The benefits of learning piano at a young age have been heavily researched for decades. Many of the studies are the result of the apparent natural need for music in the human mind. The U.S. National Institutes of Health state:
“One of the differences between the developed brains of Homo sapiens and those of the great apes is the increase in area allocated to processing auditory information. … The ear is always open and, unlike vision and the eyes or the gaze, sound cannot readily be averted. From the rhythmic beating within and with the mother’s body for the fetus and young infant, to the primitive drum-like beating of sticks on wood and hand clapping of our adolescent and adult proto-speaking ancestors, the growing infant is surrounded by and responds to rhythm.”
Academic studies have also shown that humans can, indeed, increase their IQ – an accomplishment that has previously been thought impossible.
“…this study demonstrates that 6-year-old children receiving instrumental musical training for 15 months (compared with children receiving non-musical training) not only learned to play their musical instrument but also showed changed anatomical features in brain areas known to be involved in the control of playing a musical instrument.”
The key to increasing IQ is to learn to play an instrument. Not only do piano lessons promote brain development for children, but they also develop fine motor skills that are so often lacking in childhood development.
Benefits of Learning Piano at a Young Age
Children usually have more “plastic” minds than adults. This means that their brains are easily adapted to new skills and information. This is one of the reasons parents value second-language lessons in primary school.
Music is a language all on its own, with symbols and notations unique to its own purposes. When children are exposed to piano lessons at an early age, they form neural pathways that link the right hemisphere of the brain – the analytical thought – to the left hemisphere of the brain, which is where abstract thought and creativity originate. For this reason, parents will often continue lessons for their child even if the child doesn’t seem interested in the instrument. It’s a form of education in which the child participates, rather than a form of expression.
Other Benefits of Piano Lessons
There are many other benefits of learning piano at a young age for children.
- Academic Success: Children who play the piano are usually more successful in other subjects such as language arts and math. The experience with left-to-right reading, symbol recognition, and problem-solving translates to other skills in reading.
- Auditory Skills: Children learn to discern musical elements through ear training, linking what they see on the page and feel with their hands with what they are hearing. This is an invaluable advantage in language skills.
- Math Skills: In study after study, students who have piano lessons and other music training do better in counting and in math. Part of this is due to the meter and progressive fractions of written music. But more importantly, students learn to read with a steady beat and a sense of the duration of sound in time – both abstract notions. This develops the brain, giving the child a larger capacity for understanding mathematical concepts.
- Language Skills: The Mozart Effect has opened many avenues of music education for children in relation to other disciplines. In studying music, children become more aware of pitch differences, which, it turns out, is crucial in learning to speak and sound out words when reading.
Kids Playing Piano
When you have kids playing the piano, you have kids who are lengthening their attention span, reading a “foreign” language, and coordinating their fine motor skills with reading. Teachers have found that kids playing the piano develop:
- Patience: Children learn, when playing the piano from an early age, to be patient with their own learning process, as well as with receiving instruction. They also learn to accept mistakes and learn from them.
- Discipline: Kids who take piano lessons show an understanding of self-discipline and tend to be more organized. They have learned that hard work has rewards.
- Humility: Students who play the piano have to learn to take constructive criticism. This is a subtle form of humility in which kids find that there is always a better way to perform a task and improve performance. This makes for a more pro-active student in all subjects.
- Confidence: Kids learning piano at a young age demonstrate more confidence in their abilities. This is partly because they have had experience in receiving correction followed by immediate reinforcement of correct performance. Students learn that they can learn even if they make mistakes. They find satisfaction in overcoming difficult obstacles, and they learn leadership skills when performing in recitals.
Piano Lessons for Toddlers
There has been a great deal of discussion in the music teacher communities regarding whether piano lessons for toddlers are a good idea. Some view this as a travesty, while others see babies playing piano as entirely possible.
The truth is, there is a middle ground. A toddler certainly cannot be expected to practice 8 hours a day but can learn to recognize certain notes on the staff and on the keyboard. They can be taught a few minutes at a time to use certain fingers and hand positions – not for future fame and glory as a child prodigy but to coordinate hearing, movement, and sight.
Artistry for Young Piano Players
We have had students in our studios who refuse to play songs in a minor key. Others obviously prefer minor music. Rage Over a Lost Penny is a favorite with some of our students who want to express anxiety or anger.
Some students are energized by the energetic minor key pieces composed by Daniel MacFarlane, while others drift away in some dreamy tone poems by Lynda Lybeck Robinson.
Regardless of personal taste, young piano students can learn to express their own artistry and to appreciate the talents of others through performance.
There is so much more to taking piano lessons than merely “checking off a box”. The truth is, about 80% of adults who quit piano lessons wish they had continued. Will you allow your child to make a mistake they will always regret?