The Benefits of Learning Music and Playing an Instrument
Ever experienced a full-body workout? How about a full-body workout of the brain? Well chances are if you have ever played a musical instrument before, you have definitely had a full-body workout of the brain. The fact is that learning music and playing an instrument is one of the best ways to strengthen your brain.
To begin, learning an instrument aids in the strengthening of memory and reading skills. Through actively reading music, specifically sight reading music improves a person’s ability to read. This is as reading music is like reading another language, as understanding the concepts of time signatures, notes, and rests is a linguistic skill in itself. According to a study from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, it was found that children who play an instrument show increased literacy electrical signals in their brains. As the human brain is adaptable, these skills are most likely similar to the skills that adults who play instrument can gain.
Parts of the human body, like the brain, are strengthened by having an increased flow of oxygen and blood. A study in Liverpool proved that musical training and learning an instrument increases blood flow to the brain. The study found that small amounts of musical training allowed for an increase of blood flow to the left side of the brain. As this is the case if one ever feels mentally strained or tired instead of turning to caffeine to wake them up, they should turn to a piano or guitar.
Musical training and learning to play an instrument also has a social benefit to it as well. Those who understand music have the ability to connect with those across the world from other cultures and societies. Known as the universal language, understanding music can give a person insight into understanding other cultures and peoples. It may be as cliché as it sounds, but music does have the ability to unite people across every spectrum and board. In a study by Stefan Koelsch, he had two groups of children one exposed to music and the other not. The study found that the children who were exposed to music significantly increased their empathy scores, compared to children who were not exposed to music. Therefore, illustrating that musical exposure can affect the growth of empathy in a child.
Finally, learning an instrument leads to later brain plasticity and a later decline in cognitive functions. As people age their ability to understand sounds and relate them to a context degrades. It was found that seniors who received training in music as children had a later decline in cognitive functions over those who were not from a musical background. Therefore, proving that learning an instrument has a positive long term effect on the brain!
Sutton, Christopher. “9 Ways Learning An Instrument Strengthens Your Brain.” Musical U. 2021. https://www.musical-u.com/learn/9-ways-learning-an-instrument-strengthens-your-brain/
Miendlarzewska, Ewa et al. “How musical training affects cognitive development: rhythm, reward and other modulating variables.” Frontiers. 20 January 2014. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2013.00279/full
Suttie, Jill. “Four Ways Music Strengthens Social Bonds.” Greater Good. 15 January 2015. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_ways_music_strengthens_social_bonds