The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument: From childhood, to college years to old age, learning a musical instrument has been shown to be of tremendous benefit to learners that goes far beyond simply being able to play an instrument. From well-being to brain activity, learning an instrument is a great way to engage in something creative while reaping the rewards of all the positive extra side effects the activity itself brings. 

Just because you didn’t learn an instrument when you were young doesn’t mean it’s too late to learn now. And besides, you don’t have to want to be the next Mozart or Clapton to learn an instrument. It’s not about how good you are at playing an instrument but more about how good playing an instrument is for you! 

While a very small minority of learners will go on to play an instrument professionally, the majority of people who play, do it as a hobby and do it for all the benefits it brings them. Most people who play will never perform for others – even the cat leaves the room when I break out the guitar – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be playing. 

Below we take a look at a few of the many benefits of learning a musical instrument.

Sharpen Your Brain

Learning to play a musical instrument keeps your brain sharp. Studies have shown that playing a musical instrument demands extensive motor learning skills and that musical training is good for cognitive function. Learning to play fires up the nerve cells in the right half of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions. Not only that but instrumental music training can enhance auditory discrimination, increase vocabulary and literacy skills, and develop both spatial and nonverbal reasoning. How’s that for brain food!

Improve Your Memory

Researchers have found that learning to play a musical instrument increases the capacity of your memory. Playing an instrument makes you use both sides of your brain, which strengthens memory power. The left side of the brain performs tasks that have to do with logic. While the right hemisphere performs tasks that have to do with creativity. The beautiful thing about playing an instrument is that you engage both and give yourself an ultimate mental work out. Feel the burn!

Enhance Your Concentration

Playing an instrument involves a lot of mental mechanics, shifting from note to note, changing key signatures, keeping time and often coordinating between reading the sheet music and playing the instrument. All of these things demand serious concentration, take you out of your comfort zone and the more you play the more you focus your concentration. Your brain is primarily focussed on this one activity and there’s no multitasking here – you’ll never see a pianist juggling! Indeed, in certain cases, playing a musical instrument has been used effectively to help people with attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Elevate Your Confidence

Often when you learn to play an instrument at some stage you might either play with others or play in front of others. Both of these are a great way to improve your confidence and make you feel better about presenting or addressing an audience or being the focus of people’s attention. For most of us these can be nerve-wracking situations.  Performing in front of people will make you feel more comfortable in social situations which mimic a performing situation, for example presenting at business meetings, introducing yourself to new colleagues and groups of people. Playing a musical instrument can make you feel more comfortable about self-expression and so help you be better at handling social situations with more confidence.

Promote Your Well Being

Listening to music is something we have all done throughout our life to escape, to break free from stress and reduce our anxiety and create a safe space. Playing an instrument helps you to own that space and improves your psychological health in many different ways. When you are playing an instrument nothing else matters, as Metallica noted, and you become one with music.

Playing an instrument ultimately promotes happiness in your life and, hopefully, if you’ve learned a tune or two maybe promotes happiness in those around you too – or maybe like me your cat will leave the room at the first sight of a guitar. But hey, we can’t all be purrfect.

Here’s a selection of courses we’ve listed to help you successfully learn a musical instrument:

piano; guitar; drums; flute; harp;

& check out all the music-related courses around the country

Steven Galvin

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