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
12 Replies to “Why Do You Play the Piano?”
Hello, thanks for the awesome question as why one plays piano. Myself it gives me food for my soul. I never get depression, asked why, because of my involvement with the language known as music. I start to play because my hands will lead me to the piano. They alone start the orchestra. I levitate hitting notes that I really have studied and to this day am trying to figure out how I’m playing them. I have many ways of making a piano cry, laugh, talk on many subjects. Just as it’s an instrument that has a call and answer agenda. I know that it’s the vibration’s that lift me out of my seat. It’s the shivers that make you almost disappear. I never get tired of playing. It is a full orchestra, the piano and I enjoy coming to work. I know that it elevates my memory and mind as far as focus and it gives a sense of thought collaboration. I feel no pain and I can leave the planet at anytime. I have A.D.H.D since the age of seven. I know what it does to keep me focused. Yes, I do say please to you for your study of what a session of this entity does with the brain. I do feel cleanse and breathe better after my hours of devotion to my forte piano. When this world leaves me with questions of pondering. I am lead by my hands to the piano and many times I am looking at my hands play. My G-d has given all of us gift’s that we are to address so as to go beyond this life into the next. I love geometry and I have found something guilds me in a math-like way when I play. I see many colors, notes and the universe when I play. Yet I still don’t think that many people understand what I am saying. So I am to let them listen soon in the coming days. Thank you, for allowing elaboration on this awesome subject.
I understand leaving the earth as I play the piano. Playing the piano feeds my soul. I learned at an early age of 6-7 years the ability Of the gift given to me of hearing parts SATB and singing them with my dad which prompted him to say: you are going to take piano lessons.
I started my musical ability when approximately at 6 months of age, maybe older. Dad was holding me, I was standing on his lap. He started to sing, unfortunately I don’t remember the name but I can play it and it goes like this: starting on 1st G below middle C,. G g c d e C, a a c a g,. G g c d e c,. D c e d c – c. C. (old bone) I remember listening at that this tun @ a very early age. And I am 77 years young. So to this day, I am still listening to music, playing songs that I have heard in the past and of course sight reading is also a favorite thing to do. I play because it feeds my soul, makes for a lighter heart, and I simply enjoy my piano. I also play for church. I have become a pianist so others may feel that good spirit that has lived within me for years that might fill them as they feel and listen. I also teach piano. I have had students of all ages. It is so thrilling when one becomes a paid organist in his church, yes, I taught organ also. When one becomes a keyboard player in a band at her church. Or when a high school graduate becomes a soloist on the xylophone using 2 padded sticks with each hand plays beautifully in front of a large auditorium filled with people. I teach people how to play the piano with theory, technique, style and the love for music! Thank you for listening! Jean R.
Thanks for your beautiful comment Jean! The tune sounds like some sort of hymn or maybe a folk song. It seems vaguely familiar to me. Music is stored in one of the strongest deepest parts of the brain so we have it with us always.
I enjoy playing the piano as a pianist for church, mixed choirs, soloists, weddings, funerals and square dancers with a caller, especially when the musical group has a couple of Fiddlers, Guitars, a Banjo, a Mandolin, a bass fiddle and of course, a piano.Without music, I truly am listening a lot, chord changes, and transposing when I need too. Although, most of the style of music played for square dancing is in the key of: D, E, G & A. Once in a while the guitarists have to gear up for key of Eb or F. I remember when, that certain piano was pitched 1/2 lower as others were playing in the Key of E, I played in the Key of Eb. I enjoyed those times with people. Music has a way of drawing people together. A most fabulous time ever is when people are drawn together for a good cause.!
Piano playing regenerates neurons. This has saved my level of functioning since my traumatic brain injury on 2004! I have permanent axon damage, but am still walking and giving concerts.
I’m so sorry to hear about your brain injury, but glad to hear that playing the piano is helping to restore your cognitive functioning. I am currently researching the effects of piano lessons on cognitive abilities, at the University of Washington. It’s incredible how many regions of the brain are enhanced by learning and playing the piano. Best wishes to you and thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.
What an inspiration you are:)
Hello Nina, my sister sustained a huge brain injury in 1992, since then I have been trying to coax her to take up the Piano. But she resists, I suppose partly due to initiative issues and drastic changes to the functions of frontal lobe. But I hope to share this discussion with her and keep our fingers crossed! 🙂 Thank you so much for your honesty, love, support and peace, MLB
‘Composers don’t choose to compose, it chooses them.’ [ Nadia Boulanger] I feel the same about the piano. Once you are hooked it will never let go….that’s a good thing.
Nice Rada, thanks
All I have ever wanted to do was to sing and play the piano and make a living doing so. That is what I have done, and the Lord has made it possible. It was and remains the desire of my heart. Ps. 37.4
I play the piano because it is my life. I was born to do so. I love the instrument. It is a part of me.
Thank you for asking. You are one of my beloved piano teachers. Thank you.
Dr. AnnRené Joseph
Thanks for your beautiful words Dr. AnnRené! How wonderful that you have been able to support yourself through music. I feel similarly blessed, especially now as I continue to teach online, making it possible for my family to continue to eat healthy food and sustain our modest lifestyle. You are one of my beloved students 🙂