I don’t need any empirical evidence to convince you that playing music can improve your life. But playing a musical instrument is more beneficial than simply being an enjoyable activity. Children who grew up with an instrument in their hand are easily able to translate the skills used while rocking out into other aspects of life, making them more apt to succeed in school and their future careers. Besides the ability to entertain a crowd, musicians also show signs of:
1. It increases memory
In a study of 3 and 4 year old children, those who were given keyboard lessons performed 34% better on memory assessments than children who were not given musical lessons. The effects of this experiment also proved to last longer than a superficial amount of time. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in some way as well. I haven’t played piano seriously in years, but whenever I sit down at one, my ability to recall the songs I used to know by heart comes right back to me. And even if you don’t play an instrument, I guarantee you know the words to songs you haven’t heard in years, even if you can’t remember what you had for breakfast this morning.
2. It makes you better at organizational skills
When I was in band throughout grade school, we had a strict regimen that we followed every day: Tune up, play scales to warm up, practice techniques, practice songs. It would make no sense to skip right to practicing songs, because we’d all be out of tune, our fingers wouldn’t be stretched out, and we wouldn’t be practicing the correct methods of playing. We didn’t waste any time during these steps, either. Our time was short, so we needed to be organized.
3. It improves team skills
If you play music, chances are you play with a group of people. Regardless of how talented you are, being a part of a band or orchestra means playing your part in a group. You might not always get to show off or be the center of attention, but as a member of a team your goal is to help the entire group do its best. You have to know when it’s appropriate to take center stage, and when you need to fade into the background.
4. It increases perseverance
If you don’t play an instrument, you probably think it’s hard to do. If you do play an instrument, you know it’s hard to do, but you don’t let the difficulty of reaching the next level stop you from getting there. In fact, you treat barriers in your talent as hurdles that can be overcome with practice and patience. This can help later in life, as you will undoubtedly face obstacles that can only be overcome through hard work and perseverance.
5. It enhances coordination
Playing an instrument requires different parts of your body to work in complete harmony. If you play guitar, your left hand has to finger chords while your right one strums and picks the strings. And you might end up singing, too. Oh, and you almost might have to read music and lyrics off a page at the same time. Throughout this process, your brain makes connections that simply don’t happen when you’re staring at a TV screen.
6. It gives you better math skills
Music uses simple and advanced mathematics in a variety of ways. Young children who have been introduced to quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes will almost certainly have a head start when their math teacher introduces fractions. Music theory also correlates with advanced mathematical techniques which I still have a tough time wrapping my head around, so I won’t attempt to explain them here. Suffice it to say, those who have a deep understanding of one of the subjects will most likely succeed in the other.
7. It improves reading and comprehension skills
The connections your brain makes while playing music translate well into reading skills as well. According to a study for Psychology of Music, “Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” While playing musical instruments, both sides of the brain make various connections, enhancing vocabulary and verbal sequencing.
8. It gives you increased responsibility
Having a musical instrument to take care of is an incredible responsibility. If you’re really into playing, you no doubt treat your instrument like a member of your family, and will keep it safe from dings and dents at any cost. As a child, you also have to remember to bring it home to practice and bring it back to school the following day. You also have to keep track of your music, practice records, and everything else involved with being a musician.
9. It increases discipline
Along with more responsibility, musicians also have increased discipline. You won’t get any better if you don’t practice routinely. And you won’t practice well if you do it on someone else’s terms. You need to be able to schedule your own practice sessions, and keep yourself on track during those sessions. No matter how naturally talented you are, if you don’t put in the effort to get better, you won’t improve.
10. It sharpens concentration
Bands like The Grateful Dead get a bad rap for being aloof hippies living in a cloud of illegal substances. But it takes immense talent and concentration to play music for hours on end and maintain the ability to perform well. Musicians have to stay completely on point with the other members of the band at all times, taking visual and aural clues from each other without pause. When’s the last time you sat down and did anything for more than 30 minutes at a time without checking your phone? Hippies: 1, Everyone else: 0
11. It increases self-expression
Music is an art. It allows us to express ourselves in meaningful ways that can be exhilarating and therapeutic at the same time. If you’re not afraid to get up on stage and bare your soul through song, chances are you’re not afraid to speak up for what you believe in at other times in life. Performing for a group of people instills a sense of confidence and self-worth in musicians that they carry with them forever.
12. It improves social skills
With the exception of Oasis, most band members get along swimmingly with each other. Not only do they get along with each other, but fans of music generally understand each other a bit more, and are more apt to engage in conversation with like-minded individuals. Most band members share common goals or messages they wish to impart to their fans, as well, and will work together to make their voices heard.
13. It sharpens listening skills
This should come as no surprise, but if you want to succeed as a musician, you have to be a good listener. Like I said before, you have to be able to communicate with band members through audible changes in tone and volume. Of course, you have to have a good ear for the right note for the right situation. Musicians gain this ability by listening to countless others who have paved the way for others to succeed.
14. It exposes you to various cultures
Music is the language of the world. Although it may be expressed through different instruments, and many different cultures have different methods of playing, music can be universally understood by anyone willing to listen. True musicians are open to all different kinds of music, and can appreciate that which is outside of their normal range of taste. Because of this, musicians often find the common ground between a variety of cultures.
15. It increases happiness and self-worth
If the last 14 points haven’t made it clear, playing music is hard work. But it’s also extremely rewarding. Musicians truly love creating music for others, and for themselves, to enjoy. To a musician, there’s nothing more transcendent than playing just the right note that can give a room full of people the chills.
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