Sonja Park, professional pianist and also a member of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra tells us why we should learn to play an instrument.
Music is therapeutic. It has the power to heal, inspire, create love, harmony and friendship across the world, but also to help you in everyday life if you start to learn one. There are many reasons why you should play an instrument, as well as it just being something to do. It can teach you life skills and be spiritual for the mind. Here are my ten reasons why you should learn an instrument, at any age.
1. Improves performance on cognitive tasks
You can teach an old dog new tricks: for people over the age of 65, after four or five months of playing a musical instrument for an hour a week, there are strong changes in the brain – the parts that control hearing, memory and the part that controls the hands, among others, all become more active. The effects are long-lasting too – for adults aged 65-80, the more years a person had spent playing an instrument, the better they perform on tests of word recall, nonverbal memory and cognitive flexibility. Other results show that playing an instrument can help your IQ increase by seven points.
2. Increases the capacity of your memory
Adults and children can both benefit from learning to play an instrument because it helps the mind to be alert and remain active, eventually helping to sharpen the memory. This makes learning a foreign language easier and makes you more perceptive to interpreting the emotions of others. This is due to the fact that learning an instrument requires you to learn about tones and scores which increases your ability to store audio information. Therefore it becomes easier to pick up other languages and have a better verbal memory in your own language.
3. Refines your time management and organisational skills
In order to learn an instrument successfully you have to learn how to be organised and manage your time wisely. To progress quicker, a musician will learn how to use his or her time efficiently and plan different challenges to work on. When you see yourself continuously improving, you will be motivated and ready to take on those new challenges.
4. Enhances your coordination
If you learn how to play an instrument, the parts of your brain that control motor skills actually grow and become more active. By reading musical notes on a page, your brain must convert that note into specific motor patterns while also controlling breathing and rhythm as well. Also, for most instruments, you have to be able to have your fingers and/or limbs each performing different tasks simultaneously. Therefore, playing music requires a lot of hand-eye coordination and if you’re anything like me (always picked last to play dodgeball but I’m not bitter or anything), then any improvement would be greatly appreciated!
5. Betters your mathematical ability
In order to read music you have to count notes and rhythms, which has the effect of improving your mathematics skills. Learning music theory includes many mathematical aspects so it’s not surprising that it can help you understand things like fractions more effectively. So if you’re still in school, does that mean you need to pick up a guitar instead of a calculator? Hmm…
6. Fosters your self-expression
The more advanced you become on an instrument, you’ll begin to be able to play what you want and however you want. Since music is an art form, you can easily play a piece and use it as an outlet for your emotions. Playing an instrument of your own will not only help you relax, but can help build confidence and give you a sense of achievement. How cool is it to discover a talent you thought you never had?
7. Provides health benefits
Playing music acts as a form of therapy, having calming effects on the mind and body. In particular, music has been found to reduce blood-pressure levels while other studies suggest that music therapy helps children and teens with Attention Deficit Disorder, insomnia and depression. Oh and it can also be good for exercise, with varying degrees of fitness depending on the instrument. 90 minutes of drumming burns as many as 500 calories. That sounds so much better than jogging!
8. Teaches you discipline, responsibility and perseverance
Learning to play an instrument takes time and effort, which results in you learning patience and perseverance. To get a musical phrase or entire song down with as few mistakes as possible takes great focus and repetition since most people will not be able to play a piece of music perfectly the first time. In fact, the majority of musicians have to work on difficult sections of music multiple times in a row before they can play it correctly. Since it is such a challenge, this teaches you self-discipline and the importance of maintaining a steady practice schedule.
9. Relieves Stress
Music can soothe not only others but the musician as well. The sound combined with the release of creativity and emotion, as well as the simple vibration of an instrument against a player’s body, can significantly lower a musician’s stress levels. Playing any instrument can actually help release the endorphins in your body, which will also result in reduced levels of stress!
10. It’s Just Fun
Even after learning the simplest three chords, you have the ability to write your own song. So many famous song writers have written several well-known songs using only a few chords and there is nothing like playing a song you just learned or wrote for a friend or playing it with friends. You don’t have to be Beethoven or Mozart here, you just have to have a desire to learn! So go and pick up your desired instrument today. Of course, I would always say that the best instrument is the piano!
Sonja Park performs regularly at special events and for the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. She also has a scheme to get young people involved in playing music. To find out more on this, visit www.movingyoungartists.com.