I always like to give my adult students some reasons to learn to play the piano (and practice). Number one is you simply need to want to learn to play, because learning how to play the piano is hard work. However, another motivation is that there is plenty of evidence as to why learning to play the piano is good for your brain.
Music researchers are finding correlations between music making and some of the deepest workings of the human brain. Research has linked active music making with increased language discrimination and development, math ability, better-adjusted social behavior, and improvements in “spatial-temporal reasoning,” – a cornerstone for problem solving. Here’s some science based reasons why people should learn to play the piano at any age.
Effects of music learning and piano practice on cognitive function, mood and quality of life in older adults.
Reading music and playing a musical instrument is a complex activity that comprises motor and multisensory (auditory, visual, and somatosensory) integration in a unique way. Music has also a well-known impact on the emotional state, while it can be a motivating activity. For those reasons, musical training has become a useful framework to study brain plasticity. Our results suggest that playing piano and learning to read music can be a useful intervention in older adults to promote cognitive reserve (CR) and improve subjective well-being.
Why Play Music?
Adults age 60 to 85 without previous musical experience exhibited improved processing speed and memory after just three months of weekly 30-minute piano lessons and three hours a week of practice, whereas the control group showed no changes in these abilities. Involvement in participatory arts programs has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, physical health, and social functioning in older adults, regardless of their ability.
Music And The Brain
In recent years we have begun to gain a firmer understanding of where and how music is processed in the brain, which should lay a foundation for answering evolutionary questions. Collectively, studies of patients with brain injuries and imaging of healthy individuals have unexpectedly uncovered no specialized brain center for music. Rather music engages many areas distributed throughout the brain, including those that are usually involved in other kinds of cognition.
Individualized Piano Instruction enhances executive functioning and working memory in older adults.
Active music making promotes cognitive skill and concept development directly influencing memory formation and retrieval. Music instruction has improved cognitive abilities among other demographic populations. Individualized music instruction has been directly correlated with higher verbal memory task performance among children and college students.
Music and the Brain Graphic
This famous graphic was created by Encore Music Lessons in 2014, the infographic cites several scientific studies which point towards music lessons being good for your cognitive development.
Here’s a cropped version of my favorite part of the graphic:
Some Recommended Books on Music and the Brain
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain By Oliver Sacks
This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession By Daniel J. Levitin