The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument

New research shows that musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice transcendental meditation. – Science Daily

As the new year approaches, it is time again to make decisions about which extracurricular program to enroll your children in.  To assist you in considering a musical instrument or musical program for your child, we did some research into the benefits of playing musical instruments, and the results were quite surprising.  Apparently, a musical education, especially one starting in childhood, literally changes the pattern of the electrical activity in the brain.   It contributes to everything from confidence and social skills, improving learning capacity and motor skills, to promoting relaxation, peace of mind, and a sense of happiness and harmony. It can help with academic achievements, time management, focus and concentration, and has proven benefits for children with learning disabilities such as autism and dyslexia, as well as people with emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. Because playing music combines physical practice with academic/analytical study and intuitive/creative communication and emotional expression, the benefits of playing music connect with almost every aspect of the life of the student. Below are just a few of the amazing benefits of learning and playing a musical instrument.

People who play music or have studied music are shown to have more coordinated frontal lobes, which are used for higher brain functions such as logical thinking and organizational skills. Their EEGs showed an increase in alpha wave activity, which occur when connections are made between the details and the whole, aiding in creative thought processes.   It has been suggested that musicians tend to be economical when using their brain resources, which makes them more alert and focused; ready to act when necessary but calmer in everyday situations.

For beginning musicians, developing a quality practice routine can be challenging.  They must set aside the time and mental space, and for the practice to be successful, they also need to set goals and manage tasks.  They may need to adjust their routine as they discover what works and what does not, and tweak the routine as their playing level increases.  Once they begin to see progress, they will be motivated to continue their practice. Understanding the value of self-motivation can be applied to other areas of life such as education, employment and personal transformation.

Due to the hectic pace of modern life and the influence of television, the internet and other media, the ability to concentrate is becoming increasingly difficult.  It is easy to lose one’s sense of focus and hence be unable to live up to one’s full potential.   Music practice can help with the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time and develop a deeper sense of focus.

It has often been stated that the smartest and most successful people are also the most creative.  As musicians become proficient in their craft, a whole new level of creativity opens up to them.  They may start to be more playful and experimental.  They can write their own melodies using their personal words, thoughts and feelings. They can also begin to relate emotionally to the pieces they are learning. Music can be a safe way to express emotions and communicate thoughts and feelings, which may lead to an elevated sense of inner peace and well-being.

When first picking up an instrument, it is difficult to make even one note that sounds pleasing to the ear, let alone an entire melody.  In a world where instant gratification is often expected and where confidence is easily shattered by the influence of the media, the satisfaction of having taken time and worked hard to learn something will build a deeper sense of confidence and self-esteem.  This is a confidence that runs deeper and lasts longer than confidence in one’s physical attributes or innate abilities. Furthermore, music lessons provide a safe space where students learn to accept constructive criticism and to make a positive change from seemingly negative feedback.  Understanding that no one is perfect and all human beings follow the same process towards self-improvement can lead to overcoming confidence issues.

Playing music has been proven to relieve stress and is used in therapy to treat children and teens with depression, anxiety and other disorders.  Expressing yourself through music is an emotional release and can lead to a feeling of well-being in all aspects of your life. The sense of self-esteem gained from successes in musical achievement and performances can counter-act depression. Furthermore, the intrinsic rhythms that accompany melodies have a soothing quality for children.

Since ensemble playing is an important part of musical education, music students will have the opportunity to build social skills and make friends by being part of group lessons, orchestras, and jazz, rock or marching bands.  Some children who are drawn to music can be shy or introverted, and their musical education may offer them a whole new language to be able to communicate with others and make friends with similar interests.  Ensemble playing can also teach collaboration and teamwork skills that will be useful in future educational and professional situations.

Playing most musical instruments require strong, quick movements of the hands, arms, and/or feet, which helps to develop hand/eye coordination and motor skills.  They often require different types of movements simultaneously with both hands or hands and feet, which help to develop coordination in the small and large muscle groups of the body. This can assist with other physical pursuits such as sports or dance, and may be helpful to a student who seeks a career that requires a high level of coordination between the mind and the body.

Often the most interesting and direct way to learn something is through an actual activity, as opposed to just reading about it or hearing someone talk about it. Music in the United States is a rich cultural melting pot, and music education can be an excellent tool to learn about other historical periods and other cultures.   Different musical styles, such as the various traditions of classical, jazz, folk, rock, etc., generally reflect the cultural environment of the time and place of their creation.  There may be fascinating back stories that will inspire the student on how to best play the piece. Songs from other cultures, or inspired by other cultures, use different types of rhythms or chord structures. Students can learn about instruments from other cultures such as bongos or mandolins, as well as the history and cultural significance of commonly used instruments.

Most people, at some point in their educational, professional or artistic career, will need to speak in public or perform onstage.  Almost everyone gets stage fright. Even professional performing artists will get stage fright before a performance.  It never completely goes away, but with practice it can be dealt with and managed.  Since music study tends to be goal-oriented, and the goal is ordinarily a live performance, music students will have many chances to practice their stage presence and hone their performance skills throughout their lives.


Science Daily – Science News- Musician’s Brains Highly Developed

Effective Music Teaching : 18 benefits of playing a musical Instrument – 6 Benefits of Music Lessons