Piano Lessons by Nancy Frase
Discovering your unique path to musical achievement
There are many great reasons to learn how to play the piano. It is a beautiful instrument with a beautiful look and a beautiful sound. It is versatile -- it can play most any style and genre of music. It can be an artistic outlet for emotions. It can be a source of public and as well as personal entertainment.
Research has repeatedly shown that children who learn the piano do far better scholastically than those who don't. Not only are their artistic and musical skills above the norm, but their language and mathematic skills are also improved. Even early exposure to music (for example, playing classical music for a yet-to-be-born baby) is believed to greatly increase the number of neurological connects between the two halves of the brain -- which improves overall brain function.
Exposure to hearing music and creating music can be especially critical in the brain develop of those with developmental challenges. And, it can help to slow the loss of cognitive ability in older students by exercising both the logical and the artistic parts of the brain and by keeping the two parts of the brain connected to each other.
The architecture of the piano allows even very young students (or students with other physical challenges) to perform, despite an immaturity or degradation of muscular strength and/or fine motor skills. And, smaller lung capacity, short arms, small hands and missing front teeth are pretty much non-issues -- very few musical instruments can make any of those claims!
As skills and strength develop -- either naturally within the growth process or as a result of steady piano practice -- there is plenty of room for students to learn new, more complex techniques. It is through precise skill and advanced dexterity that technically correct and/or emotionally rich pieces can be produced. The opportunity for skills improvement will keep pianists challenged for a lifetime.
Piano students are taught to use core-supporting body posture (straight back, tall spine) and proper hand position. This is the same body and hand position that is proper for typing on the computer keyboard. Considering how much we tend to sit at the computer these day, learning this technique is invaluable.
Performing for an audience
One of the greatest fears we face is the fear of public speaking. Part of learning how to play the piano is having the opportunity to perform for others -- in small groups or for large audiences. By taking advantage of the opportunity to perform in relatively comfortable situations, the student gains confidence is his or her ability to handle stage fright. And, the student comes to understand that he or she possesses a skill that others value. This does wonders for self-esteem!
Most instruments can only produce one, or at most a few, notes simultaneously. However, the piano can produce as many notes at one time as there are fingers available to play -- and more if forearms, noses and chins (and toes?) are incorporated into the action. It is an entire orchestra in itself, so to speak. An individual person can produce an incredible, full-bodied performance. At the same time, it sounds beautiful when played in conjunction with other instruments or with vocal performers.
The piano is the best instrument for establishing a musical foundation. The biggest reason is that, with a piano, students can see the physical, spatial relationships among the various notes and they can hear the auditory relationships among a very wide range of pitches. This is not the case with the vast majority of other instruments. Even guitars and other string instruments are very limited in that respect.
The piano supports the exploration of both the melodic (the recognizable "tune") and the harmonic (chords) components of music -- again, this capability is limited with other instruments. The resulting solid foundation makes it much easier to pick up a second instrument when the time is right.
I had a student who learned to play guitar first. When we sat down at the piano and started looking at the spatial relationships, he said, "Oh, that's why those notes sound good together!" and "I didn't realized that the pitches associated with the various strings on my guitar overlapped!" As a result of seeing the various pitches represented by individual keys on the piano, he finally understood how they all fit together.
The ability to express one's internal emotional state through playing an instrument is very therapeutic. Whether one's mood is upbeat or sad, angry or excited, the piano is capable of supporting the expression of any of those emotions. Sometimes, when words fail, music fills the gap. Playing the piano or composing a piece of music can often facilitate a shift in mood. It can often pull the pianist out of a funk. And, strong emotion provides the inspiration for all the yet-to-be-written music of the world.
Many people earn good money as musicians. There are opportunities for performers (for example, in a rock band, as a classical pianist or as a vocal artist), orchestral or choral conductors, composers, music teachers, choral or orchestral pianists, music directors for churches, etc. The options are endless.
Good, clean fun
I am part of a family where holiday gatherings with extended family are often highlighted with times of creating music. All my aunts and uncles have at least a piano and an organ in their living room, and sometimes a digital keyboard. We pull out the guitars, accordions, trumpets, trombones, violins . . . and those who don't play an instrument join in with their voices. For hours at a time, we keep the in-laws and the neighbors entertained with all the old, well-loved hymns. These are some of my favorite memories -- I wouldn't trade them for the world.
By bringing music into your life, you open up the possibility that you can be part of the wonderful world of sharing music. Maybe your co-musicians won't be your family members . . . maybe they will be your friends. Maybe you'll find new friends through the music. Either way, it's all good, clean fun.