN EVEN BIGGER PART OF SUCCESS! The only thing more important than change is knowing WHAT NOT TO CHANGE. If you change with every new fad, your customers never learn for what they should come to you.  It is so easy to focus your attention on your product and be identified with that.  But, what happens when your product is no longer relevant?  Your business goes south. Because every one knows you as the typewriter store, when what they need is a PC.

How will a proper VISION help your company?

I am reading a book right now that was written by a marketer in the sports industry.   He has bounced all over the country saving teams and arena on the brink of failure.  Story after story, his greatest credit was teaching this industry that there weren’t in the “sports” industry afterall!

Sports Marketing:  Are they marketing “sports” or “entertainment?”   If they market sports, they will lose their crowd when their team is doing poorly.  But if they market entertainment then you will have a crowd no matter how your team is doing.  That is why you see so much pageantry and hype at games.  Win or lose…your experience is a WIN/WIN.  Now they know how to market what they do!

SIGN UP HERE – for access to these documents

Harvard Business Review on Change, Copyright 1998.
Marketing Outrageously, Jon Spoelstra, Copyright 2001

What Is Your Ad Budget

If you are like most businesses, you probably don’t even have a marketing budget established.  You may wait for a student to approach you for yearbook ad space and toss them $25.  Then you might even pay whatever the yellow pages tells you is necessary (don’t get me started on this racket!) and call it a year, then wonder why your phone isn’t ringing.

Let me bottom-line it for ya…MARKETING IS A NUMBERS GAME.  The more numbers you put in, the more you get out.  Aside from investing your advertising dollars in the best media possible, and making your ads stand out among the competition, it comes down to how much you spend and how you spend it.

So how should you come up with this figure?
First, let’s look at what we know:
1. how much were your sales last year?
2. how much was your cost of occupancy last year?
3. what is the average markup on your products?  (your cost/sell price)

If you HAVE given Ad budgets any thought, you probably never heard of thinking about markups and cost of occupancy.  Most “do-it-yourself” marketing plans just throw a figure at you like %5 -6% of sales and you’re done.   But if you do not consider these numbers, you could be greatly malnourishing your company.

The more you pay for a location, the more visible it is.  This visibility can save you on advertising.  (you just need to concentrate on making your facility more attractive to the traffic going by you.

Why should you even consider this?   If your cost/per item is low, than you have more income to spend on advertising.  Not to mention the bigger the gap, the higher end the product, the more advertising it takes to reach the perfect customer.

Well, I have created a google spreadsheet that will tell you exactly how to figure your own ad budget–just by filling in a few blanks.  You can thank me later!

LOGO DESIGN: C-Town (runners group)


Running is an important part of my life.  I have never heard and elderly person say…”I wish I had not taken such good care of my body.”    No, they pretty say the opposite.  So, when I am trying to cram a jog in my busy schedule, I just think to myself….”In five or ten years will it matter if you mowed the yard?”  “nope,” I respond.  But it will matter in ten years if my heart is pumping right or if I confined myself to the couch because I didn’t discipline myself.  Matter-of-fact, everything in your life could come and go, but you are pretty much stuck with your body the rest of your life–and everything in your life depends on how you take care of that.  Just a thought.

C-TOWN Runners
This is a group of people (mostly ladies) who think just like that.  But, while I am more into simply making it just part of my life-style, these girls are  into making it an EXTREME SPORT.  Yes, they are training for a half marathon (13 miles) in Nashville, TN.  I have all the respect for them!  Go girls!  I’ll cheer you on as soon as I get back from my 30 minute jog.

In prep for this marathon, I designed a logo for their group.  “C-Town” comes from where they live, Cantonment.  And here are the two designs we settled on:

Using lines, I created a “C” that gives the feeling of forward motion.  The uneven lines on the back of the “C” create the effect of speed lines.

A little more intense design work.  I created a shoe print and carved out the letters of the name.

We couldn’t decide on just one, so we opted to use the LINES LOGO on the front pocket of the shirt and the SHOE LOGO on the back of the shirt.

Good luck Girls!  To practice for your marathon, I am going to make you jog from C-town to M-town to pick up your shirts.  lol.

How To Sell Diamonds During the Depression

At one time in American history, diamonds were just another precious jewel.  But it was a much different scene than we see today.  Today, diamonds are synonymous with romance and love.  How did that happen?

In 1938, N.W. Ayer’s market research revealed that the depressed state of the economy created a 50% decline in diamond sales and an even greater decline in their dollar value. Knowing they couldn’t do anything about depression, they determined to reposition themselves in the market.  After a few rough years, the son of the De Beers dynasty met with his ad agency to create a campaign to combat this trend.

The goal was to shift society’s thinking about diamonds.  De Beers wanted to position their product as a “gift of love.” This marketing firm set them on a campaign that would change history forever.

The word “Diamonds”  and “forever” became forever linked in our culture. And what is even more remarkable…the way they positioned themselves as a benchmark of love, they reversed the dire trends.  Diamonds were more valuable than ever.

Still today, men are expected to pay about 3 months salary on an engagement ring.  These rings are passed down from family to family as symbols of a love that stood the test of time.  Consequently they made it an essential benchmark for men to show women they are loved.

Lessons to be learned:
Economy doesn’t have to be the death of your product.
Price has less to do with what people buy than you think.
It’s not what your product is, it is what your product says.
LOVE can add warmth to even marketing a cold hard stone.
“Sex sells” today, but marketing LOVE ensures your place in the market forever.
Tie your product to the most important things in life, and you will be fine.

References: Business Insider:War Room, Advertising Age, Photo by

What Comes First: Perfect Ad or the Perfect Brand

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  logo DOES NOT EQUAL a brand, and a marketer DOES NOT EQUAL a graphic designerA marketer is paid to use their college degree and years of experience to execute your companies strategic long-term goals.  A graphic designer is paid simply to make things pretty to the client.  Both are important.  But if these two are not working together or if you are treating them as the same thing, you will find yourself off course in the near future.

[ BRAND: A “brand” is what your logo represents once it is on  something.  Changing a brand is much harder than changing a logo.   A logo is simply a visual representation of your company.  A brand, however,  is what people have come to learn over the years about the products/services on which you have your logo. ]

Our story begins…
A mediocre men’s fashion designer decides he would like to expand his business.  His goal was simply: gain more clients and increase production.    He approaches the best marketing guy in New York, George Lois, and turns him loose on the project.

The Marketer’s Hurtles:
Obstacle 1:  At the time, no one had ever heard of the brand “Tommy Hilfiger.”
Obstacle 2:  The product was not unique or exceptional in anyway.
Obstacle 3:  The client was insecure and didn’t know who he was or what he wanted.
Obstacle 4:  Getting people in the industry to care or even read the ad.

The Marketer’s Delimma:
Almost every client approaches marketing with fear and insecurity.  They say that want people beating down their door, but in truth,

1) their business structure couldn’t handle that and
2) they want 100% success with 0% risk
3) the only statement they are willing to make is “I am only a little better than my competitor, but I can’t tell you why.”

So, what is the marketer’s goal?  Is it to make the client happy and feel safe and just spend his money?  Or should he/she push the client to do something bold, unsafe, risky and defining?

The Ad:
Below is the teaser ad campaign that almost never happened.  It was the perfect ad to overcame all the obstacles.  Ultimately, it would launch Tommy Hilfiger into fame as a top designer, but not without a fight.


When Tommy saw this ad, he refused to use it.  He felt it was an insult to these great men to put himself in the same category.  He didn’t see himself as a fashion innovator or even having a product of that kind of quality.

Thankfully, his business partner overrode his decision.  The ad ran.  

Who was right: the marketer or the client?  
Both!  The ad was a sensation. It launched Tommy Hilfiger into huge success. demand increased globally.   But, Tommy’s insecurity got the best of him.  He apologized to all his peers and competitors stating that He didn’t see himself or his product this way but he was overruled in the decision to run the ad.

Tommy Hilfiger’s Defining Point
Tommy now had a decision to make.  Would he shrink back into oblivion in embarrassment, or would he use this new fame to his advantage?

It took humiliation, but Tommy rolled up his sleeves and became the designer that matched his new globally recognized brand.  He worked tirelessly to become a fashion innovator.  He upped the quality of his product.  He BECAME the designer in his ad.  He became the designer his marketer knew he could be.

 > Success doesn’t come without risk.  
 > Success doesn’t come without work.  
 > A brand is something you become.  What will your brand be? 
 > The best companies in your industry started where you are at.
 > A good marketer will push you beyond your comfort zone; because that is where success lives.
 > A good marketer believes its deceitful to let clients dictate work and then get paid for it.
> Ad campaigns have to be “SEEMINGLY OUTRAGEOUS” at first you think its outrageous but then realize its on the nose.