With 88 keys and hundreds of internal strings, a standard piano produces a slew of unique sounds and tones. And mastering that complex system doesn’t only result in beautiful music — a new study says it can also help kids build up their language skills.
“There’s evidence that early exposure to piano practice enhances the processing of sounds that extend not only from music, but also into language,” says John Gabrieli, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the co-author of the paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Building on an existing body of research on music and childhood development, the authors pinpoint a specific way that piano lessons can help young children enhance their language processing skills. As kids’ ears become trained to distinguish between different pitches and tones at the piano, Gabrieli explains, they also seem to get better at parsing subtle differences between spoken words, a key element of language acquisition.