There is a wide array of activities children can engage in, from sports to dance to chess. For parents who are particularly interested in helping their children develop intellectually, modern neuroscience and psychology seems to point in one direction. What they find is that music lessons, and in particular instrumental lessons, cause measurable effects in the development of the children’s brains and cognitive abilities.
A popular theme in the 1990’s, the so-called “Mozart effect” was the idea that you can improve your intelligence by listening to music by Mozart. Experiments have managed to confirm only short-term improvements in the subjects’ visual-spatial skills. However, it is unlikely that passive listening can lead to any substantial improvements.
Since then, improvements in brain imaging techniques which allow researchers to image neural activity while a person is performing a cognitive task, have allowed numerous researchers to investigate the connection between instrumental training, brain development and cognitive function. Together with psychological tests, these studies have come to confirm that learning to play an instrument has many long-term beneficial effects on the brain.
A study on 4 to 6 year olds found that the musically trained children had better working memory (Fujiokaet al. 2006). Brain scans on 9 to 11 years olds have shown that children who play musical instruments have significantly more grey matter volume in several areas of the brain, and the increase seems to correlate with the intensity of the training (Schlaug et al 2005). Other researchers (Schellenberg 2006; Patel and Iverson 2007) indicate that musicians perform significantly better than non-musicians on tests of spatial-temporal skills, math ability, reading, vocabulary, verbal memory and phonemic awareness. Music lessons were correlated with abilities associated with fluid intelligence, such as working memory, perceptual organization, processing speed, and with better verbal comprehension and high school grades.
Perhaps the most ambitious project in this field is currently unfolding at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, which houses a state-of-the-art concert auditorium alongside neuroimaging and research labs. The institute, endowed with Steinway concert pianos, is currently performing a five-year research project to investigate the emotional, social, and cognitive effects of musical training on the brain development of children who are exposed to intensive music education.
While the correlation between instrument lessons, brain development and cognition are by now well established, a lot more research is still left to be done. Parents interested in taking advantage of what we know so far have good reasons to consider signing up their children for music and instrument lessons.
Of the instruments which can be played by children, the piano has several obvious advantages:
• it is easy to produce a sound on the piano- just press a key
• the quality of the sound does not depend on the player but on the instrument (a high quality instrument such as a Steinway produces a high quality sound)
• the pitches are ordered from low on the left to high on the right, a pattern which makes playing easy songs immediately obvious to children and parents alike
• interested parents can learn very quickly to assist their children in the learning process, and to join in the music making.
A good teacher, supportive parents, and a quality instrument
In order to be successful in their study of piano, students needs three important components: a good teacher, supportive parents, and a quality instrument. For the most part, kids quit piano lessons because they don’t have the right tools to succeed.
To assist parents and students in getting a quality piano, Steinway & Sons has created 3 brands of the highest quality pianos from all price points, in addition to their $69 per month rental program. Any serious piano teacher will agree that learning on an electric keyboard or sub-standard acoustic piano is detrimental to a student’s ability to be successful at piano playing.
Aleksandr Bernhard, a gifted pianist and Sales Representative at the Steinway Piano Gallery of Coral Gables quotes a joke frequently heard from piano teachers, which goes something like this: “Would you send your kids to play a sport with the cheapest possible gear or would you make the investment in quality gear so that they can be successful?” All joking aside, it really is a valid comparison. If you are investing your time and money into a good teacher, why not set up your child for success by giving them the tool they need to be successful, that is, a high quality acoustic piano.
As an American Icon for the last 160 years, Steinway handcrafts every one of its pianos at their famed New York Factory. They also have a long history of collaboration with the world’s top piano instructors and piano students, and always welcome parents and kids to their showrooms, piano galleries, and recital halls.
Boosting your children’s brain development and cognitive skills, a community of parents, teachers and students striving for excellence, instruments of the highest quality; these are all the best reasons to sign up your children for piano lessons today.
“Marco is one of the lucky kids who has discovered the joy of making music through the art of playing the piano. On a morning spent recently at the Steinway Gallery in Coral Gables, he was happily trying all the songs he knows on the beautiful instruments displayed on the showroom floor. We are looking forward to see where his musical journey will take him.”
Written by: Mihai Preda, Ph.D.
Mihai Preda, Ph.D.
Miami Piano Studio, Director
Dr. Preda has founded Miami Piano Studio in 2011. With locations in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables & Miami Beach, the studio uses an approach which integrates the study of piano, math, composition and improvisation.
Steinway Piano Gallery Miami
4104 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL 33140
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