Ever hit a rough patch with practicing? In those times, you may wonder, “Will all this effort pay off? Will I (or my child) even continue playing piano throughout adulthood? What’s the point?” Maybe the most important benefits are not musical. What if there are character traits being cultivated that don’t fully blossom till later in life? As an adult, I’ve grown in my appreciation of being a pianist more than ever before- especially when it comes to the skill of reading music. I can find 6 correlations in which piano has benefited my life as an adult. Piano is:
In order to follow notes on a page, one is forced to focus. Sound is abrupt, therefore you immediately feel a change in your current state. The very nature of listening to piano keys is calming and contemplative. One can feel the body relax and the mind clear. Worries from that day are forgotten. All that matters in this moment, is this flow of energy that wraps around you. When I play classical music in particular, I am transported into an even deeper meditative state. I observe how my emotions rise and fall with the music. These specifically arranged harmonies, clashes, and musical phrases push me into the world of a composer some hundred to several hundred years ago. There’s so much culture, history, and emotion that I am now witnessing via their ears and experiences. It’s quite an exhilarating feeling. I’ve become increasingly interested in how classical music is designed because of this meditative factor.
Laughing, crying, socializing…there’s many ways of releasing expression and playing an instrument is also one of them! This is especially beneficial to personalities who are not naturally expressive with words. When it’s hard to understand your feelings, music comes in for the rescue. Being vulnerable with an instrument can feel safer than with a real person. Songs are also more forgiving and comforting to your emotions, than say, a boxing bag. On conflicting days, experiment with playing your own melodies. If you find your emotions being absorbed by the keys themselves, you’ve found another way to communicate or release. Who knew that a good practice could make one feel stronger and anew.
3. Delayed Gratification
How many people do you know who are comfortable with delayed gratification? I find them few and far between, after all, now-days there’s simply no need. You want a specific meal? You got UberEats to pick it up for you. You want another blanket? Amazon will bring it to you tomorrow. You don’t like the movie you’re watching? Within seconds, Netflix has plenty more options. You want another associate to help you on a project? Post a job and you’ve got lots of applicants. It doesn’t take much effort to get results. Learning any instrument, will teach you otherwise. That mentality of “little effort, immediate reward” needs to be tossed out the window. Even talented musicians are only as good as they practice. It takes months, sometimes years, to get just one piece down. You might feel you are “not quite there yet” forever and you have to be okay with that. You practice the same measure 30 times, morning and evening, and MAYBE you’ll be happier with it tomorrow. As I’ve grown older, I have noticed there’s something quite admirable about someone who can work hard, stay focused, and commit to a challenge without knowing when and if the reward will come. It may be these people will stand out in a growing competitive world.
Part of learning an instrument means you have to practice it daily. Practicing 4 hours on the weekend won’t get you there as fast if you had split up that time into 30 minutes everyday. The key is to practice on a daily basis- and that’s a kind of discipline that will take you far. Remember any new skill requires more effort in the beginning than later. If you are constantly stuck in the take-off, you’ll constantly feel how hard it is, never seeing the benefits. Once you do see the benefits, you won’t mind being disciplined as much. Imagine how much more ahead you are once you’ve already gone through this cycle. These experiences give you real world knowledge and will give you a realistic perspective when choosing to engage in a new discipline.
5. Dismantling Fear
Eleven pages of sheet music laid out in front of you will feel overwhelming. Organizational skills are crucial here. How can I make this realistic? Where are the patterns in this piece? How can I break it down and still accurately piece it back together without losing myself? A music teacher takes that responsibility upon themselves and shows a student different techniques in breaking a piece down. Suddenly, a student realizes, “Actually yes, I can do this.” When you experience this again and again, song after song, you start to believe that anything (even the overwhelming projects) can be done. As long as you have the skills to organize the challenge into smaller manageable parts- of course it can be done. As an adult, being faced with new challenges, I face it with a sort of confidence because I’ve already had some training in knowing how to be my own navigator.
6. Identifying Patterns
Being able to find patterns in one’s life can save years of lost effort. A good music teacher will train you to look for patterns in the sheet music before you play your piece. Yes, it’s great if you can read notes accurately on the whim, but it’s better (and more efficient) when you can spot patterns in the piece even before you play. What’s even better than that, is mixing the two! Can you identify patterns in real time? These are all things we work on as we read music. Imagine if we applied this to real life situations. Do you know the patterns in your daily life? How do we respond under pressure? What do we turn to when we want to check out? How does your partner behave when they are holding back? What kind of friends is your child drawn to? Think about how much faster you get to know yourself, your loved ones once you’ve been conditioned to pick up patterns.
Those are the six benefits that have been my favorite in my adult life. Of course, the benefits of learning an instrument are vast- increased focus, creativity, multi tasking, coordination are just a few more. If you’d like to know more, you can refer to this blog that already has study links attached.