Her tiny fingers curve over the piano's keyboard, eyes lit with concentration. Back straight, elbows out, bare feet dangle high over the gold plated pedals. She gazes at the page propped in front of her, crosses her legs, drops her shoulders and slips too close to the instrument. Her chest taps it; she slides back on the bench, straightens her spine, uncrosses her legs.
"E, E, F, G, G, F, E, D…," she sings, in 4/4 time.
Amaze Girl is learning to play piano.
Like eye color, height (or lack of it), piano playing runs in our family. Amaze Girl's grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother were church pianists. Super Daddy played in a homeschool jazz band.
In our family, mothers teach their children to play. Some kids are absorbed by the music, others merely tolerate the experience. Everyone benefits.
Playing piano is a physical and cross curricular experience. It involves reading, writing, language, math, PE, goal setting, discipline, self-motivation. It exercises one's ability to focus and maintain attention, improves hand/eye coordination, enhances creativity and emotional expression, strengthens digital dexterity, tones reflexes, sharpens the mind.
Hands play different notes and rhythms, in different styles, at different times. This split concentration occurs in both the body (physical) and brain (mental) and trains the mind to multitask, focus attention, identify emotion, distinguish sounds in a crowded, noisy environment, and more.
A study at Northwestern University showed that neurons fire when a person is engaged in playing music. When left and right hands do different things neural pathways between hemispheres are strengthened.
"…music can be used to improve language development in children, offset aging and provide remediation of mild traumatic brain injury…"1
Early musical education enhances neurological development, positively affects neuron function, and slows memory loss that naturally occurs as a result of the aging process. When a person plays an instrument, especially piano, linguistic and scholarly performance improves. A person's brain changes as a result of musical training, specifically the left temporal lobe, which houses verbal abilities and enhances cognitive development.2
Our piano is a digital instrument with sound and technical options and was a gift to the family from Super Daddy's musical grands. It can change keys, apply metronome, add reverberation, echo and plays in opera, organ, harpsichord, orchestra and other styles. There's a "player piano" feature. It never needs to be tuned! Amaze Girl and Wonder Boy both enjoy touching the keys and tinkering with the piano's fun features. Currently, only Amaze Girl is learning to play.
Amaze Girl earned an "excellent" sticker for playing "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie" in the Treble Clef. Now she perfects Ode to Joy in the Bass Clef. Soon, treble and bass clefs appear together on The Grand Staff. Then? Sharps, flats, naturals, key signatures. Both hands at the same time.
Fingertips caress keys, light neurons, tame attention and focus.
Making music is just the beginning.