The piano keys are black and white, but they sound like a million colors in our mind
Maria Cristina Mena

From the first clap of our ancestors to today’s DJs, music has always had a strong influence on our emotions and behavior. Over time, people have learned how to build more and more complex objects that they could use in order to produce sounds and rhythm that they couldn’t do with their body and voice. One of the most beautiful instruments that humans have constructed is definitely the piano.

Piano keys

Piano is Italian word that means “soft”. Some would say that its name is a mismatch with its appearance - it is a massive instrument, with strong legs, solid body, and 88 keys stretching from one side to another. It might look rough, but don’t let the look deceive you - this is a gentle and tender instrument that allows you to provide beautiful sound just by pressing one of its keys. From the first time you hear its voice, this robust object will become your intimate companion that will help you to express and elaborate all of the feelings and ideas for which you couldn’t find the appropriate words.

Playing the piano has a whole list of different benefits for the people of all ages, from children to the elderly ones. In the text below, some of these benefits will be mentioned so that you can get familiar with the positive effects of playing the piano.

Understanding music theory

If you want to play an instrument you have to be familiar with music theory. Of course, you don’t have to be an expert, but there are some basic things that you have to learn. However, the thing is that not all of the instruments are the same when it comes to learning and understanding music theory, as some of them are simply more suitable for the beginners. It can be stated that the piano is the champion in this category, as no other instrument is more convenient for the understanding of music. The piano is a very intuitive and simple instrument to understand - the notes on the left are the lowest ones, and as you go right, the pitch is increasing. Besides that, there are white keys (representing the whole notes) and the black keys (semitones), so it also provides you a visual representation of the scales.

You won’t find this on any other instrument. For example, on the guitar (which is probably the most popular instrument) there is no way to visualize music concepts, as it isn’t transparent as the piano, simply because all of its frets are the same. It is true that some frets are marked (third, fifth, seventh, etc…), but this is just helpful when it comes to finding a particular note; it is enough just to change the key and then you also have to change your orientation elements. There are no these issues on the piano, as all of the notes are next to each other, and the same sequences on the keyboard are repeated over and over again. Besides this, on the guitar one note is higher in pitch when it is played on the string below even if it is played on the left side of the current note, so the arrangement is not as clear as it is in the case of a piano. Of course, you should remember that the guitar is surely one of the instruments that are relatively easy to play, and you can imagine how complicated the instruments like violin or harp can be.

Another thing that you should remember is that the piano will allow you to really understand the logic behind every scale or a chord, as you will be able to see it. This is why people who play the piano are often more familiar with music theory than the guitarists who usually just learn the basic concepts without any detail exploration. Of course, once you understand these music concepts, you can easily apply them to any other instrument.

Intellectual benefits

Of course, one of the most obvious benefits is the one that refers to the intellectual aspect. Just by relying on your intuition, you can assume that in order to play the piano, your brain has to go through serious training. First of all, you have to separate your hands. Try to tap your right hand in one tempo and with your left hand another tempo. It is not an easy thing o do, isn’t it? In order to play the piano, not only that you have to move your hands independently, but you also have to practice your fingers as well, as you’ll have to press specific keys at a specific time. Don’t be discouraged by this, as these skills can be achieved simply by practice and dedication. However, practicing isn’t just good for your playing, but it is also beneficial for your brain.

Pianist on stage during concert, playing

Playing the piano activates your entire brain. This is no surprise, having in mind that in order to play a piano you have to coordinate your hands and fingers, to plan every note before you play it, to feel the flow of the music, to find a particular note on the keyboard, to press it in a particular way, and to do all of these things practically at the same time. However, don’t be intimidated by this - it might sound complicated but it can be mastered with no problems. Also, the piano will straighten the connection between two brain hemisphere, which is very important for executive functions, such as planning, estimating the consequences of a certain behavior, etc…

Some studies have shown that pianists have more efficient connections between different parts of the prefrontal cortex than the average people. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for the most complex behavior, such as planning, problem-solving, metacognition, social behavior, and basically, for integrating all of these pieces of information together. Besides this, there is also data that suggest that pianists are more creative than average people and are better at divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to approach things in an original and unconventional way. People who are good at this can use and perceive everyday objects in a different and interesting manner. They have unique ideas and usually come up with things and concepts that make other people say: “How haven’t I thought of it?!” Some researchers believe that creativity is probably the most important aspect of human cognition and that in today’s society it is not appreciated enough.

The piano is especially beneficial for children, as it can improve their memory, vocabulary, and reading skills.

Influence on the mood

Besides improving your cognitive abilities, the piano can also help you to feel better. It has been shown that playing the piano can decrease depression and enhance positive mood. Not just that, but it can also diminish anxiety and stress. Of course, some people can ask: “But what if people who are not depressed and anxious simply choose to play the piano? Maybe the ones that start playing the piano are simply less depressed and anxious?” This is an excellent question. However, the researchers have also recognized this problem, so they have organized experiments in a particular way so that they can be sure that the piano is the factor that can lead to the lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Pianist on stage playing

Flow experience

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has come up with the concept that is known as the flow experience. Have you ever been absorbed in a particular activity so much that you forget about the time? And not just time, but also about everything around you, and even about yourself? If the answer is yes, then you have experienced the flow. You would probably agree that this was a very pleasant experience and that you have felt good after it. Well, you are not alone. [It has been shown][ref-flow-happy] that people who experience the flow on regular basis are happier than the ones who don’t. One of the best ways to experience the flow is by playing the piano. Because of its simplicity and the fact that it is very intuitive to play, you will get used to it in a short period of time, and you will be able to play it without much effort which will allow you to simply enjoy playing.

Conclusion

Everyone who has ever played the piano knows that there is not anything like that feeling when you press its key. At that moment, you are aware that the part of you that couldn’t be expressed has finally found its language and its way to communicate with you and the others. This is an extraordinary and very valuable experience that will soon become one of your habits.

By playing the piano, you will also ensure a positive influence on your psycho-physical condition. It might sound like a fairytale, but it is the truth. All you need is a little practice to start with, and then, the piano will take you on a journey you’ll wish would never end.