ORANGE piano tuner Graham Baker is unique in many ways.
Not only is he the only piano tuner in Orange, but, according to a new international study, the third-generation piano tuner’s memory and navigational skills are more highly developed, due to the techniques he has used in his profession for many years.
Mr Baker said he was not aware he posessed any of the superior skills identified in the University College London and Newcastle University study.
The researchers found highly specific changes in the hippocampus area of the brain, which significantly correlated with the number of years tuners had been performing the task.
“Even though I am a third generation piano tuner it wasn’t the thing I really wanted to do when I was younger,” Mr Baker said.
After leaving school he followed his dream of becoming a motor mechanic.
However, when the car industry fell on hard times and the dealership where he worked halved its workforce, Mr Baker started to help his father Allan, who had been a piano tuner all his life.
“My grandfather was Clarrie Whiley so pianos have always been a part of our life,” he said.
“I did learn for a while off my grandfather, but like a lot of young kids I gave it away,” he said.
Graham and his wife Debbie said they were unaware of the study.
“But when I think about it Graham does have a good memory and he only has to look at a map once and know exactly where he’s going,” Mrs Baker said.
In the UK study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to compare how the brain structures of 19 professional piano tuners differed from 19 other people.
“We already know that musical training can correlate with structural changes, but our group of professionals offered a rare opportunity to examine the ability of the brain to adapt over time to a very specialist form of learning,” researcher Sundeep Teki said.
So as Mr Baker heads into his busiest time of the year, preparing pianos for recitals and Higher School Certificate performances, his brainpower is set to develop even more.
Perhaps he is the man to have on your team at a trivia night or when you go orienteering.