I am studying the effects of piano lessons on the brain at the University of Washington, and have found a host of scientific studies showing that piano instruction enhances mood, quality of life, movement, and Executive Functioning in the brain. Executive Function is kind of like the CEO of our brain and is located in the frontal lobe. Amongst other tasks, it facilitates attention, learning, memory, organization, decision-making, perceiving and estimating time, planning and executing plans, multitasking, problem-solving, analyzing, flexibility and reasoning.
You can read three of these fascinating studies here: Piano Lessons Increase Executive Function and Memory, here, and there.
Many are drawn to the piano because they have heard that it is an awesome brain workout, but I think you might agree that there has to be additional motivation in order to keep us doing the hard work of learning to play the piano. What gives you the willingness and courage to keep a piano practice?
For me it is a deep connection to music that feels like a spiritual practice. When I’m playing a piece I love I feel a sense of delving deep into my core. As I practice something challenging, I strive to become fully engaged in the notes and fingering and whatever set of skills I need to gain in order to learn the phrase. To me it’s worth all of the trouble, to get to the place where I can play and understand the music.
I haven’t always felt this way, however! As a child there were weeks (and maybe months) that I tried to quit piano lessons; it was sometimes so difficult to find the time to practice, or my teacher moved away (my beloved teacher Judy Lloyd moved to Australia to be with her boyfriend, and it broke my heart!), or I just wasn’t sure I was committed.
But I would soon begin to feel incomplete and disappointed in myself; stopping lessons left a hole in my life and I missed working on my piano skills. I missed the engagement, I missed the connection, I missed the music.
I often ask my students, “Why do you play the piano?” Here are some of the answers I have received:
“I play because I love music”
“It’s my therapy; it calms me and helps me to stay focused in general. I’ve definitely noticed that I have better concentration since starting lessons.”
” It’s a goal I set for myself to learn how to play the piano and understand music.”
What brings you to the bench? Of all the activities you have to choose from, why do you choose the piano?
With love and music, Gaili