Most people that play an instrument will admit to having aspirational dreams of one day becoming a rock star, pop idol, acclaimed music producer or something similar.
While these might be the initial reasons they picked up an instrument in the first place, learning to play does more for you than just give you the ability to produce music. It can positively affect many areas of a person’s life, provide a much-needed escape from the daily grind, and offer an abundance of mental benefits.
Here we look at some of the ways learning an instrument can improve your life…
Learning a foreign language
Learning to read music and understand scores as well as tone and audio information could help musicians pick up foreign languages quicker than those that don’t play.
Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich, recently published a report about the affect playing an instrument can have on both adults and children. Speaking to the Telegraph, Jäncke explained: “When you play a musical instrument you have to learn about tone and about scores and your ability to store audio information becomes better.
“So not only does this make it easier to pick up other languages and have a better verbal memory in your own language, we have also seen that musicians are able to pick out exactly what others are feeling just on the tone of their voices. Empathy, disappointment, that kind of thing.”
Improving your mood
Researchers at Stanford University have found that playing an instrument can actually lower the heart rate and blood pressure, reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. It seems the main reason for this is that playing an instrument requires enough concentration that our minds are cleared of any stressful or anxious thoughts.
Research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry also demonstrated that music therapy, when combined with standard care, is a successful treatment for depression.
Whether you’re a child or an adult, learning to play a musical instrument can have a big effect on your confidence levels. As well as feeling good about yourself when you can see and hear the improvement in your playing, performing with others and finding like-mind musical friends can be a real boost. With many musicians working their way up to live performances, the experience of being on stage can also help combat fears many of us have of things like public speaking.
Some studies suggest that this is particularly helpful to children entering their teenage years, giving them an outlet and the experience of accomplishing something either on their own or within a group at a time of transition in their lives, particularly between the ages of 9 and 13, where some can experience a drop in their self-confidence.
An article from the Guardian revealed that learning a musical instrument is better for brain training than the abundance of apps that promise to do just that.
The publication reported that a review examining studies purporting to show the benefits of brain training apps found “little evidence that training improves everyday cognitive performance”. However, research shows how musical training can enhance verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills, and that professional musicians usually outperform non-musicians on these abilities.
One particularly touching piece of research found that music has an incredible effect on Alzheimer’s patients. When hearing familiar music, some patients who have advanced Alzheimer’s appear to recognise the music and sing along, suggesting that musical memories outlast other kinds of memories. There is a fantastic documentary called Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory that demonstrates the incredible impact music can have.
Boosting your IQ
Speaking to the Telegraph, Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich, revealed that: “Learning to play a musical instrument has definite benefits and can increase IQ by seven points, in both children and adults.”
The idea being that the parts of the brain that control hearing, memory, and the control of the hands all become more active, making changes to the “architecture of the brain”.
The research found that even in people over the age of 65, after four or five months of playing an instrument for an hour a week, there were strong changes in the brain.
Proof that it is never too late to start!
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