Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about the five things piano and ping-pong have in common. There are so many things they have in common! One thing, and this isn’t one of the five, is that they are both things that I particularly love and have been doing almost my whole life! I remember getting a ping-pong table when I was a kid. There’s a crazy story about that. It was during the holidays, and I went with my good friend Marty to Sears, which was over a mile away. I thought I would surprise my family with a ping-pong table. We bought it, and then we tried to carry it home. I had to call my dad to pick us up, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. But we grew up with a ping-pong table. And of course, we had lots of pianos in the house. These are two things that have been very close to me. To this day, I still play ping-pong on a very regular basis. And of course, piano is my life! So let’s come up with the five things that these two activities have in common.
1. They both involve motor skills.
With piano, you have the finger coordination, the arms, and you have to coordinate with the sounds and the visuals of the keys, as well as the sheet music. There are so many aspects of motor skills involved in piano playing. With ping-pong, you have to judge the trajectory of the ball and be in exactly the right place to hit it. There’s obviously a tremendous amount of motor skill involved in both of these activities. What else is there?
2. They both involve aerobic exercise.
Obviously, ping-pong provides aerobic exercise. In professional ping-pong matches, the players are ten feet from the table, and they’re running all around. It’s mildly aerobic, even if you’re playing casually. But it’s not so exhausting that you can’t play for an extended amount of time. That’s what’s great about ping-pong. Now, what about the piano? Is piano aerobic? Well, there are some things on piano that are certainly aerobic, like, for example, the coda of the Chopin G minor Ballade. Whenever you have leaps like that, it’s mildly aerobic. It’s definitely more exercise than sitting and reading a book! So they both provide some level of aerobic exercise. What else?
3. They both keep your brain sharp.
There was a study years ago in a New York Times Magazine article years ago. It was an in-depth article about the human brain. In that article, they cited piano playing as being the single most complex activity of the human brain. Think about all the things involved in piano playing: I mentioned earlier the coordination of your fingers, but the sound, the sights, short-term memory, and long-term memory—it’s an incredibly complex activity for the brain! But in ping-pong, you also have to make split-second calculations from moment to moment. There’s strategy involved: trying to get your opponent off kilter by where you place the ball, spinning the ball to try to throw them off, hitting corners so you have the greatest distance, trajectories, the arc of the ball, and where you’re standing. These are all great activities for the brain. As a matter of fact, both of these activities can help prevent cognitive decline because you’re exercising your brain, which is terrific!
4. They both provide stress relief.
When you play the piano, your mind can completely let go of everything and just focus on the beauty of the music. Your brain is occupied 100% with something other than your relationships, work, chores, or whatever is causing you stress. It’s much the same thing with ping-pong. When you’re playing ping-pong, you let go of everything and get into a state of flow. You’re just enjoying the game, and you let go of all your worries. These activities allow you to disengage from the worries and stress in your life.
5. Piano and ping-pong are both immensely popular in China.
In China, there are about 50 million piano students! 100 years ago, in the United States, there were hundreds of piano companies. That’s what China has today. There are hundreds of piano manufacturers in China that you don’t even know about because they only serve the domestic market. Only a handful of companies export because there’s such a huge market there. During our trip to China, we saw all kinds of piano brands with some of the oddest names you could ever imagine. These are companies that probably wouldn’t be able to export their products because they’re not up to international standards. They produce low-priced pianos for the massive number of people who play piano in China.
Ping-pong is, of course, very popular in China. It’s even supported by the government. About 1 in 4 Chinese people play ping-pong (300 million people!). It’s readily available just about everywhere. So these are two things that I love that happen to be popular in China. I do everything I can to keep piano popular here in the United States and around the world with my videos, my concerts, my teaching, and my pianos. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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