piano
Image courtesy of Nick Oliver

A beautiful saying is that love is like playing a piano. First, you must learn to play by the rules, then you must forget the rules and play from your heart.

The piano is among the most popular instruments to learn, and it’s not difficult to imagine why. For a single instrument, it’s capable of so many musical colourings thanks to its volume range, wide tonal and pitch.

The delivery of sounds is so diverse that the instrument can be played for various genres including pop, rock or classical music. It’s simply down to the pianist.

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Clearly, it’s a core passion for many and can be addicted. Unlike other addictive habits, this one is actually very healthy. Scientifically, it is said that practising the piano is very good for the brain. Playing music illuminates different parts of it and studies show what happens while a pianist is at work.

A pianist’s brain is therefore wired differently to other people. But why is this?

Here are a few reasons…

  1. Brain energy is used more efficiently

Once a pianist has become experienced in their craft, their brain eventually needs less blood and oxygen to the motor skill section of the brain. The fact that less energy is needed means there’s more energy to go to other parts.

During the process of playing a song, this extra energy may go to the emotional connection to a song for example. The longer you play and practise, the more efficient your brain will become.

  1. They will be original and true to themselves

Pianists will be able to freely express themselves in a way that does not come as naturally to other people. A study by Dr. Ana Pinho revealed that experienced pianists are able to turn off the part of their brain that develops stereotypical responses.

Pinho scanned the brains of 39 pianists, a mix of professionals and students. While inside the scanner, they were told to start improvising and play whatever type of music they liked.

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Brain activity was less apparent in the experienced pianists because their brains were working more efficiently, using less energy as mentioned above. The parts of the brain that were linked to creativity and improvisation were then stronger in the pianists who practised the most.

Pinho said, “More improvisation training led to more automation and higher functional connectivity between regions that are important for creative playing. This greater connectivity improved the efficiency and communication between those brain regions.”

This means that experienced pianists can quite literally play from the heart without copying a generic rhythm. This ability to turn off stereotypical responses can therefore prove to be useful when applying to everyday life.

  1. The pianist’s brain becomes unique and balanced

Dr. Gottfried Schlaug said that while some individuals may already have suitable brains to successfully learn music, the time you spend practising will change your brain no matter what.

“Improvisation is one way into understanding creativity. These tools allow us to understand what brain regions are involved in creative thought and in coming up with new ideas,” he said.

“Once we know what those brain regions are it might be possible to influence them. And from a societal perspective, it’s always important to strengthen creativity, because it is the seed for new developments and new ideas.”

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Practicing the piano will eventually make the player’s brain more balanced. People are born with a dominant side of their brain (which is why we’re right or left-handed). A pianist, on the other hand, will be using both sides of the brain as they play with two hands. They will eventually learn to become equally in control and balanced. This makes the brain even itself out so the pianist will master both hands and various parts of the brain – this in turns makes you a great multitasker.

  1. The ability to multitask in extreme

Many people say that they’re multitaskers, but they don’t realise that it involves a lot more than just doing several tasks at once. It also involves a link between the frontal lobes (which are parts of the brain which are immediately behind the forehead).

The frontal lobes control your emotional responses and they concern your behaviour, personality and impulses. Being a real multitasker will mean that all these parts of the brain are working at once, on top of the tasks you’re operating.

Due to the way a piano is played, the pianist will therefore develop strong problem-solving skills and become an efficient multitasker. They will have the ability to think practically and creatively at the same time, and this will be apparent in their lives beyond piano playing.

  1. The language centre of their brain lights up

Ever heard of music being the one universal language? Well, that may be the case.

A study by Dr. Charles Limb found that when pianists improvise, the language regions of the brain starts to function.

This means that while they are playing, the pianists’ brains are reacting in the same way as they would if they were engaging in spoken conversation.

“They appear to be talking to one another through their instruments,” Limb explained. “What happens when you have a musical conversation? You can have substantive discourse using music, without any words, yet language areas of the brain are involved in this unique way.”

This means that another part of your brain is being worked and it delves into the way musicians communicate with their music with complete focus.

So, if all that isn’t enough to convince you that pianists are amazing, then I don’t know what is. Each day, you should take some time out to practise playing and feed your brain.

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