13 Misunderstood Benefits of Playing Piano

In this article, I’m going to lay out 13 benefits of playing piano, along with a challenging reply to each. These are common reasons, and some of them may appeal to you. However, learning a musical instrument is hard, and if you find yourself practicing for the wrong reasons, you’re going to find it difficult to stay motivated.

To look deeper into what benefits you can expect to get from piano study, try adopting the alternative mindsets I suggest below.

1. I want to create beautiful music.

Reply: Oh yeah? What happens when you don’t make beautiful music? You know you aren’t going to be very good at first, right? And even after studying for years, you will still sound quite bad at times. If you like listening to music, why not just pull up any number of world-class performances on YouTube?

More sustainable alternative:

I want to engage in the process of learning to make music. This process will take time and will involve playing music that sounds bad, and that’s actually the fun of it.

Many piano students stress out over the fact that their playing sounds bad. Try instead to change your mindset about this. You’re a beginner. It will sound bad. 

2. Piano is relaxing and my life is stressful.

Reply: Sorry to tell you this, but playing a musical instrument can be stressful too. I wouldn’t exactly call it relaxing most of the time.

More sustainable alternative:

I am learning because I want to grow as a person. Stress is part of this process at times, and that’s not a problem.

If you feel stressed out, remind yourself of why you’re doing this. Chances are, your focus has shifted away from your practicing, and you are fixated on a particular outcome (playing a difficult piece, doing well in a performance, etc.). And when you don’t achieve that outcome, it’s natural to become frustrated.

This is normal. Try to view it as an opportunity to put your attention back on the here and now. 

The stress is not a sign of a problem.

3. I’m bored in my life and want more fun.

Reply: Again, it’s not always fun. Some people even find it boring at times.

More sustainable alternative:

Activities become fun when I make the decision to care about them. This is an opportunity to learn something that will become mine, and I will love it whether it’s fun or not.​​

Piano might seem like a great amount of fun, until you try it. Then, it can turn into pure frustration!

At that point, you have two choices: (1) quit and try to find your fun somewhere else, or (2) persist

The choice is yours, but anything worth doing is going to be frustrating at times. The frustration is a sign that you care.

4. I like to get good at things.

Reply: Well, you’re probably not that great at it. And what are you going to do until you get good at it? Are you going to be constantly worrying about whether you are good yet? Of course you are.

More sustainable alternative:

I love having a beginner’s mindset, and being bad at things. This is what challenges me to stretch my mind in new directions.​​

As the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki once said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Being a beginner is a rare opportunity to approach a subject with no preconceptions or biases. Try to make use of this. You don’t need to be really good at piano really quickly. Instead, try to enjoy the fact that you don’t really know what you’re doing. Take your time. Enjoy the scenery. If you practice this consistently, you may be surprised by how learning this skill is one of the main benefits of playing piano.

5. I quit piano as a kid and want to make up for lost time.

Reply: You took lessons 30 years ago and now you want to make up for it? I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t getting those 30 years back. They’re gone. If only you hadn’t quit, you’d be 30 years ahead now! Wow… This is supposed to be motivating for you?

More sustainable alternative:

That was then; this is now. No time like the present.

You can’t change the past. If you’re upset because of lost time, try thinking about everything you have accomplished during that time. You are where you are now, for better or for worse, because of what has led you to this point.

If you’re worried that you are too old to learn piano, you’re not alone. At the same time, this worry will only serve to get in the way of your practicing. Let yourself grieve for the lost time, and use that sadness to bring vitality into your practicing.

6. I want to play with a choir/vocalist/rock band.

Reply: ​​A worthy goal, but maybe you aren’t there yet. It could take a while, too. If you’re just starting out, it could take years, even. Keep it in the back of your mind, but you’re going to need something else.

More sustainable alternative:

I am really inspired when I watch skilled musicians play. Even though I can’t play like that, I can work to incorporate their qualities of playing into my own practice. 

It’s so common to compare oneself to others. It’s also rarely useful. Piano is something that must be learned on your own.

When you notice yourself comparing your playing to that of a professional’s, you may stress out over how much you’re falling short. Instead of judging yourself, try to notice how much you admire their playing, and why. Even if you’re a beginner, you can still learn a lot, and you should try to emulate what you can. For example, can you bring some of their energy, musical expressiveness, or willingness to risk making mistakes in public into your own playing?

7. I like being pushed outside of my comfort zone.

Reply: ​​No one likes being pushed outside of their comfort zone. That’s why they call it a “comfort zone.” Maybe you heard that it’s good to be pushed. But you don’t like it. That will motivate you for about 9 days…

More sustainable alternative:

I hate being pushed out of my comfort zone. But, I still practice, because that’s what pianists do. 

Are you expecting that a “gung-ho attitude” to piano playing will keep you going forever? It doesn’t work in dieting or exercise, and it won’t work in music study.

Instead of pushing yourself past your limits, try to accept the fact that you are a human being who is sometimes lazy. That’s normal, and perfectly fine

Practice because you made a choice to practice, not because you need to improve. Sometimes it will feel comfortable, and sometimes it won’t.

8. Improved hand-eye coordination.

Reply: ​​Haha…I have been playing for years and I still sometimes feel like I have two left hands.

More sustainable alternative:

Practicing the piano will make me better at piano. I’m not expecting anything else.

Piano practice might make you better at hand-eye coordination overall. But, don’t count on it. Instead, focus on the task at hand. What amount of hand-eye coordination is required to practice the piano in the way that you’re trying to practice?

And when you do some other activity, focus on that activity.

9. Increased confidence.

Reply: ​​You’re joking, right? Walk up and down the halls of any music school and you will come across some of the most insecure people I have ever met in my life.

More sustainable alternative:

Sometimes I will feel confident, and sometimes I won’t. My goal is to develop self-acceptance, even when I don’t feel confident.

Music requires you to bring your whole self to the table, including any personal insecurities. These insecurities can easily surface in a way that can make you feel decidedly not confident. 

This is especially common at higher levels. Often, the better you get, the higher the level of competition, and the more reasons you have to evaluate yourself negatively.

If you can conquer this, then yes, confidence may indeed be one of the many benefits of learning piano. But in the meantime, expect some ups and down. Try to go along for the ride.

10. It will make me well-rounded.

Reply: ​​So what, you are going to study an instrument for 2 months and then check it off your list, and move on to the next thing? Fine, but maybe you should save your money and time, and just check it off the list now. I won’t tell.

More sustainable alternative:

In the time I spend studying music, I will give it 100% of myself. Even if that’s only 2 months (or 2 hours). I know that anything less will not give me the results I’m looking for.

I have nothing against trying out piano for a little while just to get a taste of it. If you do this, however, try to make a commitment to really experience it for that period of time. Study music for the benefits of playing music itself, not just for some idea of how it fits into the bigger picture of your life.

For example, if you are an actor specializing in musical theater, you might decide to take piano lessons because it will give you a better understanding of music. That’s great. But when you sit down at the piano, you are a pianist, not an actor. Be a pianist, and do what your teacher tells you to do, even if you think “this isn’t important to me as an actor.”

11. Others will be impressed.

Reply: ​​Yes, some of them will be. But the better you get, the more you are going to try to impress people. If you get really good you will become a professional musician and surround yourself with people who take these skills completely for granted, and you will feel like it was all a waste.

More sustainable alternative:

When I play for others, it is only as a gift to them. I do not expect anything in return. They can be impressed or not, but this is not why I do it.

Playing the piano can indeed be impressive. And, it can feel really good to get admiration from others. However, this can’t be your reason for doing it. Unless you are consistently spectacular, you will fail at this from time to time. 

Furthermore, this attitude actually takes your attention away from the music. Music requires vulnerability and sensitivity. You must be focusing on what you’re trying to express. That can leave you open to rejection, which has to be OK with you.

12. To develop self-discipline.

Reply: ​​So you sign up for something you hate, just so you can learn how to force yourself to do things you hate? Sounds like a blast.

More sustainable alternative:

I know that if I feel like I’m having to force myself to practice, it means I’m going against my nature. Instead of developing self-discipline, I am working to develop self-compassion.

Our culture teaches us this image of discipline as something you need to force yourself to do. This is counterproductive, because if you view it as a matter of willpower, you will fail once you run out of willpower.

Instead, notice that your resistance to practicing is trying to tell you something important about yourself. When you approach practicing in a way that works for you, the resistance will melt away. This kind of “discipline” feels easy, because you are internally aligned with your own values.​​

13. To become smarter/get higher test scores/awaken 100% of my brain and develop psychic powers

Reply: ​​Great idea, start playing a musical instrument so that you can become good at something besides a musical instrument…

More sustainable alternative:

I am learning piano to make best use of the abilities I currently have. Music can challenge me in ways that very few other activities can, and this is part of the joy of being human.

I hear this a lot from parents who want to give their kids an advantage in school, and from adults who want to stave off the mental effects of old age. These might indeed be real benefits of playing music, but they do not do music study justice.

Piano playing is intrinsically rewarding. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what kind of career you have or want. Studying the piano, like all art forms, is a celebration of what it means to be human. If you find yourself worrying that piano is not giving you the mental results you’re looking for, try to direct that worry into your practicing.

Have I missed any other benefits of learning piano?

Have you found any of these benefits of playing piano to be motivating? Do you find yourself motivated by something else entirely? I want to hear about it. Leave a comment below and let me know!


6 responses to “13 Misunderstood Benefits of Playing Piano”

  1. […] 13 Misunderstood Benefits of Playing Piano […]

  2. I totally agree with what you said that learning music will require you to express more of yourself for the sake of the art. I bought myself a grand piano, and I want my son to learn how to play too. We’re a family of musicians and it’s important for me that I influence my son with it. That being said, I’ll also look for the most recommended piano tuners to use.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I hope that your son is able to express his true nature.

  3. Ann Grogan Avatar
    Ann Grogan

    Lovely, amusing blog, and in most parts, so true! During the first year of the pandemic while locked down at home, I woke up to my high school spinet sitting in my dining room for 25 years plus, and at age 77 started adult piano lessons after quitting lessons when I graduated from high school. I love it! And I sometimes weep and curse when my hands wont listen to me. The only difference I have with what you say, is that keeping my brain’s neurons firing is a secondary but very important reason I am studying the piano, and now in the process of having a small Steinway rebuilt for me — my first grand piano! Using and improving one’s brain while being senior, in an of itself is not only possible, but a valid reason in and of itself to start adult piano lessons!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Glad to hear that you’ve started playing again. Here’s a tip: instead of asking your hands to listen to you, what if you listen to your hands?

  4. Phil Avatar

    Thank you for those comments and helping reframe assumptions about the piano and studying music. It is hard and frustrating, a long term project that requires practice.

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