Now that is a good question if you ask me. How “does” playing the piano help the brain?
How does playing the piano help the brain? Read on, as I intend to prove that by playing the piano you are actually bringing goodness and power to your brain.
By playing the piano, without even knowing it in many cases I suppose, you are making your brain stronger, wiser, more capable, sharper, and above all it is becoming less inhibited by things like sorrow, pain, nervousness.
PLAYING THE PIANO CHANGES YOUR BRAIN
Think about this for a minute. When you play the piano several parts of the brain get a work out. For instance when you play you use:
Your eyes, which are directly connected to the parts of your brain called Visual Cortex and Occipital Lobe, site reading on a piano involves reading two lines of music and each in a different clef.
So the parts of the brain just mentioned are busy first of all finding then identifying and then relaying accurate information to your fingers. All this is done in a split second but over and over in various forms as multiple notes of music are seen, read, identified, processed and sent on its way. That’s amazing in itself.
which are directly connected to the parts of your brain called Auditory Cortex and Temporal Lobe. Of course all your senses need to work together and this is especially true with the eyes and the ears and consequently their respective parts of the brain. Pianists listen to notes being played and adjust their playing accordingly and there is no one more keen to a wrong note being played than the pianist himself. This is just another point the proves how dialed in the brain is through the ears.
Both of them, are directly connected to three parts of the brain which are the Primary Motor Cortex, the Prefrontal Cortex and the Cerebellum. Just as the eyes and ears identify the notes, something has to actually play that which is being identified and that is the hands. Both hands and more accurately ten fingers work independently complimenting each other as the music played out from the information the brain is presenting.
Left Hand Right Hand
The left hand plays the bass cleft notes and the right hand plays the melody notes. The signals come from the seven different parts of the brain until the fingers obey the commands they are receiving and voila, music is played.
I don’t know of another instrument besides the piano which requires the use of all ten fingers and each performing and often stretching to hit the keys that are being interpreted to them by the several parts of the brain.
Quite a Workout
I’m convinced…..this is a major workout for the brain but, guess what, there’s more.The pianist must keep time with the music and remember where all the notes and chords are that their brain is revealing to them to play.
The timing and memory use four of the parts of the brain previously mentioned but the memory being used requires a new section called the Right Hemisphere of the brain. Phew, I’m tired out just thinking about all the brain-input into playing a piano.
PIANO AND ACHIEVEMENT
We are continually made aware of the fact that the very first thing to be removed from a school curriculum program when the faculty is trying to cut corners as per poor budget planning is the music program. The truth of the matter is that students who are musical and are being trained in music such as the piano are also able to achieve more academically by being musical.
There are numerous studies that prove this and in fact many universities etc. make it a point to recruit young people who play some musical instrument, piano in particular. Why? You might ask and the answer lies in the research which consistently reveals that musical students have a higher grade-point average than non-musical students.
Research has also revealed the interesting fact that students that are involved in high school music programs, for instance, develop the skills necessary for a variety of secular occupations that tend to make them better prepared for life after school. One Doctor wrote: “Successful music students tend to possess the qualities and skills that are generally considered essential to employers in business education and service organizations.”
PIANO AND READING
A reading program in New York was recently researched and found that it dramatically improved once a music program was introduced. It was found that students that got involved in music had higher reading achievement scores than those not into the music program. Another revelation of the study not only did music increase reading skills but also several other skills were improved. For instance, listening skills, memory skills, concentration skills and others were all enhanced it is strongly felt, by the student participation in music.
PIANO AND SELF-ESTEEM
One group in Norway concluded after intense research that students who participated vigorously in a music program found themselves to have a growing self-perception and their sense of competence increased dramatically. They achieved a more positive self-image.
Self-image and self-awareness creates a positive attitude and is felt to be a motivating factor in terms of academic learning.
Not only that but, on a social level, students who incorporated music into their studies tended to support one another, to maintain a commitment and bonded better. The ability to play piano and music in general research showed these students had a greater sense of cooperation with authority figures and their peers also were interested and indeed did show the ability to set goals.
John Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is quoted as saying “It is the special province of music to move the heart.” Very nicely put and perhaps it could be additionally said that the province of music not only moves the heart (emotions) but, as indicated above, has the ability to change the brain of any musical person in many and various ways.
PLAYING THE PIANO IS BRAIN FOOD
I just heard a news report that today in North America there are more senior citizens than there are children in our land. This means people are living longer which is good as I’m a senior myself. The problem with seniors is how do you keep your brain healthy.
We seniors are constantly looking for that “perfect” factor that will keep our minds sharp. Some are into cross-word puzzles and various mind games seeing this as the answer.
There is nothing wrong with that I’m sure but I would suggest to anyone looking for the perfect mind game and exercise for their brain to look no further than the challenge that playing the piano presents. Would you agree that it exercises the brain, as indicated earlier, and also different parts of the body, hands, fingers, arms, legs, feet and yes, the brain. You can’t beat it and the end result is a buildup of things like self-esteem, a sense of achievement and pride.
Let me present to you several reasons why piano playing is beneficial to the longevity and proper function of the brain as we live out our senior years. Here’s what happens to your brain as you play the piano.
Piano Playing keeps your Brain “fit”
I mentioned the cross word puzzle syndrome above and we can identify how the brain has to efficiently work to provide answers for your line searches. But, think about the piano keyboard for a moment. If I told you to find middle “c” immediately your brain reaches out to your eyes and fingers and you, hopefully, press the right key.
Now extend that to a musical piece either produced by ear or musical page. In either case the “piano crossword puzzle” is activated. This scenario is replayed as many times as you want and look at the satisfaction you received. There is no denying that playing the piano is the “perfect” brain exercise for you.
Piano Playing Increases Social Participation
I play the piano in the presence of others and I can tell you that there is no greater joy than to be able to do that with friends or acquaintances or strangers for that matter. Playing the piano is such a great exercise in itself but coupled with the fact that you can bring happiness to others by doing so is just twice the meaning.
Another thing is that by you playing the piano you are able to meet others who share your same views. In this way a social network can be developed and you will have common things to talk about.
Piano Playing Increases Coordination
Really, you might be thinking? How so? When you think about it you must realize that you can’t even play the piano if your hands and fingers are not in control. Often, your left hand is playing away and doing its own thing according to the music notation you are seeing or remembering when your right hand is picking out the melody making music and generally in another octave or two higher.
This is wonderful training in coordination this matter of having the ability to control the movement of one hand from the other and it all starts in the brain I might add.
Playing Piano Stabilizes Hearing
Many factors can contribute to hearing loss as you get older. It can be difficult to distinguish age-related hearing loss from hearing loss that can occur for other reasons, such as long-term exposure to noise. There are also common conditions in older people, such as high blood pressure or diabetes and more, that can contribute to hearing loss.
Medications that are toxic to the sensory cells in your ears (for example, some chemotherapy drugs) can also cause hearing loss.
When you play piano, you train your ear to hear pitches and tone in realtion to one another.
These are factors that we must weigh and consider, of course, but if has been proven in these modern medically advanced times we live in that playing the piano often enough enhances hearing. It’s never too late to start taking up the piano. There are too many positive side effects for you not to try no matter what you age.
Playing Piano Helps When Learning a New Language
Researchers have studied the effect of learning a new language on those with a musical background to the non-musical and have concluded that forming a new sound (word in different language) is accomplished more readily by the musician. The reason seems to be in the fact that piano players for instance are continually dealing with a new sound.
Comprehending and pronouncing new words of a new language are therefore something that really is not uncommon as music is considered by many a language of its own.
Also studies have found that a piano players brain is all primed and ready to comprehend speech “in a noisy background” just because of the environment of the piano being played. Who would have thought that playing a piano can aid you in learning and speaking a new language. Excuse the pun but it is “mind-blowing” don’t you agree?
Playing Piano Helps You With Sight Reading
What about the ability to “sight read”? By way of definition sight reading is the ability of your brain to read, comprehend and allow the eyes to see and the brain to interpret what your fingers are doing.
Think about this for a moment. This is an amazing feat that is not considered very often in relation to what happens when scanning across a line of music.
It is said the sight reading also strengthens the eye muscles because of the action just mentioned when reading and playing music.
The brain is the organ most central to all proper functions of the body. We must protect it if we want to live healthy efficient lives here on earth. We like to think that other parts of the body are more necessary to keep in prime shape and although the whole body is to be appreciated and nourished it is the brain that controls it all.
I think I have given you ample information in this blog to allow you to see the importance of protecting and advancing your brain and music, with emphasis on playing the piano, that will give you a head start. Therefore, I do hope your response will be positive.
I hope you will go to your piano and dust it off and learn a new or first time just how important the piano is to a well-functioning brain. All the best as you discover now how playing the piano can give you a healthy brain.
Written by Duane Graves of Duane's Piano Tuning & Technology