It’s often said that music can soothe the soul. Simply listening to music has many benefits, but learning to play an instrument can be even more beneficial. Playing a musical instrument is a brilliant way to express yourself and really focus on something you love. It requires patience, perseverance and dedication.
Regardless of whether we become talented musicians or not, learning to play an instrument can help you in many wonderful and surprising ways. In this post we explore some of the main benefits of learning to play an instrument, with some very generous input from the kind folk at Nordoff Robbins.
Learning to play an instrument can gradually improve your confidence. As you become more skilled and playing becomes more natural, your confidence grows. Learning a new skill and noticing your success makes you feel more confident, and this can filter through to all aspects of your life.
Teaches you a valuable skill
Being able to play an instrument is a useful skill, and it makes you a more well-rounded person. Even if you don’t end up performing, you can continue playing purely just for passion. It’s an interesting skill to talk about and you never know when it might prove useful.
Sharpens your concentration
Learning to play an instrument can do wonders for your concentration skills. Researchers at the University of St Andrews said their findings show that musicians were quicker to pick up mistakes and correct them. Playing an instrument requires deep focus and concentration, as it’s quite easy to make a mistake. You have to focus on quite a few things at once. By having regular lessons and playing on your own, you will improve your concentration skills. For example, children who learn to play an instrument often find it easier to concentrate in school.
Increases memory capacity
Did you know that learning to play an instrument increases your memory capacity? There’s plenty of research proving that this is the case. The Times reported that ‘new research suggests that regularly learning to play an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain.’
Aids children’s development
Learning to play an instrument can have a massive impact on a child’s development, both academically, and of course from a confidence perspective. Playing an instrument and reading music requires you to utilise a wide variety of skills, all of which are beneficial to your development and mental capacity.
Learning an instrument has also been shown to help children improve their reading skills.
It keeps your mind sharp as you grow older
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, playing an instrument as a child keeps the mind sharper as we age. It can help to prevent dementia, and according to the Emory University School of Medicine, ‘Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older.’
It’s good for your mental health
Listening to music can aid concentration and ease stress and anxiety. Playing a musical instrument regularly can also help to reduce your stress levels by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. It’s highly therapeutic and relaxing, and as soon as you start to play you feel the benefits instantly.
If you have a lot on anxious thoughts, like I do, try playing your A minor pentatonic scale up and down the neck so your don’t make any errors. Your mind will become completely transported away from your thoughts.
Improves your time management
If you learn to play an instrument, you have to learn how to manage your time. You will need to practice regularly and learn music in times for exams. You also have to schedule in lessons and juggle this with other parts of your life.
Improves your maths and literacy
Learning music requires you to use both your literacy and maths skills, which is why it can really help to aid children in their academics. Research has shown that kids who play a musical instrument excel more at school, and it can also help adults improve their maths and literacy skills too.
Gives you an insight into other cultures
When you play an instrument, you will mostly likely learn how to play different types of music. This enables you to play music from other cultures, and discover how music plays a big part in specific cultures. It’s useful to learn about unfamiliar cultures, and music can be a wonderful way of doing this.
Therapeutic Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument: Expert Opinion – Dave Thorpe, Nordoff Robbins
Dave Thorpe, Music Therapist from Nordoff Robbins (who also happens to be an excellent musician – was kind enough to give his time and share his thoughts:
Dave: I have been a musician since I was born I think. I first picked up a guitar at the age of 14 and I have played and recorded ever since in bands, duos as a solo artist and just because it feels the most natural thing in the world for me to do. I still perform regularly but my main work is as a music therapist for Nordoff Robbins, a well-known national and international music therapy charity.
“Bruce Dickinson visits Nordoff Robbins”
Music therapy is not about teaching someone how to play an instrument although central to the work is tapping in to the connection every human being has to the act of creating music. At Nordoff Robbins, however, as well as music therapy we also run tuition sessions for people who are interested in learning to play a particular instrument. One of the people who attends each week for guitar lessons with me has this to say about the benefits of learning the guitar for him:
“I have a Neurological condition and learning the guitar is improving my levels of focus and concentration, listening to the notes as I play often takes me to a place where time seems to disappear. I experience good feelings throughout my body as the vibrations of the sound resonate deep within me.”
I suppose all instrumentalists would feel that their instrument allows them to express something very important and personal about themselves. I think with the guitar that starts from the very first moment you find how to hold it and make your sound. Jimmy Page puts it like this:
“I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it.”
I can only (very humbly) agree with him!