Two years ago, my wife and I started our oldest daughter, then six years old, in piano lessons. Both of us being musically oriented, we feel that music instruction is just as important as enrolling her in soccer, gymnastics or ballet.
But, when practice begins and the sound of scales badly played reverberates through the house, I began to wonder what was I thinking? Beyond the general discomfort of the first couple of years what are the benefits children receive from piano lessons?
Actually, there are many beneficial attributes children acquire from learning to tickle the ivory; the following are five of the most prevalent:
The most talked about benefit children receive from piano lessons is that it also helps with their school lessons. Numerous studies available show children who play an instrument, score higher on both standard and spatial cognitive development tests alike. There are also findings that show kids who play piano, in particular, scored higher in math, especially on problems dealing with ratios and fractions.
In one particular study conducted by Dr. Frances Rauscher (a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh) and Gordon Shaw (a physicist at of the University of California at Irvine) tested preschoolers who received piano instruction. They found that preschoolers who received piano lessons scored 34% higher than their nonmusical counterparts in tests measuring spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the brain function used to understand math, science and engineering.
Learning to play the piano is hard work and takes dedication. Not only does each song mastered increase a child's self-esteem, but showcasing their newly learned talents at piano recitals can boost their self esteem as much as winning a game in a sports competition.
Lessons also help kids to learn how to keep a positive outlook when facing difficult tasks. The understanding that mastering a new skill is a process that requires patience helps children to approach tasks with confidence, and not become discouraged or frustrated.
Increased eye-hand coordination is almost a given for children that learn to play the piano, but there is more than that. Kids who play the piano have improved fine motor skills and, unlike other instruments, the piano requires both hands to work independently of each other, one moving fast while the other may be moving at a slower rate. All of these things help to increase a child's overall dexterity and complex thought processes.
Reading a piece of music takes a great deal of focus, causing a child to interpret a note and a rhythm, translate it into hand movements on the keyboard and then immediately go on to the next one. Reading and playing music allows them to think both critically and creatively, which is a skill that will assist them in anything they choose to undertake in the future.
Regardless of whether a child plays the piano for a short time or for a lifetime, the long-term effects of their piano pursuance are many. Through playing the piano, children are exposed to classical music that they may otherwise have never heard. Kids may develop an appreciation for composers like Bach or Mozart that stay with them for life. In addition, the skills and knowledge they learn in piano may help them easily pick up another musical instrument later.
So, as I sit and listen to my little one, pounding painfully away on the black and whites, all I have to do is remember that as she continues to practice, she'll be creating a great deal more than a few simple melodies, which is truly music to my ears.
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Foundation for Universal Music Literacy Research Materials. How Music Can Dramatically Effect Your Child's Development and Life-Time Success. 18 Oct. 2005. <http://www.allegrorainbow.com/media/pdfs/ChildrenandMusicResearch.pdf>
Pianonet.com. Benefits of Playing the Piano.  18 Oct. 2005. <http://www.pianonet.com/articles/benefits.htm>
Pianonet.com. Discover Pianonet: Learn to Play.  18 Oct. 2005. <http://www.pianonet.com/discover_learn.htm#>
Begley, Sharon. Pianoiseasy.com. Music on the Mind.  18 Oct. 2005. <http://www.pianoiseasy.com/showpage.cfm?page=articles>
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Essortment.com. Benefits of piano lessons for a beginner.  18 Oct. 2005. <http://ksks.essortment.com/pianolessonsbe_rbrw.htm>
VanLandingham, Cynthia. EzineArticles.com How Piano Lessons Benefit Young Children.  18 Oct. 2005. <http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Piano-Lessons-Benefit-Young-Children&id=38953>