Of all the musical instruments you could play, perhaps one that could provide you with the most benefits is the piano. Aside from physical health, playing the piano can also generally improve your mental health.
Some would even go so far as to say that learning how to play this instrument has made them smarter. Is there any truth to this? Do you think a musical instrument can really enhance your intelligence? Let’s find out in this article.
Mental Health Benefits of Playing the Piano
The thing is, it’s rather difficult to answer the question since we don’t have an operative definition of what “smart” is. However, what we do know is that playing the piano can provide us with numerous mental health benefits.
Below are some of the advantages you get from learning this instrument and how they contribute to your brain functioning.
Prevents Memory Loss
The first benefit of playing the piano is how it prevents memory loss. As we grow old, it’s inevitable that our brain’s processing slows down. However, playing the piano is a form of mental exercise because we have to continually process auditory signals.
Because of this, we get to prevent the decline of our brainpower and prevent memory loss.
Improved Math Skills
Believe it or not, music, or more specifically, notes and rhythms, actually involve math. For us to be able to play the piano properly, we need to learn how to count rhythms and read music sheets. Because of this, we tend to develop the part of our brain that’s responsible for arithmetic and math processing.
This is why students, or people in general, who can play a musical instrument or the piano can better understand and solve mathematical equations.
There is a term called the “Mozart Effect,” which suggests that people, especially children, who play the piano show signs of early onset of language development. One explanation for this is the similarities between translating a music sheet and learning a foreign language.
When we play the piano, we learn to associate unfamiliar symbols in music sheets into hand movements. Coincidentally, that’s the core of language development. Identifying sounds or characters and learning the meaning behind them certainly develops a person’s mastery of any language.
Through the same explanation above, playing the piano can also boost your reading comprehension. We decode symbols in a music sheet to play them on the piano, and we do this in such a fast-paced manner. This improves our brain’s ability to translate letters and symbols quickly to keep up with the piano piece’s rhythm and tempo.
Because of this, we get to apply the same skills in reading. By associating different letters that form words, we tend to understand phrases or sentences in a fast-paced manner as well. This generally improves our reading comprehension.
We all know that musicians are creative. However, you must know that pianists, or specifically jazz pianists, take this to a whole new level. If you’ve ever heard of jazz music before, you might have noticed how sometimes it’s not fixed to a certain structure.
That’s how creative jazz pianists are. In most cases, jazz pianists tend to turn off the part of their brain that’s widely responsible for stereotypical or default responses. This means that their performances are widely improvised.
This allows them to further develop their brains and keep on firing up numerous brain neurons to create music that’s unlike any other.
Reduced Stress & Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can significantly wear down our brain’s function. Because we’re always on alert, or what they call “survival mode,” we will always feel exhausted. As a result, our brain’s processing abilities will be significantly reduced.
However, one major benefit of playing the piano is how it relieves us of stress and anxiety. Just like any other hobby, playing the piano is a way for us to escape the daily troubles of the world, even for just a little while.
This significantly improves our brain’s ability to fight off anxiety and makes us more adept at handling stress. Additionally, this also means that playing the piano is one way to treat or at least reduce signs of depression and other mood disorders.
When you’re always worried about your overall appearance and demeanor, you spend too much of your brain’s energy, reducing the room for positive thoughts. Learning to play the piano or any other musical instrument can boost your confidence.
This serves as a gateway for more positive thoughts to enter your mind. The overall improvement in your self-esteem reduces the brain energy you spend doubting yourself. This allows you to face challenges better and develop your mind and body holistically.
Concentration, Patience, & Discipline
We’re not going to lie. The piano is one of the most difficult instruments to learn. That’s because it involves tremendous patience, discipline, and concentration. Thankfully, these are also the areas where you get to improve when you play it.
Various areas of your brain are stimulated when you play the piano. You can think of it as a full-blown workout for your brain. As you strengthen the different areas of your mind, you also get to form new neural connections that help you think critically.
All of these advantages do not just make you a better pianist but are also things you can apply in different aspects of your life.
Development of Brain Structure
What makes the piano a difficult instrument to learn is that your left and right hand would need to work independently and press individual, different keys at the same time. As you master this skill, you get to improve your hand-eye coordination.
Separating your left and right hands and being able to control them easily as different entities executing different movements improve your brain structure. That’s because you also get to develop or form new neural connections, and the more your brain has them, the more it’s capable of processing complex things.
We all have our own ways of learning. Some of us learn visually, while others are auditory learners. However, one of the most effective ways for us to learn is to conduct the activities personally or with our own hands. This is called kinesthetic learning.
When you play the piano, you get to learn that a certain action merits a certain reaction. For instance, playing a certain key on the piano will also produce a specific note. This kinesthetic learning improves our psychological and neural functioning.
Time Management & Organization
One major part of being smart is the ability to organize certain things and manage your time. These two aspects are present in playing the piano. First, you have to find the time to fit piano practice or lessons into your daily schedule.
Additionally, you also need to learn how to play notes and progressions efficiently while sticking to the piano piece’s tempo and rhythm. These are all effective measures to improve our organizational and time management skills.
So, does playing the piano make you smarter? Well, that depends on what your definition of “smart” is. However, given all the mental benefits we’ve listed above, we can confidently say that it improves a person’s brain structure.
Ergo, if you want to improve your or your kid’s mental ability, one of the best ways to do that is to learn how to play the piano.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.