Why Everyone Should Learn To Play A Musical Instrument

Written by Thomas Honeyman

For most of us, music forms an integral part of our lives. Music is there to reinforce our determination when we don't feel like working out. Music is there to soothe us after a stressful day. Music is there to help us cope after a breakup that leaves us feeling empty. In fact, music can even open a closed heart!

But the benefits don't stop there. Learning to play a musical instrument has just as many benefits as listening to music does. While listening to music has beneficial effects for your body, learning to play a musical instrument has incredible effects on your mind. Here are just a few:

1. "Music training improves cognitive and noncognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance.”

This was the surprising conclusion of a study performed by Adrian Hille and Jürgen Schupp for the German Socioeconomic Panel. Music training doesn't only benefit cognitive performance, but can enhance physical skill and performance as well.

2. Positive benefits of music training persist for years, even after the musical training stops.

Erika Skoe and Nina Kraus found, in a 2012 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, that musical training has benefits that extend long past the time spent directly training. Simply learning an instrument as a child has far-reaching consequences for those children as they age, including resistance to cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer's.

3. Studying music greatly increases academic success.

Dr. James Catterall studied 25,000 students between 8th and 10th grade, and found that " ... students who studied music and the arts had higher grades, scored better on standardized tests, had better attendance records and were more active in community affairs than other students." Learning an instrument helps reduce stress, improve focus, and improve cognitive ability — all perfect skills for high performance in learning environments.

4. Older musicians stay mentally sharp.

Aging musicians perform much better on cognitive tests than people the same age who do not play a musical instrument. Brenna Hanna-Pladdy of Emory University studied 70 adults between the ages of 60-83 and found that the musicians who played an instrument at the highest level received significantly higher scores than the non-musicians in tasks that test the brain's ability to adapt to new information.

These studies have discovered that profound benefits arise from learning to play a musical instrument. Learning to play the piano and guitar from an early age has certainly changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. Yes, there are cognitive benefits to learning an instrument, and it can help stave off degenerative diseases later in life. But perhaps the most important reason to learn an instrument is the simple, pure joy of creating a beautiful melody.

Everyone learns differently, but the best way to take advantage of musical training is to take private lessons. The next-best place to check are any local universities or colleges, which typically have musical staff who teach privately as well. Finally, many students today take video lessons online, or you can find one of the many free sites with excellent instructional materials.

There’s no better time to start than today, and the benefits will last you a lifetime.

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