first instrumentI’ve watched it over and over again. Musicians who make the piano their first instrument are able to pick up and play other instruments more quickly. 

Why does learning the piano make studying other instruments easier? Because a person naturally learns music theory when they play the piano. As I mentioned in my previous post called 4 Reasons Why Piano is the Best Instrument For Learning Music Theorythe piano is a very visual instrument and students can see how scales, intervals, and chords are all laid out.

College conservatories know all about this. In most cases, students must reach a certain proficiency of piano to get a music degree no matter what other instruments they play. 

Let me give you some practical and real-life examples of what I am talking about. 

Treble and Bass Clef

first instrumentMusic for the piano is written on 2 clefs: the treble clef and the bass clef. Most other instruments only read one of the clefs.

A lot of kids who play the piano start studying around the age of 5 depending on their emotional (ability to focus) and physical (coordination) maturity. Most schools introduce band instruments to children somewhere between the 4th – 6th grade.

A child who has made the piano his first instrument has been taught how to read the treble and bass clef and has been doing so for several years. Let’s say that this student decides he wants to play the trumpet (a smart fellow!). Trumpet music is written in the treble clef. 

If the student isn’t taking private lessons already, he will be given group trumpet lessons by his band director with any number of other trumpet players. In this setting, a student who has played the piano only has to learn how to make a trumpet work.

The kid who didn’t take piano has to learn how to make a trumpet work AND learn to read music from the treble clef. This is obviously a much taller order.

First Instrument Coordination

first instrumentWhen I was a kid, my friends and I used to play a game that involved seeing who could pat their head and rub their tummy. Some of my friends couldn’t do it at all! For those of us who could, we would then switch it up by rubbing our head and patting our tummy.

For all of us who grew up playing this game, it would seem that some people have the “gene” and others don’t. Thankfully, this is not true. I would agree, however, that it does come easier to some of us than others.

The truth is that coordination can be taught. Driving a car is a great example, especially a car that is a stick shift. When flying down the freeway, you are using your eyes, your ears, both of your hands, and both feet!

Some of us are so good at this that we can drive with no hands and surf the radio while eating a Big Mac we just got at the McDonalds drive-thru! 

Playing the piano is a great way to increase your coordination. This, in turn, helps you when you decide to pick up a new instrument. 

Did you know that a bassoon player’s left thumb operates eight keys? For all of you music nerds out there (myself included), here’s the breakdown: B♭1, B1, C1, D1, D4, C4, B4, A4. Check out this article for more information on instruments and coordination.

In reality, all instrument take some degree of coordination. Making the piano your first instrument is a great way to sharpen that skill and prepare yourself for learning another instrument. 

Cerebral Cortexfirst instrument

The cerebral cortex is the part of our brain that is responsible for the following:

  • Determining Intelligence
  • Determining Personality
  • Motor Function
  • Planning and Organization
  • Touch Sensation
  • Processing Sensory Information
  • Language Processing

A recently released study from Hong Kong University in China showed that not only does the regimen of learning to read and play music increase the rate of learning new vocabulary, but it results in a permanent increase in the learning rate. If the music learning process stops, the increased capacity is retained. If the challenging music program starts again, the rate of learning increases further.

first instrumentIn fact, an MIT study determined that the cerebral cortex of a concert pianist is enlarged by 30% on average compared to people that are considered intellectuals, but who did not have instrumental music education. Another CA study found that 75% of Silicon Valley CEO’s had instrumental music education as a child.

What does all of this tell us about making the piano your first instrument? It shows that students who study piano initially have an advantage over students who have not. It pays off to start with the piano. 


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