I have always been a proponent for music education, and thus am happy to see that more and more people are learning an instrument these days.
I myself became a drummer at around the age of 11, and have played ever since. I am no savant, but I can play just about anything (except perhaps the closing solo in the movie Whiplash).
As a result, I have always maintained that learning how to play an instrument is beneficial. I did not have any proof, I just had first hand experiences that proved that to be the case. Nowadays however, there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that music education is not only good for you, but nearly essential if you want to be successful in life.
What is it about musicians that gives them an edge over others? Read on.
Recent research has shown that many successful politicians, businessmen, and more were trained at a young age to be a musician of some kind. Whether it be of a piano, clarinet, or saxophone, it didn’t really matter.
What does matter is that these people credit their music education with making them more creative. Indeed, as Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) once stated, music allows you to “look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way” (NYT).
As a drummer, I can attest to that. So much of music is about creating something different, and breaking mental barriers. All of which necessarily bleeds into other aspects of your life.
As many studies have shown, playing an instrument tends to have a multitude of beneficial effects on the brain, many of which are especially visible in children.
Indeed, those who start from an early age (around 9 to 11) have “significantly more grey matter volume” within their heads (Parenting Science). While this doesn’t necessarily mean that musicians are smarter, it does demonstrate that their brains are making unique and interesting connections and associations that those who do not play instruments might lack.
Music is often thought of as a way to connect different cultures, ideas, and perspectives. Even when you are unfamiliar with a location, you can always use your ability to play music to get to know those around you, and establish connections that may have been impossible to create otherwise.
This can be a crucial skill to have in any number of professions, especially those that require you to immerse yourself in a location that you are unfamiliar with.
I am not sure this one applies to me, but it has long been known that there is some kind of connection between math and music.
This likely has to do with the fact that both deal with analyzing puzzles and finding patterns in order to find solutions. If you can get a sense of the ebb and flow of music and musical language, mathematical concepts should begin to make more sense. Being better at math is beneficial for a number of reasons, if only because so many new jobs in this day and age rely on that skill.
As a drummer, I know how to keep time in a song and play to the beat. In life, I use those same skills to maintain some order in my schedule.
Additionally, when you are a musician, it is easier to get into the groove of things and accomplish repetitive tasks at a consistent rate. (It also helps with stuff like dancing!)
Thus, learning how to maintain a steady pace not only makes for a good musician, but a more productive and effective worker as well.
Any musician, whether they be a novice or an expert, has to be just a little obsessive to cultivate their craft. Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook, stated that “musicians and top professionals share ‘the almost desperate need to dive deep'” (NYT).
To become proficient at playing music requires a lot of time and dedication. If you are willing to put effort into that, you will likely tackle other things with that same gusto.
This is especially true if they started playing music at a young age, like say around 6 years old. Indeed, one study found that kids who took up an instrument around this age showed a greater increase in their IQ compared to those who did not (Science Net Links).
Suffice it to say, having more intelligence to work with than your peers is often crucial in gaining the upper hand.
Becoming successful requires that you be a good listener, and musicians are groomed to acquire that skill early on in their development.
Indeed, research has shown that learning how to play music has a beneficial effect on the areas of your brain that process sounds — an effect that lasts even into old age (Washington Post).
Listening is an important skill to have, as the ability to make sense of speech and complicated strings of words and sentences is crucial to success.
While it isn’t always true that those who work hardest in life are the most successful, such is usually the case in regard to musicians.
Indeed, one expert stated that an amazing thing about learning music is that “if you work hard enough, it does get better” (NYT).
Music thus conditions you to believe that working harder gets results, and while that may not always be true in everything, it does lead to you pushing yourself harder in order to see measurable improvements in all aspects of your life.
While you might think of musicians as loose cannons (certain rock stars come to mind), those cases aren’t typical.
Indeed, learning how to play an instrument and read music is an immensely difficult task when you first start out, and requires a lot of mental focus. And, once you are skilled at playing music, it takes both talent and self-control to keep rhythm, to maintain a beat, and to otherwise stay on the musical rails, so to speak.
Translate that ability to remain dedicated and focused on the task at hand to the real world, and it is easy to see why so many musicians end up being successful in other fields.
Do you play an instrument? Has it effected your life in a beneficial way? Comment below!
Featured photo credit: Snare Drum/Vladimir Morozov via flickr.com
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