10 Sound Reasons for Learning a Musical Instrument
Studies show that the learning experiences involved in mastering an instrument translate into academic success. Playing music actively engages the brain cells, enhancing cognitive skills and the ability for abstract reasoning that we apply in maths and science. In addition, researchers have discovered that music and language are processed in the same region of the brain, and developing musical skills can impact positively on speech ability.
Because playing demands that movement is coordinated with touch, hearing and sight, the brain trains efficient information processing. This increases focus and the ability to concentrate. Both sides of the brain are activated, strengthening memory power. With practice, you can memorize and reproduce complex passages of music, which boosts accurate recall in other areas, too.
It takes time to master basic playing techniques, and sometimes you might feel like giving up! But if you manage to stick to it, you’ll see that your efforts were worth it. You'll be able to play that piece you always wanted to, and to realistically assess how much time and effort is needed to learn the next. That knowledge will come in useful in other spheres of life.
Making music is a physical activity, involving the arm and back muscles in particular, and the diaphragm and abdomen when singing. Then, there is posture. A hunched, tense violin student will soon feel neck and back pain. So, you will learn how to keep your shoulders and arms in a natural, relaxed position. Concentration on deep breathing, crucial for singers and wind instrument players, strengthens the lungs and respiratory system. And of course, there is the ear! Training music refines the sense of hearing and appreciation of soundscapes in general.
There’s no shortcut to learning a musical instrument. But finally succeeding at playing a favourite melody, or giving a performance, generates a huge sense of pride and satisfaction.
First, music lessons help you to develop an art not everyone is versed in. Second, as children begin to master their instrument they might be invited to perform, e.g. at a school concert, and adults at a social event. Of course, playing in front of an audience can be quite scary! The teacher will coach you to overcome anxiety about performing. This experience can help both children and adults to feel confident about presenting other work in public.
The first thing you learn when playing in an ensemble, band or orchestra, is to listen to others. This is true teamwork: everyone has a role in producing a bigger sound, while simultaneously helping and supporting each other. Achieving that level of cooperation is very rewarding, especially if the result is a great concert! Plus joining a musical group at any age opens the door to a like-minded community and to new friendships.
Musicians have an intimate relationship with their instrument. Whether a guitar, flute, trumpet or drum set, your instrument allows you to express feelings you might be too shy to share with others, or strong emotions searching for an outlet. It is like a confidant who lets you express yourself fully.
Once you have mastered the basics of your instrument, you can create, improvise and compose your own music. If you are practising a composition, remember that no matter how a composer has annotated their work, there is room for self-expression. It is up to the player to inject some of their personality into the music. Convincing interpretation is what makes a charismatic player (or singer)!
What matters most is that you simply enjoy making music, at whatever level. If learning music and getting better and better makes you feel active and fulfilled, then playing a musical instrument definitely beats flicking through social media! Whether you continue playing later or not, you will have learnt to really appreciate the art of music.