It’s been theorised and studied for years and years; what does the human brain benefit from learning a musical instrument? Let’s firstly look at the brain as a muscle; the most important muscle in your body. Similar to how an athlete will go to the gym every day to strengthen their muscles, humans need to train and strengthen their brain. Many people approach this in different ways, some read challenging texts, others play cognitive brain games, some even learn a new language. However it is done, the brain needs to be fed in order to grow. Learning a musical instrument not only sustains and feeds the brain, but it also improves so many other cognitive and physical aspects of the human body.
1. Playing a Musical Instrument Improves Memory
It’s been widely studied and proven that learning a musical instrument improves memory; it not only improves your cognitive memory but also muscle memory as well. Learning to play a musical instrument requires you to use both the right and left part of your brain, therefore working your brain harder and improving your memory. This is supported by Maestro Eduardo Marturet who states, “…research has shown that participation in music at an early age can help improve a child’s learning ability and memory by stimulating different patterns of brain development.” Scientists have even used music training as a method of neuro-rehabilitation to help improve the function of the brain.
2. Music Helps Relieve Stress
Music has a unique effect on our emotions, it can make us happy or sad, or even amplify the current emotion we are feeling. Studies have shown that music can help with keeping you calm, it’s even been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn lowers the stress hormone cortisol, therefore making us feel relaxed. Whilst just listening to music helps, research has shown that learning to play an instrument brings with it comfort and daily repetition which helps keep the stress away. Music can help reduce stress by helping people connect with others, this is theorised by psychologist Michael Jolkovski who states, “…(music) can satisfy the need to unwind from the worries of life, but unlike the other things people often use for this purpose, such as excessive eating, drinking, or TV or aimless web browsing, it makes people more alive and connected with one another.” Psychologist Jane Collingwood further reiterates the claim that music can relieve stress by stating, “…music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet…music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.”
3. It Makes You Smarter!
Extensive research has shown that those who had music training were generally smarter than their counterparts; children who learned to play musical instruments did better in their academic studies than children who had not. This links back closely with the improvements learning a musical instrument has on memory; as both sides of the brain are engaged it develops not only memory but other skills as well. In a research paper titled Music Training Causes Long-Term Enhancement of Preschool Children’s Spatial-Temporal Reasoning, it is reported that “…music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science.” There are further studies in both children and adults that show a correlation between musical training and academic success. It goes without saying that some of the smartest people alive have been heavily indulged in music training and Even Einstein stated, “Life without playing music is inconceivable to me… I see my life in terms of music…I get most joy in life out of music.”
4. It Can Build Your Confidence and Give You a Sense of Achievement
Like with any new task, once you start to become comfortable and familiar with what you’re doing, you build confidence in completing that task. This applies to musical instruments as well. The further you progress in your musical training, the more knowledge and understanding you have of your musical instrument, the more you naturally become confident in your skills. Music teacher Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen states with students, “…they find that once they can develop a skill by themselves that they can get better and better,” Playing an instrument in a public setting can help people feel confident in presenting their work in a non-academic context, and thus improve their nerves when it comes to exams and assessments. Alongside improving your confidence, learning a musical instrument gives you an immense sense of achievement. Pianist Emily Singers states, “There’s no feeling like playing a difficult song and playing it flawlessly. (It is) quite an ego-boost.” There really is no greater feeling than finally completing a difficult task and being able to have it perfected. This feeling of self-achievement can filter onto other areas in your life and help you to accomplish more!
5. It’s Fun!
“The art of music is so deep and profound that it has to be approached with a bit of intensity laced with great affectionate joy.” Even though there is an extensive amount of scientific reasoning stating why music training is so beneficial, you should learn a musical instrument simply because it is so incredibly fun to do so. People fill their lives with hobbies that make them happy, that gives them an escape from the monotonous repetition of day to day life. Other passive past times like watching TV or scrolling through social media provide no sustenance to our lives, music engages and stimulates our brains, making us happy and occupying our time. Music has the special quality to bring joy, peace and fulfilment that helps lift the spirit and make life enjoyable for everyone involved.