Ten Surprising Benefits of Playing the Piano

Taken at the most basic level, having the ability to play a piano is a worthy accomplishment. But, when you scratch the surface, you’ll find that the benefits one gets from playing the instrument go deeper. Some of them, in fact, might actually surprise you.

This is by no means an exhaustive list… but, playing the piano benefits the player by:

Increasing cognitive development. Numerous scientific studies support the fact that making music stimulates the brain in unique ways. In fact, almost no other activity stimulates the connection of neurological pathways like piano playing does.  Those connections can then be utilized in other disciplines, such as math, science and engineering.

Increasing the capacity for memory. According to an article from The Telegraph Online, “new research suggests that regularly playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.” There is continually more evidence to support that musicians have organizationally and functionally different brains compared to non-musicians.

Helping to accept constructive criticism. Years of working with a qualified piano teacher means young student have already received a lot of feedback that they soon find helps make them better at their craft. Their ability to respond to criticism – and learn from it – will typically carry over to other aspects of daily life, such as school and work.

Teaching perseverance. Learning to play any instrument takes time and effort, which teaches patience and perseverance.

Aiding in language development. According to research done by San Raffaele University in Spain, children that learn music before age 7 have much larger vocabularies and an easier time learning a foreign language.  Adults with musical background such as piano training in their youth learned foreign languages more quickly and efficiently than those who didn’t.

Getting over stage fright. Recitals and piano competitions give children the tools to cope with the stress of being on stage or performing in front of others. These will be useful skills to have later, in the workplace.

Broadening social circles. Having this skill opens up opportunities for broader social circles: school plays, community orchestras, musical theater, church worship teams, etc.  Such networking and connections can help throughout a person’s life.

Developing good hand-eye coordination. The act of reading music develops good hand-eye coordination, and as well as promotes exceptional fine motor skills

Reducing stress. Appreciating and listening to music has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress and decrease the tendency for depression.

Inspiring creativity. Playing the piano requires one to be creative every time they play. Research by Vanderbilt University psychologists found that musicians use a creative technique known as divergent thinking which requires one to use both sides of the brain. Piano players use both sides of their brain to correlate their hands with the music they’re reading.  Exercising this technique is why musicians tends to be more creative thinkers and problem solvers.

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What’s a Good “Starter Piano”?

Your child has just announced the news: He or she wants to play the piano!   Immediately, your heart swells with excitement because there’s about to be a musician in the house, and your home will forevermore be filled with the heavenly sounds of rhapsodies and concertos.

Then reality sets in. Not so fast, you think. First, your little sweetheart needs to actually learn how to play the piano … and that means, oh man, you’ve got to buy a piano. Usually, the very next thought is that you’re just not sure your child will have the fortitude to stick with lessons for the long haul, so you’re thinking maybe you’ll just go with “a starter piano.” After all, the thought of spending a chunk of change on an instrument that might ultimately go unused is highly unappealing.

You’ve reached that pivotal moment; the next decision you take can actually make the difference between whether your new piano enthusiast ultimately succeeds or gives up. How’s that, you wonder?

Many people think spending a little as possible on a first piano is the way to go, because – if Johnny or Suzy DOES bail – you won’t have spent a few months’ mortgage on a book/mail/dust collector. But, keep in mind, most “cheap” pianos don’t perform well… that’s why they’re cheap! If it’s an old, unresponsive instrument with sticky keys and broken pedals, a new pianist will experience only frustration. The piano won’t be fun to pay. It won’t sound good when played. It won’t do what the musician asks of it. And that could very easily lead to discouragement … enough discouragement to make a child give up. For this reason alone, a starter piano should be an extremely reliable and responsive instrument that makes engaging in the creative experience as enjoyable as possible. The instrument should be able to easily allow the player to play at a wide range of volumes. It should have a very accessible and wide ranging tone – not just bright or muted, but both, depending on what the song call for. It should be a quality instrument.

In the same way we wouldn’t put children in old, lopsided, rundown shoes when they’re learning to walk… we shouldn’t give them a less-than-quality piano when they’re learning to play.

-Jon

Keep it Tuned Up

It’s a question I get asked all the time, usually when I’m saying goodbye to a customer whose piano I’ve just finished tuning: When will it need it to be tuned again?

My response is preferably every six months, but at least once a year. When they invariably ask “why so often?,” my rather dramatic answer usually shocks them a little, but it’s the unfortunate truth: The northeastern part of the United States of America is quite possibly the worst place in the world for piano.

When the look of surprise leaves their face, I explain that the difference in the humidity here between January and July is especially hard on an instrument made mostly of wood.

Dean Petrich, a fellow Registered Piano Technician, says it well.

“Humidity fluctuations is the number one cause of changes in piano tuning. When the soundboard, pinblock and bridge are in a moist environment, the wood cells absorb the moisture and swell up, and as they expand they pull the strings tighter, causing the piano to go sharp. Logically, if the piano moves to a drier atmosphere, the wood shrinks, the strings loosen and go flat, and sometimes cracks and splits may open and start buzzing. Every seasonal change — every wet season and dry season — alters a piano’s tuning.”

In my experience, this is certainly true. I have, on occasion, tuned a piano in November, and by January the piano is already beginning to drift out of tune, because the humidity level has dropped so dramatically in just a two-month period.

To wait more than 12 months between tunings allows this cycle to take the tuning farther and farther away from its optimal setting. And if a piano owner continues to let time go by without a tuning, at some point – precisely when depends on the environment – the tuning will have drifted so far from ‘concert pitch’, that it may require a double tuning (a rough tuning and then a second tuning in the same visit), or worse. Worse? A triple tuning is not out of the question … but, in extreme cases, it could mean your instrument is heading to the junkyard. Which, of course, is something none of us wants.

– Jonathan

Visit our website at www.preludemusiccenter.com

Is There Such Thing as a “Free” Piano?

Maybe this has happened to you: You’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a piano for yourself or one of your kids and you come across an ad that says this: “Piano, free to good home!”

And you’re thinking, “YES! This is my lucky day!”

Well, I want to urge you to think again. In my experience, there is no such thing as a free piano.

I often gets phone calls from people who say they came upon a “free” piano, or that a friend wants to give them a “free” piano. While the piano itself might have some value (or might not… Read on!), you can pretty much rest assured that your wallet will not remain closed.

At the very least, the piano will have to be moved and tuned, both by professionals with experience in those areas. And that can easily cost $600 when all is said and done.

Another thing to keep in mind when someone is giving away a piano is the reason they’re doing so. In my experience, people don’t give away a piano that has any significant value. Quite often they’ve been told the piano is unusable and should be disposed of. This can cost them several hundred dollars. So, a piano owner might think someone else would be “blessed” by it. I’m not saying the giver has malintent! I’m just saying that if someone is willing to take away an unwanted piano, the person is doing the previous owner a favor.

And one more very important thing: always have a Registered Piano Technician look at any piano being sold (and especially being given away) by a private owner.

Visit us at www.preludemusiccenter.com