Why We Do It — The Profound Benefits of Learning to Play the Piano

Occasionally, and almost certainly more often rather than less, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of just what it is we can get out of learning to play the piano. The benefits are truly profound, and far more than what we may often think about. Keeping them in mind helps us keep our eye on the ball — and our fingers on the keyboard with an effective practice routine.

In our Foundation Session at or near the beginning of your lessons, we talked about the positive impacts that music can make in your life. There are intellectual impacts, like increased capacity to reason and process information. There are social benefits, from learning piano in a group as some do to the many occasions when you can bring people together through making music. Emotional and psychological benefits range from feeling good about yourself because you’re good at something, to the opportunity to express yourself through music. We even noted spiritual benefits, since musicality is inside all of us and a core part of what it means to be human, and we can connect with that deeply when we learn to play an instrument. We also talked in that Foundation Session about the four goals of Simply Music, which you can read on this page about the Simply Music method. All of this sounded pretty good.

To leave it at that, though, isn’t at all sufficient, for two reasons. First, it’s often easy to lose sight of why we take lessons, why we bother to learn to play. When things are going well, we may not need to have that at the forefront of our thinking. But when we’re in a plateau or a valley, feeling unpleasant about lessons or practice, there’s nothing better at helping us forward than reconnecting with why we got involved in lessons in the first place. By taking our focus off of how much we’re disliking the “what” of that moment in our lesson experience, we can get in touch again with the “why,” with what we’re working toward, with what lessons really offer us. That’s what can keep us going and help us make a priority of practice even when we otherwise might not feel like doing it.

The other reason that what we said earlier wasn’t sufficient is that it just scratches the surface. When we look deeper, here’s what we see:

Playing music can make you feel good. Happy. Relaxed. Free. Joyful. Entertained. Transported. Connected. Healed. And when you play music, it can cause others to feel all these things as well.

It’s an opportunity to communicate and get in touch with yourself. To develop your abilities and feel a sense of confidence, accomplishment, achievement, self-esteem. To release your emotions, inspire and express your creativity, and learn more about who you really are.

Through playing music, you can lose yourself in the moment, experiencing a very different and powerful state of mind compared to what we normally know during the rest of the day. Going beyond yourself, you may even experience music as a form of prayer, connecting you to a higher power and a giving you a sense of oneness with yourself and all things.

Music is also an opportunity for oneness with others, for unity through community. You can share with others, you can learn from and teach others. It can create companionship with others, even as it music itself becomes your own companion. Music can provide therapy for yourself and others alike.

When you play music, you can have fun and feel playful, and yet it can also be a constant source of new and exciting challenges. If you need an escape or distraction, music can provide it, and in a way that’s substantially healthier than many other escapes and distractions. It can involve not just the fingers and feet but your whole body, all contributing to an increasing awareness of your own physicality. Music can even earn you an income.

Music is also, and importantly, an opportunity to learn from mistakes — and an opportunity to learn about mistakes and how to handle them constructively. It is an opportunity to learn about learning itself and to remain open to life, in a constant state of exploration.

Ask adults who play music how important it is to them. Almost across the board, they will not say that it is important, or even very important. They will usually say that it’s right up there with the handful of the most important things in their life. Spouse, children, livelihood, their relationship with their higher power. Music makes it onto that list. No wonder, since music is at the core of what it means to be human.

When you take on music, it will be with you through your greatest triumphs and tragedies, offering you the deepest levels of experience and expression. It will never get old or become obsolete. It will be there for you, always. And it will make a difference in more areas of your life than you can currently imagine, and in more ways than you could be aware of right now.

Learning how to play music is quite simply one of the best things you can ever do for yourself.

This is why it’s worthwhile. This is why it’s worth making a priority. Stick with practice even when for the moment you feel like you’d rather not. Seeing it through maximizes the likelihood of retaining music as a lifelong companion, providing the path to everything described here.

Isn’t that worth following some instructions for a few minutes a day, even when you don’t want to?

Some final words, especially for parents or other adult life coaches of students who are children, but worthwhile even for adult students who may be in a position to contribute to the lives of others:

As mentioned in an earlier piece on the importance of the life coach, these pieces tend to be written as if to the student but are also crucial for you in helping support the young students in your charge. Just as it’s worth reminding ourselves regularly of the “why” to help keep things on track, there is something particular for you that goes along with this. It is equally worth reminding yourself of on a regular basis, and right now, having just looked at what lies ahead, is an ideal time for such a reminder.

Every bit of what we just saw, that’s what’s possible for your children. And when your children become adults and they have all of this in their lives, it won’t be the teacher your children thank most. Not the teacher who your children saw for a few minutes a week and helped make sure that the learning to be done was clear, but you, the parent who helped them see it all through and make the learning happen each and every day. Not the teacher who opened the gate and pointed the way, but the parent who actually held their hand and walked them through the gate because they were just kids who weren’t ready to walk that path fully on their own. Your children will grow up knowing how to walk those paths themselves because you taught them how. They will be the ones who have all the rewards, and you will be the one your children will thank for it.

Isn’t that worth helping your children follow some instructions for a few minutes a day, even when they don’t want to, and even when you don’t want to?

Leave a comment below.

5 comments for “Why We Do It — The Profound Benefits of Learning to Play the Piano

  1. Bill Giruzzi
    October 13, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Nice!!!

  2. Carol Guidi
    October 21, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Thought provoking…thanks Mark

  3. October 22, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Glad you all have enjoyed this!

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