Music is so pervasive throughout our lives, from listening to the radio on our daily commute to putting on Spotify while we cook. Most people listen to music every single day in some form. A lot of people also play and create music themselves. They learn to play guitar, piano, or a medley of other instruments. But is it just a pleasant pastime?
There are actually lots of fantastic benefits to learning to play an instrument that will carry forward through your life!
The first and easiest to see positive element to plucking some guitar strings is the improvement to hand-eye coordination. Reading sheet music, thinking about what notes you need to play, and then translating all of that to your fingers to play requires lots of mental effort. But the more you do, the quicker your brain gets at processing that information. When you perform an action you haven’t done before, a new neural pathway gets created in your brain. The more you perform that action, the faster your brain gets at using that neural pathway. A good example for this is when you drive a truck down an unused dirt road (am I an Alberta boy or what?). When you first drive through the mud and dirt, it will be rough and slow to create new divots in the road. But the more you drive down the same road, the easier and smoother the path gets. The same can be said about your brain. And since those actions and muscles used in playing an instrument don’t get used in the same way elsewhere, it really boosts your coordination.
Builds Work Ethic
The next amazing benefit is the work effort that learning an instrument instils. To be able to play well requires a lot of practice. And to play more advanced pieces takes huge amounts of practice! You can’t just sit down at the piano and expect to play Beethoven. You won’t feel a much bigger frustration than when you are first starting out on guitar and trying to build calluses on your fingers (you need those to play well). But to make those takes lots of time, effort, and consistent practice. During the process of learning music, a strong work ethic will develop. It will get hard, but the desire to play well can also create resilience. Playing piano as a kid developed in me a stronger work ethic than I previously had and is a strong benefit for any and all children.
Reduces the Chance of Getting Alzheimer’s
One of the key ways to stave off Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases is by keeping the brain active. Remember those neural pathways we talked about earlier? If you never use them, eventually, the brain will get rid of them. The more pathways the brain removes, the faster neurodegenerative diseases creep in. By exercising your brain and learning new things, your brain keeps many existing pathways and keeps building new ones. Several studies have shown how playing an instrument is one of the best ways to keep your brain active. Learning new techniques, trying new pieces, and practicing lots all work towards building new neural pathways and keeping your brain alert and healthy.
Trying to learn music and a new instrument can be so beneficial for kids and adults alike. It can develop an increased work ethic, improve brain function, and help keep you healthy and alert. All that aside, it’s also just super fun to make music! I’d highly recommend you consider trying music for yourself, your kids, or both!