Perhaps the greatest benefit of having a piano in your life is also the one we’ve known about the longest–the uplifting effect it has on your spirit. When you sit on that bench and open the keyboard cover, you tap into a powerful way to communicate emotion, enliven a gathering or just relax.
Just beneath the surface, however, the piano is much more than that. For example, a recent study at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, demonstrated that grade-school children who took piano lessons for three years scored higher than their peers on tests of general and spatial cognitive development–the very faculties needed for performance in math, engineering and other pursuits.
Other scientists are coming up with similar results. A University of California at Irvine study showed that kids who took piano lessons along with computer puzzle-solving did better in math. Among older Americans, according to a Michigan State University research effort, keyboard lessons significantly reduced anxiety, depression and loneliness.
In fact, researchers probing the inner workings of the brain have found neural firing patterns that bear a remarkable resemblance to music–suggesting that music may hold the key to higher brain function.
Playing the piano is also an excellent way to strengthen eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, and kids who take piano lessons learn a lot about discipline, dedication and the rewards of hard work.
For so many people, having music in their lives means having a piano in their homes. And while the piano is beefing up your brain, it’s adding beauty to your home, joy to your entertaining and a lasting investment to your life.
But when you sit down to play, it’s okay if none of these other benefits crosses your mind. For three hundred years, the simple joy of making music has been all the reward a piano player ever needed. For most of us, it’s still enough.