How Piano Affects The Brain
Becoming a piano player is a worthy goal in itself. Many people play tunes just for their own enjoyment. It can be a great stress relief as hands fly over the keys. There may be an end goal, such as accompaniment for a singer or a band. For some, learning the piano will be a step toward a career in music. Yet research has shown that learning the piano is as much about developing the brain as it is the music itself.
Music and math go hand in hand. Piano students do not always realize it, but they are immersed in math. As their piano teacher teaches them to count notes, their brain is learning fractions, decimals, and percentages. Dr. Frances Rauscher, a leading researcher, wrote in the Educational Psychologist that playing instruments is more important than passive listening. Learning to read music instills core math principles. As the student advances, math skills naturally advance as well.
Learning to Memorize
To play music, the brain must memorize many facts and translate them into action. Piano students use their brain pathways in ways that may have been closed to them through traditional learning. In addition, most students learn to memorize entire pieces. This memorization takes place on many levels as their brain retains rhythm, pitch, melody, harmony, and more.
Improving Hand-Eye Coordination
Any piano teacher can tell you that playing with both hands is difficult. That’s because a person's hands don’t like to work counter to each other. More than typing or any other two-handed activity, piano forces the student’s arms and hands to perform separately yet in tandem. Even as this is happening, the student learns to keep an eye on their music, following it at a much more rapid pace than normal reading. The fact that all of this activity translates into coherent music is part of the magic of playing the piano.
Developing Focus and Patience
Students must develop the patience to wait as a difficult piece becomes easier and easier until finally it isn't hard at all. They must retain focus even when they become confused or bored with a piece. As they practice this patience and forbearance, something else is happening at the same time. Visual and spatial skills are strengthened in each session at the keys. Mental-physical connections are made and repeated. This discipline and dedication to craft may spill over into other areas of life. Having taught themselves to focus on the music, the student may focus better when faced with difficult puzzles. Practice and patience become positive mental habits for a lifetime.
Developing a Love of Music
In an era where popular music often has no real musical value, a love of music is a meaningful gift to give a child. Taking piano lessons should help a student's brain develop a greater appreciation for different styles of music. As the difficulties of making music become clear to students over time, they will appreciate the skill and dedication it takes to bring real music into the world.
Helping Older Students
Hand-eye coordination and, of course, concentration are good assets for a teenager, for a mature adult, and for the aging brain of a senior citizen. The left and right hand must operate independently of one another, sharpening coordination for other activities. Learning a new skill, developing the ability to focus, and challenging personal limitations are all benefits of learning the piano at any age.
Whether it is for practical reasons or the love of the music, learning to play the piano is a smart move for kids and adults alike. For more information on this topic, contact Ben Kromholtz