What if there were a fun way to make almost every aspect of life measurably easier?
As a freelance writer who also happens to be a guitar player, I’m no stranger to the benefits of playing an instrument.
I’ve been a gigging musician for more than 15 years. In that time, I’ve experienced the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of playing the guitar.
For more detail and the science behind the benefits of playing an instrument, read on:
Improvements in dexterity aside, the physical benefits of playing an instrument are well known.
Physical benefits that translate well into our day-to-day lives. Ones we ought not overlook!
Boosted Immune Response
A review of hundreds of scientific studies shows that playing and listening to music has clear health benefits.
The review found music to be especially beneficial for boosting the immune system and reducing stress.
According to Dr. Suzanne Hanser, professor and the founding chair of the Music Therapy Department at Berklee College of Music, making music seems to boost the immunological response that helps us fight viruses. .
Which is good news, as you might need that, even if you’re not committed to touring in a van.
Deep breathing is integral to our mental well-being and focus, but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill you need to learn.
When it comes to learning deep breathing, woodwinds win, hands down. One of the oldest human woodwinds is also one of the most difficult to play: The didgeridoo from Australia.
This walking-stick-looking piece of droning whimsy requires enormous lung capacity to even make a sound. But with enough deep-breathing practice, you and your didgeridoo are going to be the life of one odd-sounding party.
In fact, the American Lung Association reported that study participants with sleep apnea who practiced the didgeridoo once a day reported less sleepiness during the day.
The benefits of playing an instrument don’t have to be complicated or involved. Even goofing around on the harmonica can have a major impact on a serious physical ailment like COPD related pulmonary disease.
Physical Stress Reduction
Playing music can be the outlet that turns emotional angst into art, and improves our well being.
As a touring musician, I’ve seen music do quite a bit of emotional healing. But what else is going on in terms of physical stress? Physically?
Playing an instrument regularly combats the fight or flight breathing response, which is shallow and rapid.
The more we play an instrument, the more we breathe as though we’re playing an instrument when we’re not.
It becomes a physical habit which engages the parasympathetic nervous systems in times of acute stress.
Then when we get cued up, our subconscious musical training steps in to derail the runaway stress response.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Our very being is hardwired with music.
Anthropologists found Flutes fashioned of Mammoth bones. Those date back tens of thousands of years before agriculture.
This hints at how rooted the benefits of playing an instrument are to our very existence.
Increases Memory Capacity
Human beings are living longer than ever. This, in turn, means cognitive impairment and dementia are on the rise as society ages.
It is depressing, but the World Health Organization estimates that cases of dementia will triple between 2020 and 2050.
Playing music can actually be instrumental in delaying that trend. See what I did there?
A 2019 look at the data showed that musicians, even casual ones, were 64% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
Studies have shown that people with musical training have more developed brain structures.
Further, older adults with musical training showed faster response times and higher overall scores in cognitive tests.
Playing music you more creative
Playing a musical instrument is often thought of as an artistic endeavor alone. In reality, there are problem-solving benefits that extend outside the realm of music.
Playing an instrument actually changes how we solve problems. Making us more efficient, global, thinkers in the process.
Creative problem solving is what leads to innovation and economic development.
Must be why musicians are always the ones fixing the broken copier in the office, right?
The first time you pick up a musical instrument is terrifying. It’s like you’re thrown in the deep end of a pool and begging for help in a foreign language.
The second time is frustrating. It’s a mystery how some people flow around a fretboard while your fingers are bleeding from looking at the strings.
It took me years to get to a point where I felt confident. Where could I take that hard won confidence?
The benefits of playing an instrument aren’t limited to the practice room.
The improved grittiness and perseverance for a long term reward is one of the best indicators of success across a wide swath of life.
When you’re passionate about achieving a goal, like mastering a musical instrument, you’re simply more likely to develop the necessary grit to achieve it.
And the good news is that career benefits actually accrue when you pursue a passion outside of work. Even if that passion has no overlap with work whatsoever.
So yes, playing a musical instrument can make you a better car salesman, construction worker, marketer, or rocket scientist!
Time to start tuning up.
Music is a mathematical language. We measure the frequency of tones numerically.
We speak in lettered notes, but we receive, comprehend, and understand mathematical waveforms.
The first Voyager spacecraft included music for this mathematical universality.
People report hating math, but everyone loves music. It almost doesn’t make sense!
One of the key benefits of playing an instrument is that it serves as the bridge between enjoying music and understanding mathematics.
Was Mom right to stick me in those piano lessons all along?
Pick Up and Play
Picking up an instrument for the first time is one of the most rewarding, and initially frustrating experiences you’ll ever start.
But the benefits of playing an instrument are undeniable. And they have very little to do with finding yourself on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Life is a complicated, difficult, place to navigate. Playing an instrument makes that experience just, well, easier.