As a piano teacher, one of my biggest joys is seeing my students experience success at the piano. Naturally, it’s so rewarding to watch them learn new piano pieces, achieve their goals and learn new skills.
But, it’s just as fun to watch my gain and utilize non-musical skills as well.
I have a pretty amazing bunch of students. They are all top-notch in so many ways. This is probably a chicken vs. egg scenario, but sometimes I wonder if high-achieving students are attracted to piano lessons, or if piano lessons give students extra super powers.
I think it’s actually a bit of both!
I was recently reflecting on some of the skills and disciplines that I notice in my student. It was hard to narrow it down, but these are 8 awesome life skills that I have the privilege of witnessing day in and day out with my piano students.
Learning an instrument can be so much fun, but you also need patience and dedication in order to reach your goals. I’ve said it many times, but progress at the piano does not always come in a straight line. We do not always immediately observe the results of our hard work.
It can be tempting to give up when we get stuck on something especially hard, or if it seems like we are not advancing as quickly as we hoped. Persevering through those difficult times is an important skill, not only for our future playing, but for other aspects of our life.
The musicians who inspire us may be at a more advanced level, but they are on a journey as well. They continue to challenge themselves and experience struggles just as we do. Learning the piano is truly a lifelong endeavor. It is important to find contentment with the process of learning, even as we strive toward our goals.
Whether it’s applying for jobs, getting a degree, shopping for a new home, or tackling parenthood for the first time, there will be peaks and valleys along the way. We may be tempted to let current circumstances overwhelm or discourage us. Learning an instrument may help us to appreciate the work required to reach difficult goals.
2. Time Management
Have you ever crammed before an exam and surprised yourself by doing well? Unfortunately, this is impossible to do when learning an instrument. Since you are training your mind and body, you can’t just figure it out right before a lesson or performance. You have to allow for enough time to truly absorb the music.
Regardless of your learning style, it helps to have a plan for how long it might take to learn your music, when you plan to practice, and how to best use your practice time.
Understanding the time limitations involved in learning music may help you with time management skills in other areas as well. We will be more likely to succeed with other large-scale projects or goals in life if we plan out our time in advance.
Thankfully, music is never as simple as simply reproducing the notes on a page. You have to interpret the score, which requires creativity. There is a very personal element of making music on the page be your music.
Each unique challenge you face with the music you are learning requires creative problem-solving. You may need to ask a teacher or expert, watch a tutorial, do some research or consult with a friend, but only you can determine what you really need in a given situation.
The problem-solving situations you encounter with your music will help you when you face unique obstacles in your life. Learning to play music trains you in how to think creatively and use your own resources in working through difficulties in life when the answers are not cut and dry.
4. Thinking On The Spot
Picture the moment: you’re in the middle of playing a piece of music beautifully when, inexplicably, you play the wrong note. This can be so frustrating! You could have stopped, but your teacher has probably ingrained in you the importance of continuing on.
So, almost without thinking, you find a way to continue playing the music as if the accident didn’t happen. Music requires you to make split second decisions and adaptations. It forces you to think quickly on your toes. Over time, well trained musicians can react very quickly to small mistakes, surprises in the music, and unexpected outcomes.
With all the curve balls that life throws at us, the ability to think on our feet is an important skill for many areas beyond music.
In our desire to play music, we may be tempted to gloss over the details of a piece or abandon it for something much easier. But there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the results that come from mastering the details.
Learning to perfect the tiniest details in music is a wonderful way to cultivate patience. One of the most common pieces of advice that teachers give to students is to practice slowly. Slow practice can add up to fast, fluid playing. If you put in the time practicing slowly, it becomes effortless to gradually make your music move faster. The slow, patient work is what will pay off the most.
Practicing this kind of patience is a great lesson to bring into your everyday life. It’s worth it to do the most important endeavors in life the right way, even if it means spending more time on the process of bringing our goals to completion.
6. Communication and Collaboration
Music can be a wonderful way to express ourselves and connect with other people. How we understand and interpret music can be very unique and personal, however. Musicians have to learn to communicate not only about music, but, more importantly, through their playing.
In addition, as musicians progress in their playing, more opportunities will present themselves to collaborate with other musicians. This requires us to develop the ability to communicate our needs and what we are hearing so that other musicians can understand.
These strategies are helpful in your relationships at school, jobs, and other social situations.
7. Taking on Responsibility
Musicians are typically spinning a lot of plates. Life doesn’t slow down for us as we try to carve out time to practice, play in bands or ensembles, take music theory classes, or engage in other activities that will help us to progress.
Being a musician trains us to balance multiple responsibilities and perform under pressure.
Learning how to deal with your responsibilities in the music world can carry over to how you follow through with responsibilities in the rest of your life.
8. Coping and Stress Management
In the midst of our busy and often stressful lives, playing the piano can be therapeutic. Playing music may become an essential activity to get us going in the morning, recharge, or unwind at the end of the day. Or, it may provide us with a needed creative outlet.
I love hearing from my students or their parents that they turn to the piano in stressful times or in sad, challenging times. As pianists, we are so fortunate that we can turn to music when everything else is overwhelming. It brings us balance, peace and a respite in difficult times.