There are unquestionable benefits to playing piano. Furthermore, studies show it is truly never too late to start learning piano – the mental and physical benefits apply to all ages.
Improved Counting & Math Skills - A study conducted by Martin F. Gardiner and his colleagues at the Center for the Study of Human Development at Brown University found that specialized musical training in specific increments toward greater difficulty boosted second graders’ math skills significantly above their peers.
Improves Reading Comprehension - A 1993 study summarized in the Educational Psychology journal showed that the ability to discriminate between pitch, which is a fundamental ability you learn when playing piano, was linked to good reading performance. Additionally, learning to memorize music before performance exercises reading comprehension skills and the portion of your brain responsible for recall.
Requires Concentration, Discipline & Patience - Multiple areas of the brain light up when playing music. Scientists studying the brains of musicians as they play music have found that the discipline of playing music is the equivalent of a full-body brain workout. Strengthening multiple areas of the brain, including our ability to concentrate, focus and apply knowledge, playing music allows us to exercise our brain similarly in other areas. So, it should not be surprising that starting to play piano will trigger increased patience, concentration and discipline in other areas of your life.
Changes Brain Structure and Mental Ability - Many people define themselves as good or not good at music. You’ve heard people say before, “I’m not musical at all!” Gottfried Schlaug, director of the music and neuroimaging lab at Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard Medical School in Boston, has confirmed through multiple studies that some people’s brains are indeed better suited for learning music. However, all humans can benefit and even change the way their brain processes information and learns new skills by learning to play piano.
Prevents Brain Processing, Hearing and Memory Loss - The ability to process auditory signals usually slows down as we age. However, participants of a recent study who continued to play music throughout their lives had helped reverse the decline of brain processing, memory and inner ear hearing loss.
Exercising New Language Skills - A study in the early 1990s discovered the “Mozart effect” in children, which showed early language development and spatial-temporal intelligence could be boosted by keyboard lessons for preschoolers.2 Additionally, a study by Dr. Charles Limb showed that pianists who solo use their brains linguistically as if they were responding conversationally and grammatically.
Encourages Creativity - Dr. Ana Pinho conducted a recent study on jazz pianists. Monitoring their brain activity while playing, she found that the part of their brain responsible for default or stereotypical responses was actually turned off. Instead, when jazz pianists are playing, their brains improvisation ability is firing to create unique, original sound and style.
Practice with Time Management & Organization - As with any responsibility or hobby, learning to add it to your daily routine and make time to do it requires good time management. Playing piano and other instruments that demand a routine practice schedule are particularly effective in challenging one’s ability to manage and organize their time. For children, learning to play piano, juggling lessons, practice and fun play, is a great way to teach these lifelong skills.
Strengthens Hand Muscles & Hand-Eye Coordination - It is no surprise that learning to play piano requires hand-eye coordination, but a recent study on hand motor control in musicians suggests that piano performers have actually changed the cortical mapping to increase finger speeds. For children and adults with reduced motor skills, learning to play the piano can challenge these brain connections to motor movement and even strengthen coordination.
Improves Rhythm & Coordination - Learning rhythm is essential to mastering piano, but it also has been shown to have a positive effect on reading skills in children. According to the academic journal, Psychology of Music, “Children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.”
Boosts Self-Esteem - In a 2014 study of fourth-grade students in public school in Canada, children who received individual piano lessons for three years tested higher on self-esteem measures and school music achievement tests. Learning to play piano and experiencing the excitement of mastery after learning a piece of music is an incredibly powerful way to boost one’s confidence.
Expands Cultural Knowledge - In a 2016 study of Amazonian women and men, musical preference was found to be strictly cultural and not hardwired into our brains. Counter to past assumptions about our brains’ preferences of dissonant versus consonant chords, the study’s findings support learning to play piano as one way to expand our cultural knowledge of different sounds, styles and types of music. Especially for children, this exposure is critical to encouraging early open mindedness and cultural diversity.
Reduces Stress & Anxiety - A 2013 article published by the National Library of Medicine found that piano practice can actually help treat depression and alleviate stress in elderly adults. Despite the studied demographic being older adults, these findings are encouraging of all ages that piano practice can serve as a holistic and natural treatment for depression and mood disorders.
Provides an “Unplugged” Outlet and Entertainment - Limiting electronics is something many parents and even adults need to be doing more and more. The effect of excessive time spent on electronics is linked to increased brain atrophy, impaired cognitive functioning and even increased cravings due to impaired dopamine functioning. Learning to play piano is an activity for kids and adults alike to move away from “screen time” and have an unplugged outlet for entertainment.
Allows for Kinesthetic and Tactile Learning - In 2013, an institute in Barcelona, Spain, studied the effects of different kinesthetic learning environments and leisure activities. The study found that participants who were assigned piano practice as opposed to others who did sports, painting, etc., showed greater neuro and psychological improvement on the scale they were using.