The piano is one of the most beautiful and beloved musical instruments in the world. In addition to its unmatched musical potential, there are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play piano and practicing/playing regularly.
Whether you're pressing your first keys or performing for sold-out theatres, I hope to inspire you to continue your musical journey with the piano as you read this article. There is so much to gain from learning a musical instrument like the piano, and I've selected what I believe to be the top 11 best reasons.
The Top 11 Benefits Of Learning And Playing Piano Are:
- Improves Coordination/Dexterity
- Enhances The Understanding Of Music
- Unlock All Other Instruments Thanks To MIDI
- Yields Transferable Skills To All Other Keyboard Instruments
- Improves Discipline & Concentration
- Builds Confidence
- Introduces A New Language
- Improves Memory
- Building Relationships
- Provides A Creative Outlet
- Therapeutic Benefits
- Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
- Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above to understand better how learning and playing the piano can improve our lives.
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Learning & Playing Piano Improves Coordination/Dexterity
Along with drum kits, pianos require a tremendous amount of coordination and dexterity to master. With many piano pieces, the left hand is tasked with performing the rhythm and bass while the right hand covers the melody and the upper portion of the harmony. This is all done while the foot is engaging and disengaging the piano's pedals.
The splitting of the brain into two different parts demands superb coordination. Additionally, with so much piano music performed while sight-reading, pianists must develop the dexterity to read and play simultaneously.
Compare this to, say, stringed instruments that have one hand plucking/bowing/strumming and the other fretting. Compare it to woodwind and most brass instruments where both hands are fingering notes. The hand (and foot) dexterity required for piano is arguably the most advanced of all the standard music instruments.
So then, learning the piano will inevitably improve our dexterity. The coordination between our eyes, brains, hands and feet will surely benefit as we learn and practice the piano!
With improved dexterity, we'll have an easier time learning other related skills, including other musical instruments.
Learning & Playing Piano Enhances The Understanding Of Music
I mentioned how many piano pieces split the hands into rhythm/bass and harmony/melody in the previous section. The piano is a unique polyphonic instrument that allows for such arrangement. Pianists have the great benefit of performing and understanding the full range of musical notes and harmony.
The piano is perhaps the best instrument to learn theory with. Personally, my primary instrument is the guitar. However, I'd much rather learn theory with the piano. There are several reasons for this:
- There's only one of each note, represented by a single key.
- The notes are ordered from left to right in semitone interval increments.
- The polyphony voice count is 88 (one voice per note).
- The sustain pedal can keep notes ringing for extended periods of time.
Note that when I write music theory, I'm referring to Western music theory, based on the 12-tone equal temperament tuning system.
The piano is a superior instrument for learning theory as we can see and hear the intervals and chords we're producing, quickly add layers of harmony beyond our 10 fingers thanks to the sustain pedal, access a range of 7 octaves (plus an additional 3 keys), and play this entire range simultaneously.
With the piano, we have an entire world of harmony, melody and rhythm at our fingertips.
Compare that to other common polyphonic instruments like the guitar, which has a maximum of 6 voices (in 6-string version) and 4 octaves (in 24-fret versions). A popular monophonic instrument like the saxophone has a single voice and only spans about two and a half octaves.
Learning & Playing Piano Unlocks All Other Instruments Thanks To MIDI
This technically applies to all keyboard instruments, though becoming a skilled pianist lends itself to this benefit as well.
With modern audio technology, there are plenty of virtual instruments to choose from. These instruments are largely controlled by MIDI information, and what better way to provide MIDI than with a MIDI keyboard?
If we can become proficient at playing the piano, we can effectively trigger any virtual instrument, including synthesizers, orchestral instruments, drums, and even foley and effects.
The one thing to watch out for here is that not all instruments play like the piano. In fact, barely any do (besides the organ and some synths). Therefore, when controlling a virtual instrument with a keyboard, do your best to study and play the instrument's limitations on how that instrument would be played naturally. For example, a trumpet plays one note at a time in a 3-octave range, so don't attempt to play the full 7+ octave range with 88-note polyphony (unless you're being consciously experimental).
• The Ultimate Virtual Instrument Buyer’s Guide
• The Ultimate MIDI Controller Buyer’s Guide
• Top 11 Best Virtual/Software Instrument Plugin Brands
• What Are The Differences Between Synthesizers And Pianos?
Learning & Playing Piano Yields Transferable Skills To All Other Keyboard Instruments
This benefit also applies to all chromatic keyboard instruments. The layout of the piano is super clean and simple, having each successive key a semitone interval above the previous (from left to right).
Learning the piano keyboard will allow a musician to reign over all styles of pianos, from upright and grand to digital and electric. This layout is also shared by many other instruments, including the organ, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, some synthesizers and some accordions.
Though these instruments differ in how they produce sound, their note layout (keyboards) are largely the same. Learning the notes, intervals, chord shapes, and patterns of the piano will set us up for success when it comes time to play these other keyboard instruments.
Related article: What Are The Differences Between An Upright And A Grand Piano?
Learning & Playing Piano Improves Discipline & Concentration
Learning any musical instrument takes a significant investment of time and effort. Learning and playing piano at a high level takes discipline and concentration.
These skills (discipline and concentration) can be learned and developed with conscious practice. From the mechanics to the in-depth theory, learning to play the piano is a fun way to develop discipline and concentration.
Mastering the piano takes a tremendous amount of discipline and concentration, which are traits we can utilize in many other aspects of our lives.
Learning & Playing Piano Builds Confidence
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines confidence as “a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances”.
As we learn how to play the piano and are able to play the music on the page or in our heads, we have proof that we are becoming successful with the instrument. The piano gives us immediate auditory feedback as we play, which tells us if we're on the right track or not.
As we go through the process of becoming better piano players, it's only natural that confidence gained spills over to other areas of our lives. If we can learn how to play the piano, surely we can learn other things, including other musical instruments, so long as we put our minds to it.
Furthermore, we can get to a point where we're in a position to play with and/or for other musicians and audiences. In doing so, playing the piano can help us overcome shyness and stage fright.
Developing the confidence to perform in front of friends, family, strangers and even virtually/online will pay dividends in many other aspects of our lives. Learning the piano gives us the opportunity to engage in such performances.
Learning & Playing Piano Introduces A New Language
Whether we're learning songs by ear or reading sheet music, playing the piano is similar to reading and speaking a spoken language.
Music has the ability to tell a story and has been used as a standalone or a supporting art form in storytelling for a long time. Like other musical instruments, the piano can invoke emotions and feelings in the player and listener.
Since the piano allows us to perform so many aspects of music (bass, rhythm, harmony, melody, etc.), we can even conversate with ourselves on the same instrument. Beyond the piano itself, the song arrangement, harmonic movement, rhythm, lead/melodic lines, and the general feel of the music are all part of the language in their own right.
Studies show that learning a musical instrument like the piano helps strengthen the same parts of the brain responsible for language processing (source). Therefore, becoming proficient at playing the piano not only introduces the language of music but also enhances our brain's ability to learn spoken languages.
Learning & Playing Piano Improves Memory
The idea that learning a musical instrument improves memory is widely accepted thanks to a variety of studies and publications on the topic.
Our memory can be improved with proper training (source). The auditory and tactile stimulation of learning and playing the piano, combined with the visual aspect of reading music, is a real brain workout. More specifically, learning a musical instrument like the piano will stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in emotions and memories (source).
Consider all the factors of learning and playing piano that involve memory:
- Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
- The notes of the piano
- Chord shapes
- Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)
While learning and playing the piano, we stimulate the hippocampus, which activates neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. Neurogenesis is linked to improved learning and memory (source).
Learning & Playing Piano Helps Build Relationships
Whether you're a professional performer or a casual player, learning the piano can help you make new lifelong friends. After all, music does bring people together, and if you can play a song or two or understand the piano, there are plenty of other players who share your interest and/or passion.
Relations span from the teacher-student relationships to jam friends, to music fans and professional colleagues (if you decide to go pro and join an orchestra or similar group).
As you're learning, you may decide to find a good teacher. Once you've developed some skills and knowledge, you may want to become a teacher. A few online resources to consider for online piano teachers are Fiverr, Preply and Upwork.
However you go about it, learning the piano can make you a more compelling person and spark conversations that may have otherwise not happened.
If you've developed the skill and confidence to play live, you'll certainly meet venue owners, music fans and other musicians. Music excels as a social art, and it makes it much easier to meet new people and develop deeper connections.
Learning & Playing Piano Provides A Creative Outlet
Whether we're naturally musically inclined or not, we all have the capacity to be creative (source). Learning to play the piano gives us a fairly obvious creative outlet to write our own music and also to perform the music of others in our own fashion.
Studies show that learning musical instruments like the piano creates connections between the brain's two hemispheres. Learning the piano and regular playing/practicing can actually increase the size of the corpora callosa, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). With new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to create innovative and unique musical ideas.
Learning & Playing Piano Has Therapeutic Benefits
Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)
Music, in general, is also being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:
- Promote Wellness
- Manage Stress
- Alleviate Pain
- Express Feelings
- Enhance Memory
- Improve Communication
- Promote Physical Rehabilitation
I can personally attest that I feel better on days when I listen to and play piano. This is true whether I'm playing along to songs, writing music, or learning new material, though I don't perform live (if the audience is paying, I'm playing guitar)!
Learning & Playing Piano Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
“Money makes the world go round” – Paul Van Der Merwe (source). With the first of two bonus benefits, let's discuss money.
Once you've become adequate at playing the piano, there are many different avenues to monetize your skills. Of the numerous options, I'm particularly fond of the following:
- Performing original music live (at clubs, dinner parties, churches, coffee shops, and even busking)
- Performing covers live
- Record streaming royalties from original music
- Teaching piano lessons
- Recording as a session pianist
- Composing for stock music libraries
There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize your piano-playing skills. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the piano.
Learning & Playing Piano Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
Learning and playing the piano isn't only about the technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the instruments themselves. Leaning the piano gives us a great opportunity to learn more generally about the physics of sound and keyboard instruments.
Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of a piano teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:
- How to tune the piano (or hire someone to do it for us)
- How humidity affects wood and other materials and how to keep the piano performing optimally
- How UV rays affect wood and other materials and how to keep the piano performing optimally
- How to clean a piano
- How to position microphones in and around a piano for sound reinforcement and recording