There are practical reasons to study piano, along with creative, artistic and social reasons. Practical reasons are listed first to underscore the idea that private study and learning to play an instrument at a high level can provide a foundation of independent learning and creative skills for other advanced pursuits and to help prepare children for the future technology-based economy.
1. Effective Practice: In The Talent Code author Daniel Coyle explains how focused practice builds neural pathways that support and facilitate skill development. Once good practice habits are established, the process of learning works for other studies and sports. For school age students, daily practice can lead to improvements in other learning. For adults, it is a “brain booster.” In this day of multitasking and gadget addiction, practice provides an opportunity (or excuse) to fully engage in only one thing and be “in the zone”.
2. A foundation for Other Instruments: Most of the basic skills learned in beginning piano apply to other instruments and voice. Students learn to read music in both clefs, they learn to navigate an instrument with both hands, they learn basic scales, chords and counting, and they learn to conduct themselves appropriately in a musical setting.
3. Acquire and Develop Performance Skills and Be Accountable: Pianists can’t “hide” in ensembles or on teams. From the start, students learn to master their pieces, introduce themselves, tell a story through their playing, acknowledge their listeners and assess themselves when done. Learning to manage “butterflies” and dealing with performance preparation and associated slips that occur is an important part of the process.
4. Acquire and Develop Collaboration Skills: Playing duets (and other small ensembles) requires a high degree of collaboration and teamwork, particularly when both players are beginning students.
5. Develop Physical Coordination and Awareness: Learning piano is as much a sport as it is an art. Technique, or the means by which the instrument is played, requires whole body engagement and awareness. Technique must be taught just like a tennis serve or shooting hoops, and good physical conditioning is part of the practice.
Creative, Social and Artistic Reasons
6. Express Emotions or Tell a Story with Sound: Music is a non-verbal language that can often relay feelings better than words. When a student loves a piece, they relish the chance to “make it their own” – even if it’s been played a million times before.
7. Another Way to Understand the World: What does a Bach suite tell us about the time and place in which it was written? What do the pieces of the late 19th and early 20th century composers tell us about that time in history? What do the early jazz pieces tell us about our own heritage? In learning piano, we learn about other music, about ourselves and about the world around us.
8. Connect with Others: Music brings people together for important life rituals, holidays and passages. Those who can play provide a great gift to their friends and families.
9. Become a Profound Listener: Music students must learn to listen – to themselves and to others. In learning to listen, we learn to hear the other side, and perhaps better understand and support our differences, including those that are musical, social and political.
10. For a lifelong “friend” and refuge: Piano is something that people can come back to at any age, regardless of the time away or the level of playing. There are many opportunities for adults to participate in performances, attend camps and competitions, and remain active and engaged in music at all levels and stages of life. There is a global “tribe” of music lovers to connect with online and in person.