Did you know that there are many benefits from learning the piano other than the satisfaction of learning to play a musical instrument or being able to show off to friends and relatives?
Every time you sit down at the piano beneficial explosions are set off all over your brain. Should you have practiced enough you may appear to be calm and able to read the music perfectly. Your ability to move your hands skillfully over the keys will amaze but little will the spectator or you perhaps know what exactly is going on inside your brain.
How do we know this?
Well, in the last few decades, neuroscientists have become able to understand how our brains work by monitoring them in real time with machines measuring the brain activity. When placed in these machines the task a person is given such as a maths problems or reading can be observed in a specific location of the brain.
But when the researcher had the participant listen to music the WHOLE brain showed activity. The sound was seen to be being processed and broken down into individual elements such as melody and rhythm and then reconfigured into a musical experience. It’s extraordinary how quickly our brain can do this and how soon our body can move along with the music we experience.
The Musicians Experience
When, however, the person who was playing the instrument was observed the results were phenomenal. The whole brain was effected. The neuroscientists saw multiple areas of the brain became lit up as intricate and interrelated information was processed at incredibly fast speed.
Neuroscientists now believe that playing a musical instrument affect the visual, auditory and motor corteses of the brain.
And the self discipline and structured work effort needed to improve ones musical ability has an equal effect these brain functions and allows us to then apply this to other brain activities.
The Advantages For A Musician
Both hemispheres of the brain are required when playing music due to the motor skill being such an important brain function of a musician. The left side is responsible for the brains linguistic and mathematics skill and the right is recognised as the novel and creative side. The two hemispheres are bridged together by the corpus callosum which due to the greater motor skill of the musician has to become more involved to allow the passing of more information from one side of the brain to the other.
This may in turn benefit the musician by:
- Making their problem solving more effective and creative in both academic and social settings.
- Improve their ability to combine tasks and to plan with an attention to detail.
- Having advanced memory functions allowing them to create, store and retrieve information more quickly.
Are These Benefits Unique To Musicians
Neuroscientists have discovered that learning to play a musical instrument is different from any other activity, including other arts. Participants who entered a study with the same level of cognitive function and neural processing when exposed to a period of music learning had developed improvement in multiple brain areas compared to the others.
What are the disadvantages?
Well, the piano or any musical instrument can be hard to learn unless you are really gifted. If you are forced to learn any instrument I can see that it can no longer be as much fun. And if it becomes your profession then honestly I can only imagine that at times it becomes more than simply a fun hobby!
In a nutshell though I would say that if you are like me and play for your own personal satisfaction and challenging form of entertainment then there isn’t a disadvantage. It’s ultimately beneficial as well as extremely satisfying.
It also certainly helps put to rest the worries of the day.