Learning to play a musical instrument can be an incredibly rewarding experience. A tremendous sense of accomplishment may be attained through music studies, not to mention the sheer pleasure of participating in musical activities – either alone or with others. As though that weren’t reason enough, there are several other reasons why you may consider taking music lessons – or have your child take music lessons.
Learning a musical instrument has been shown have a positive effect on the development of language skills, literacy, numeracy, IQ, self-efficacy, and, given the right kind of instruction, creativity and self-esteem. Believe it or not, music making can have a positive effect on physical health as well. Playing the piano, for instance, exercises the heart as much as a brisk walk. Participation in musical activities has also been shown to contribute to perceived good health, quality of life and mental well-being.
Of all the modern musical instruments, the piano appears to be of particular benefit in these regards. Playing a musical instrument is an intense, multi-sensory and motor experience. It involves exercising delicate control of the muscles and the practice of highly complex movements, reading and decoding abstract information (music notation) in real time, imagining and recalling from memory extended patterns of sound while simultaneously giving meaning and expression to those sounds, and responding to feedback from the primary senses involved in music – sound, sight, touch, and the kinetic sense of space. And all of this may happen simultaneously in asingle act of musical creation at the piano.
What makes the piano different from other instruments is that the number of tasks required in performing a work on the piano is generally much greater than on other instruments. Whereas on a flute you may only be able to play a single melody, a piano piece may, and often does, require you to play several parts or melodies at once. Furthermore, on keyboard instruments the left and right hands, and even the feet, often move much more independently of one another than on other instruments, adding to the multitasking demands (and benefits!) of your music studies.
It should be noted also that the greatest composers throughout history were almost all pianists (or keyboard players of some kind) too. This is no coincidence since keyboard instruments are are among only a handful of instruments that are able to simultaneously play melodies, counter-melodies and accompaniments. The piano is often credited as the only instrument which could rival the orchestra in terms of the power and richness of its sound. The layout of the keyboard also perfectly reflects the way musical tones are organised in European music, the basis of most of the music we hear today. This makes it much easier to understanding of how music is written and organised.
All that aside, learning to play the piano will simply give you, or your child, a lifetime of entertainment and a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.