The Benefits of Learning an Instrument

Being able to pick up an instrument and play a song takes quite a bit of practice, time, and dedication. It does have many benefits that helps develop you brain and dexterity, deal with stress and anxiety, and round you out as a person.   

Photo by Derek Bridges

Photo by Derek Bridges

Many people begin playing instruments for the first-time during grade school band class, where you had to pick up the recorder. Many kids never liked the recorder, perhaps it was the deafening screeches it would make, or maybe just the fact that they were being forced into something they don’t enjoy. Others would have an immediate interest when they first lay eyes on an instrument.

For me, it was finding my dad’s old garage sale knockoff guitar in the basement. For Moeller’s own mathematician, Mr. Mike Ward, it was seeing his grandma’s piano that sparked his interest.  

Wanting to learn an instrument must be your choice because having a passion for it is what fuels your desire to get better. I wanted to learn guitar because I have always loved music and wanted to pursue that, and not to mention my brother said it would help with the ladies. Mr. Ward wanted to learn the trombone because of his fascination with “the slide thingy”, his passion for music, and band performances. The desire to play an instrument can come from many sources, but for many people it’s the initial allurement, which sustains the motivation to get better.  

Photo by Arto Alanenpaa

Photo by Arto Alanenpaa

Playing an instrument has both physical and mental benefits. Studies show that playing an instrument significantly increases the ability of the right side of your brain. According to Emily Singer, of New Scientist, when you are playing an instrument, the brain releases more BDNF, CREB, and synapsin I, which are all chemicals in your brain that are used for strengthening mental capacities. It doesn’t make you smarter instantly, but it gives your brain an advantage of being able to grow and learn easier. These advantages can lead to a better comprehension of math and a stronger memory which will help you though out your school.  

The benefits of the left brain are important because music helps your emotions and passionate side. Playing an instrument gives us the ability to be creative for a certain amount of time. You can play a song based on how you are feeling, and it can cause our emotions to change. Using music to deal with stress after a long day is a great benefit too because you can focus on something else to decompress for the day.

Whichever side of the brain you use it will always have a benefit, whether it is the knowledgeable right side or the creative, emotional left side. “It gives me distraction, something different to do, but it also challenges a different part of my mind” Mr. Ward said when talking about the benefits he feels. Mr. Ward, being a math major, would almost exclusively use his left side of his brain since that is the technical, side, but with this passion for music he can use both.

Mike Ward blasting the tuba in the 1986 Moeller Yearbook

Mike Ward blasting the tuba in the 1986 Moeller Yearbook

The physical benefits of being a musician are the coordination and dexterity they you gain. When playing you must learn the to use your mind and hands together in sync. Reading music and playing an instrument are connected but when they are separate aren’t too hard to do. When doing both you teach link you mind and hands which develop this coordination that can help in other parts of life like sports.  

There are also social benefits of playing an instrument. Finding friends who share a similar interest can help create social skills and form friendships. Being in a band can teach to play a different role than you do normally. “When I'm teaching, I’m totally in charge but in the band, I’m listening and playing along with, and having a musical conversation,” Mr. Ward said when explaining how it helps round him out as a person. Adding this variety of different social situations and getting out of the norm will help you grow as a complete person.  

Whether or not you should learn an instrument is up to you. There are many benefits from learning and there isn’t really a downside. If you have an interest talk to someone who plays something and ask how you can get started. It’s never too late to pick up something new and keep learning. “Most important thing is to always keep learning, no matter what it is, music spoke to me” Said Mr. Ward on whether people should learn an instrument. Picking up an instrument is a way that you will always have something to keep working toward and improving on.

 

 

Dennis Cowell