The piano bench, it is an unassuming little piece of furniture. It needs its bigger companion, the piano, to carry out its purpose for being. Sure, you can stack stuff on it or play cards on it or, in a pinch, eat lunch on it, but piano benches are carrying out their reason for being when they are being sat on and music is emanating from the piano. The companion of the bench is the sheet music cabinet. Most piano benches hold a small amount of music, but they quickly become overloaded and music begins to pile up on the top of the piano. A sheet music cabinet solves this problem nicely.
This unassuming piano bench can be either a beloved friend or an instrument of torture, particularly to the child who is given the priceless gift of piano lessons. Children react to or take to piano lessons in different ways. Some love the music and take to the practice quickly and with enthusiasm. For them, the bench is a friend. Other children, whether they love or do not care about the music, just do not like to practice. For these poor little kids, the bench is an object of torture. Sit them down on it and they will squirm and daydream and watch the clock until the practice time is over. What makes the difference between these two music students? I do not have the answer to that question, but I wish I did. Is it related to the amount of talent that the child is born with? Does it depend on the music that the teacher chooses compared to the music that the child enjoys? Does it depend on the ability of the child to sit still and keep his or her mind on the task?
The value of piano lessons, however, is inestimable. At the physical level, kids are able to begin picking up musical talent before they start school. Babies are able to match a pitch they hear and to reproduce a rhythm. And learning music is like learning language and learning to read. There is a cut-off point at which this learning becomes much more difficult. For piano lessons, this age is around eleven. Studies have shown that piano lessons at an early age make physical changes to the growing brain. Children who take lessons score higher on the verbal and mathematical sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. But benefits go beyond the physical. In later years, people who took lessons as children are open to greater musical pleasure in adulthood. One of my great pleasures is singing in the church choir. You do not have to read music to sing in the choir, but it sure helps. Also, listening to music is more pleasurable when you know something about how the music is put together.
While the piano is probably the best instrument for learning a lot of different aspects of music, a child who sees the bench as an instrument of torture might thrive on another instrument. Marching in the band is also a rewarding way to learn music.
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