I’ve had the privilege of working as a piano and voice teacher for the past two years. While I love seeing my students grow over weeks and months of lessons, I also take pride in knowing that they’re acquiring more than simply the opportunity to learn an instrument.
Piano lessons (or any instrument) have real and lasting benefits related to cognitive development, mental acuteness, and proactive expression, particularly for children but also for adults. Here are five of the most evident advantages I’ve witnessed in my experience.
1. Lessons are an exercise in focus, a non-school-related exercise.
In an era of constant screens and busy schedules, lessons require students to sit down and focus on a single subject for 30 minutes. Most teachers ask students have 15-20 minutes practice sessions 3-5 days a week, in which students must focus on their own.
By habitually giving full attention to an activity they earnestly enjoy, students exercise their ability to concentrate and complete a task. It also reminds students that they can take break from schoolwork that does not automatically include watching TV or playing on the iPad.
2. Students experience achieving long term goals.
This can include initial goal-setting and perseverance it takes to achieve them.
For example, I have a 12-year-old student who easily plays C major scales hands separately, but struggles to play it hands together. We’ve pared down the scale into more manageable steps, and she’s devoted more time to it then I even instructed.
I’m confident that in a few weeks, she’ll nail it down, and it’ll be an exciting achievement! If it’s still too difficult, then we’ll put it on the back burner, try again in a few months, and it’ll be exciting then.
3. Playing piano provides a creative and expressive outlet.
If we’re not in the habit of regularly engaging in a creative activity, we may not recognize the valuable and fulfillment such an outlet provides.
Playing piano is not just hitting the right notes, it’s also literally “play”. There is room for personality, expression and storytelling. Consider how young children enjoy singing, games that include singing, and singing to themselves spontaneously.
Clearly, music is an important form of play. Children may grow out of their toys, but in a world of iPhones and screens, having a place to play is truly special.
4. Music skills are not strictly musical.
Musical and piano skills engage a variety of cognitive functions, including visual, audial, motor, mathematical, and others. Regular piano practice not only helps a child play piano, but develops other essential brain operations.
For example, musicians tend to score higher on examinations of “executive functions”, i.e. handling external stimuli and data. These benefits are not only for children, but adults too.
My only adult student (who happens to be 80 years old) told me she can tell piano does something good for her mind and that it helps her think better with the bonus is that it helps relieve the arthritis in her hands.
5. Lessons encourage independence and self-driven learning, purely by their solo nature.
A one-on-one lesson means students cannot “sit in the back” or “zone out” like they might be able to at school. Furthermore, students learn to practice their music on their own.
I can instruct students what and how to practice effectively, and a parent can remind them when to practice. But ultimately, when they sit at the piano, students will have to read the music and make sense of it on their own.
The ability to learn proactively and practice independently will vary with age and maturity, but it’s an important musical skill (and life skill!) that piano lessons help develop.
Now might be a strange time to start a new hobby, but there’s no time like the present to learn a fun and advantageous skill! If budget is holding you back, I suggest that you check out the free online options and materials, of which there are plenty.
An inexpensive electric keyboard is a perfectly acceptable alternative to a grand piano to get you or your child started. Most beginner piano method books are fairly user-friendly, if you’d rather go the self-taught route.
Still, if a good teacher is at all available to you, know that piano lessons really are a worthwhile investment. Not only will you experience the sheer joy of making music, but you will be able to grow and strengthen your mind.