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Why Your Child Should Start Playing Piano
My parents started taking me to piano lessons when I was three years old. Of course, as a young child, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But upon recently looking back, I realized that starting learning piano at such a young age greatly influenced not only the rest of my musical education, but also the development of my behavior and work ethic. To this day, I thank my parents for understanding the importance of learning music all those years ago, as without my early education in piano, I would not be the person I am today.
Piano Lays a Strong Musical Foundation
When I was nine years old I started playing the French horn, and later in high school I started exploring more advanced music theory and composition. I cannot stress enough how much piano made it easier for me to continue in my music education, as it had taught me the essential fundamentals that allowed me to move on to more complex music studies. If I hadn’t started learning piano so young, I certainly would not have understanding and appreciation for music that I do now.
Of course, starting any skill as young as possible is best, and piano is a great instrument for young children because, unlike wind instruments, it doesn’t require many developed muscles. As with any language, the best time to learn how to read music is in early childhood, as it will quickly become second nature. Strong reading skills and a sense for musical terms and notations are essential for sight reading, sight singing, and learning complex pieces. These skills are transferable, making learning to sing or play other instruments much easier later on if your child decides to.
Learning the piano is also a great introduction to music theory. The layout of the keyboard provides a clear visual and mechanical representation of notes, making it easier for beginners to conceptualize the new idea of organizing pitches. Associating ascending pitches with the rightward progression of keys and descending pitches with the left gives students a good idea of ”where they are” in the spectrum of pitches. Intervals and accidentals can be visualized by the order of the keys, as well as the physical feeling of measuring out the distances between each note. In addition, piano is great for theory because multiple notes can be played at once, making chords, scales, and intervals much easier to understand. And, because the pitches are already fixed, piano students develop a strong sense of intonation that help them with other musical skills, especially singing.
Music Training Strengthens the Brain
Learning piano has benefits outside of the musical world as well. Several studies have shown that learning an instrument at a young age exercises and improves brain functions, leaving the brain emotionally and intellectually enhanced even if your child doesn’t continue to play music later on.
A study at the University of South Carolina showed that music training physically changes the structure of the students’ brains. Learning music skills strengthens the white matter in the brain, which is attributed to the fact that music training fortifies the connectivity between the different parts of the brain and increases the brain’s ability to adapt to different situations. Changes were also noted in the brains’ gray matter, causing an improvement in information processing and the development of language skills. In addition, researchers concluded that music exercises networks in the brain that impact decision-making and attentiveness in children, and further research at Harvard noted a significant difference in the hearing and motor skills between children who take music lessons and those who don’t.
The impacts of music have been shown to last long after childhood, as well. At Emory University, a group of 60 to 83 year old adults underwent several tests, and those who had taken music lessons showed better signs of memory and adaptation, even though many had not played their instruments recently. Learning music was shown to have the same neural benefits as academics in adults who did not have much education. Another study at Northwestern University showed that adults who took music lessons in their childhood had better and faster responses to sounds, as their auditory training in youth had combated hearing decline in adulthood.
Learning Instruments Teaches Self-Discipline
Music has taught me a very simple concept: if you don’t practice, you won’t get better.
For the first few years of my music education, when I was very young, I didn’t make much effort to set a strict practice schedule. But as I grew older, I quickly realized that I would never be as good a pianist as Vladimir Horowitz or as good a French horn player as Sarah Willis if I didn’t practice. Inspired by my musical heroes, I started practicing music almost religiously in high school, dedicating hours every day to developing and honing my listening, reading, and playing skills. Consequently, I improved greatly. Music became a source of pride and self-confidence for me, not because I liked to impress people with my new skills, but because for the first time in my life, I understood how good it felt to work hard at something. I had put in the time, I had put in the effort, and I had seen a result; my ability to play and succeed in healthy competition was a direct product of my own decision to put in effort. I soon applied this mentality to everything else I did. I started taking responsibility for myself, having realized that I could succeed if I worked.
As I started to integrate myself into the music community, I met other students who had also fallen in love with music. These music students are some of the most motivated, dedicated, responsible, and independent people I have ever met. Every single one of them understood the value of hard work, as they were able to play well and do well in competitions because they too had chosen to practice. The majority of them excelled in school, as well, having developed study habits similar to their practice habits. And regardless of clashing personalities, there was always a sense of mutual respect among all of us, because we knew that we all worked hard every day, and that we all just wanted to learn more about our passion of music.
Music continues to be a source of joy and confidence for me, and I am ever thankful for the education I received in early childhood that set me up for success later on. I believe music to be one of the most rewarding hobbies in the world, as it opens up the worlds of culture and art, and it helps children develop brain functions, morals, and work ethic. Choosing to introduce your child to piano and music early on will benefit them immeasurably, as the influence of music will run its course for the rest of their life, aiding them inside the musical world and out.