Archive for : November, 2020

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Health benefits from playing the piano

For many years, the mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of playing the piano have been widely recognised. There are numerous studies linking the playing and learning of music to a healthy body, mind, and overall wellbeing.  Playing the piano is not only fun and entertaining, it is also a great skill to hone and possess. As such, here we will be exploring the numerous health benefits of playing the piano.

Cognitive ability

It is widely acknowledged that music has a significant impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals and playing the piano can help to support this. Piano practice not only helps to boost the cognitive and intellectual abilities of individuals, it also activates the areas of the brain that use maths and spatial reasoning.

Brain simulator

In fact, studying and learning to play the piano has been proven to improve the memory, helping people to focus and become more creative. A great example of this has been seen recently when composer and teacher Paul Harvey who was diagnosed with dementia last year was able to have a number one single despite suffering from the illness. Harvey is quoted as saying “My memory’s fine when I’m playing the piano,” and that when he is sitting at his keyboard, his forgetfulness disappears.

According to professor Helen Odell-Miller, the Director of the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University, music can help relieve depression, anxiety and other mental and physical health problems associated with dementia. 

Even those sufferers who have reached the stage in their dementia where they are no longer able to carry out daily functions such as getting dressed are able to still improvise on the piano. Researchers believe this stems from memories of sounds we hear as babies and piano music helps to tap into this area of the brain.

Stress-Buster

Studies have also show that playing the piano can help improve the mental health of those who suffer from depression, anxiety and loneliness by releasing endorphins and activating areas of the brain that help individuals to feel a sense of achievement and pride. It can help people to focus and relieve their mind of intrusive thoughts by diverting their attention to the intense concentration that the piano demands.  

The piano can also be a great way to relieve stress and is often used as a tool in therapy for those with attention deficit disorders and other mental health issues which cause individuals to struggle to concentrate.

Improves Memory & Vocabulary

The mental and emotional health benefits the piano can have on children has also been widely studied and has revealed that those who study music from an early age are far better at retaining information and learning as they progress through life. Children have been seen to drastically improve in subjects such as maths, science and even languages due to the increased spatial-temporal and verbal memory abilities that are improved by piano playing.

During these formative years children’s brains are like sponges and their mind are heavily structured by everything and everyone they interact with during this important period. These important skills will be retained indefinitely, enriching their life and allowing their brains to operate more efficiently.

Strengthens muscles

Although sitting at a piano may not seem too physically taxing, it can in fact help to improve your physical health. Playing the piano offers a unique physical and physiological workout that benefits players of all ages. Regularly playing the piano, even if for just 30 minutes a day can help to sharpen fine motor skills and improve your hand-eye coordination. This can be particularly useful for young children developing these skill in their early years as well as older adults who are looking to maintain healthy function of their motor skills. Although it may not seem like a workout, playing the piano can in fact strengthen your hands and arm muscles, something many adults can benefit from as they age.

Growth hormones

Studies have even shown that adults who play the piano often have an increased levels of human growth hormone which can fight the effects of natural ageing on the body and mind.

The effects of music in general on the human body are widely documented with research demonstrating how it can help to reduce heart and respiratory rates, cardiac conditions and complications as well as aiding in reducing blood pressure and increasing the body’s natural immune response.

Music has no barrier

Music brings us together, it connects us and is a language that we can all understand. The piano offers people so much more than music alone, it is clear that it is an effective way in which people can nurture their physical, mental and emotional health in a unique and beautiful way.

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At Markson Pianos, we are proud to have a comprehensive range of Acoustic Grand Pianos and Digital Keyboards. If you are interested in finding out more about our range feel free to contact us today or book an appointment to visit our London piano showroom to try them out.

Our London-based piano experts has been selling the full range of electronic, acoustic, and grand pianos for over one hundred years, and we can help determine the right option for you.

The History of the Piano

Origins of the piano

The piano has a rich and storied history dating back centuries, but this history is founded on developments that go back millennia to instruments constructed in the time of the Roman Empire.

Origins of the piano
Source: Yamaha.com

The earliest origins of the piano lie in the monochord family of instruments, which can range greatly in complexity from rudimentary guitars all the way to the development of the Clavichord.

Clavichord

The history of keyboard style instruments started with the organ, but the Clavichord represented the first step from the organ to the modern piano. Emerging in the renaissance, the Clavichord represented a highly complex monochord instrument that bears striking aesthetic similarities to modern pianos. 

Clavichord - Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

The key distinction at work though is that Clavichord’s generate sound by striking the string with a brass rod instead of a hammer. The Clavichord was a technically impressive instrument that allowed a great degree of control over the note by making the string vibrate as long as the key was pressed, however it suffered from a delicate tone that would be drowned out by other instruments, and couldn’t adequately fill a large hall performance.

Harpsichord

The Harpsichord was developed around the 1500’s in Italy, roughly a century after the Clavichord. Instead of the brass rod method, the Harpsichord worked by plucking the string with a plectrum attached to a long stick of wood.

harpsichord | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica
Source: Britannica.com

The design of the Harpsichord obviously heavily influenced the design of the modern piano, the internal system of strings and the overall structure bear a striking resemblance.  The Harpsichord improved on the delicacy of the Clavichord by having a rich full sound that could easily stand amongst other instruments but lacked the ability to control the dynamics of each note, reducing the technical ability achievable.

Cristofori

The modern piano is generally agreed to have been invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) sometime around 1700. He was famously unhappy with the lack of control the Harpsichord offered and sought to marry the bombastic sound of the Harpsichord with the precision and control of the Clavichord.

Who invented the piano – and why does nobody remember him? - Classic FM
Bartolomeo Cristofori (source: ClassicFM.com)

His creation of the modern piano hinged on his ingenious design of using a hammer instead of a plucking mechanism, which could then return to its resting position instantly.

This was the fundamental problem that plagued the Clavichord, the tangent remained in contact with the string which dampened the sound. By creating this system of fast resetting hammers it ensured that the notes would be able to breathe as well as being rapidly played in succession, creating the degree of power and precision that is known and enjoyed today.