So you’re interested in learning the piano? Wonderful! Learning to play piano opens up a whole new world for you. You can play the songs you love whenever you like. With the right instrument, you can play with an entire orchestra accompanying you at your own pace. You can even learn to write your own music. Learning any instrument is a great way to help with self-expression and adds pure joy to your life, but piano, in particular, is an excellent way to learn more about music and how it works.
But that’s not the only benefit of learning piano! I bet you didn’t know that learning to play piano also teaches you a number of other skills and stimulates specific portions of the brain, which in turn enhances your life in surprising ways:
We use our sense of touch to play by pressing the keys of a piano. How hard or softly we press them will determine how loud or quiet the music will be. We also use our feet to operate the pedals at the base of the piano – the una corda pedal on the left, and the sustain pedal on the right. Your sense of touch is controlled primarily in the parietal lobe of your brain. An activity that stimulates this area can improve your hand/eye coordination, your sensitivity to touch, and your ability to retain and enhance flexibility and fine motor control. Not too many instruments allow you to use all ten fingers independently, but a piano does. This increases activity in the primary motor cortex, the cerebellum, and the prefrontal cortex.
Using our hands and feet at the piano also stimulate our primary motor cortex and our prefrontal cortex, along with our cerebellum. As we become more proficient, many of our motions at the piano become a part of our “body memory”. Just like riding a bike, certain movements and actions at the piano over time are automatic; we can do them without thinking about it.
Playing the piano also uses our eyes and ears. If we are reading our music, we are trying to follow two separate lines of music in two separate clefs at the same time. It’s like reading two separate sentences at the same time, with all the letters in the words of the second sentence placed differently than the first one! Our ears tell us what we are playing, both tone and timing, and help us determine if it’s correct or if we need to adjust. Our eyes involve our occipital lobe and visual cortex, and our ears work with the auditory complex and the temporal lobe. Stimulation in these areas trains our senses to see fine distinctions in printed music and hear very slight alterations to rhythm and tone.
Pianists learn how to “keep time”. In technical terms, we synchronize and synthesize all that input from our eyes, ears, and touch, along with the motor activity involved in actually playing the piano. Our prefrontal cortex and cerebellum get involved again; organizing all that incoming information and moving the more repeated actions into body memory. We can hear, see, and feel different ways of counting and different kinds of rhythm, and we can quickly learn to determine if a rhythm or tempo is correct or inconsistent.
Playing piano heightens our spatial sense and our proprioception (knowing the relative positions of our body parts without having to actually look at them and see them moving). We become comfortable with playing complex melodies and chords without even looking at the piano; just like an accomplished typist, we know where our fingers need to go sight unseen. This develops our parietal lobe, our cerebellum, and the entire right hemisphere of our brains!
Finally, and maybe most importantly, is the artistic expression and interpretation involved in learning piano. We share our emotions and moods in our playing. We can bring to life the thoughts and feelings of composers long gone by following the dynamic markings in the music that capture the mood, style, and emotion of the person who wrote the music. By working with articulation, rhythm, expressiveness, and dynamics, we are really putting our prefrontal cortex to work. We think about how best to play the instrument so we accurately transmit those dynamics to the listener. Or we just like a piece and want to play it the way it makes us feel, so we will alter those dynamics to suit our mood.
Playing piano is far, far more than just pressing keys in a certain order to achieve a certain sound. It is a whole-brain, whole-body activity that provides many years of enjoyment, enrichment, and fun. We here at Keyboard World fully support and encourage anyone, regardless of age or ability, to consider learning piano. We offer individualized instruction plans, private coaching, and group lessons based on demand. Call us today or stop by, and we will set up a free initial consultation and free first lesson!
Music is life; that’s why our hearts have beats.