Why You Should Learn a Musical Instrument
There are plenty of good reasons to learn a musical instrument. Maybe you just always wanted to do it, you might’ve thought it looked cool, or you want to impress other people. No matter the initial reason, if you decide to learn how to play chords and sheet music for your preferred instrument, you’re automatically gaining a lot of unexpected benefits. Here are the best reasons for you to learn a musical instrument, next to gaining a new skill and arguably raising your coolness factor.
The Benefits of Learning Instruments
No matter what your motivation or end goal might be, if you pick up an instrument and learn how to play it, you will automatically train your brain and benefit your cognitive abilities and mental health. In fact, many therapy programs are working with music therapy for exactly these reasons.
This paper from the American Music Therapy Association describes how playing and learning how to play music benefits mental health, social relationships, and cognitive abilities, specifically military personnel and veterans.
These are the evidence-based qualities of music some of these programs make use of:
- Music provides sensory stimulation that evokes and regulates motor responses.
- Enhances emotional responses that are integral to learning and change.
- Facilitates social interaction essential to building relationships.
- It provides opportunities for communication of feelings, needs, and desires.
- Music provides an enjoyable and nonthreatening means of rehabilitation and recovery.
- Evokes associations that contribute to increased well-being, life quality, and standard of living.
- It is a great diversion from inactivity and daily routine.
- It is flexible and adjustable to meet various needs such as communication, physical, social-emotional, cognitive, and behavioral issues.
- Music is structured and occurs through time, providing a framework for restoring and maintaining function.
- It improves attention and concentration, facilitating learning across all domains.
- Music is measurable and can be documented, assessed, analyzed, and validated to track progress in music therapy treatment.
(Source: William B. Davis; Kate E. Gfeller; Michael H. Thaut: An Introduction to Music Therapy. The American Music Therapy Association, 2008.)
Even if we’re just picking up a new instrument by ourselves at home, we will equally benefit from some of these qualities. Here are the most prominent improvements you can expect:
Memory is improved
Playing an instrument improves both muscle and cognitive memory. These functions work together when you learn a new instrument, the necessary knowledge, and finger movements. The information enters your brain and muscle memory more efficiently by practicing regularly. You keep training both sides of your brain simultaneously, leading to better improvements than other types of learning.
Stress is reduced
Listening to music by itself is already a stress reliever. It helps us feel calm, lower blood pressure, and heart rate. Which then lowers the release of the stress hormone Cortisol, which can negatively affect both our body and mind. We can create a synergy effect that doubles this relief by playing music ourselves. Most people benefit from a learning situation that gives them structure and daily repetition. We feel accomplished and organized and relax more efficiently.
You become smarter
Several studies compare children who had a musical education and those who did not. The first group typically had more success in school. When you learn how to play an instrument as a child, you benefit from the same factors that improve your memory later in life. Both sides of your brain are engaged. Different areas of the brain get stimulated and grow.
For example, playing an instrument helps children learn abstract reasoning, the skill necessary for comprehending math and science. Even though this effect is strongest when you start early in life, you can benefit from stimulating your brain at any age.
Self-confidence is strengthened
This is not necessarily tied to music but rather learning something new in general, but it applies, in this case, either way. People who pick a goal and dedicate themselves to reaching it can grow their confidence when they accomplish their goal. Learning how to play an instrument can be divided into lessons with a clear structure, and with enough practice, you can easily see and keep track of your progress.
The sense of achievement you get after playing a piece of music flawlessly for the first time will boost your confidence, which can benefit other parts of your life.
Learning how to play an instrument is a great hobby for your leisure time. You don’t just keep yourself occupied and entertained. You also gain helpful skills and increase your cognitive abilities. However, that would mean little if you wouldn’t enjoy it. Luckily, playing instruments is fun, whether you’re just learning for yourself or planning to put the skill to good use.
Learning to play an instrument is a great goal, and it’s easier than ever. Many online tools help you generate chords to your favorite songs or make instruction videos freely available. By learning how to play and practicing regularly, you stimulate multiple areas of your brain. This can lead to more relaxation and improved memory and cognitive functions. Most importantly, it is fun and improves your quality of life by raising your confidence after successfully learning a new skill.
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