This guide will cover the major benefits that musical instruments can have on both children and adults.
Brain training is a multi-billion dollar industry. Why? Because studies have shown that the fitter we keep our brain, the better our quality of life. According to the industry, there are endless ways we can improve our brains. From buying their brain training apps to taking their brain-enhancing supplements.
But do they really work?
Whilst brain training exercises can benefit seniors, the rest of us will find very little benefit in them. However, there is no need to worry because there are plenty of other ways to keep your brain fit.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to learn a new skill. Doing this helps our brains to grow and forges new pathways that make every part of our life easier.
So, what is the best type of new skill to learn?
Ideally, your new skill would combine multiple disciplines: learning to read a new type of language, improving your rhythm, working on your brain-to-hand connection, and improving your social skills.
Having read the title of this guide you can probably guess what skill we’re alluding to. Learning an instrument is possibly the best brain training skill you could learn. However, developing this skill has many, many other benefits in your life. No matter your age.
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” – Billy Joel
Benefits of learning an instrument for children
9 out of 10 children wish they could learn to play an instrument. And that is before they are even aware of the benefits playing can bring them in later life.
Research done by the UK government and the London Philharmonic Orchestra showed that 45% of children wanted to learn how to play guitar, 36% were interested in learning the piano, and 75% wanted to take up an orchestral instrument.
The benefits of learning an instrument as a child are impressive. They range from teaching perseverance and building self-esteem, to improving performance at school. Below we have collected 9 amazing reasons why you should encourage the children in your life to take up an instrument.
We often get asked if any instrument is more beneficial than others. There does not appear to be much difference between instruments when it comes to learning as a child. We would recommend thinking more about what instrument you could listen to them practice for 10,000 hours.
#1 Increase memory skills and IQ
We all know that we should be making sure our children do physical exercise. But what about mental exercises?
Well, ‘playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout’ (Anita Collins). And it is hugely beneficial to a growing brain.
Playing an instrument uses every part of our brain, including three of the most important areas of development from children.
These parts are the motor, auditory and visual cortexes.
Practicing a musical instrument will help these parts of your brain to develop in the same way that sit-ups help us build abs.
All of us can benefit from increased motor function, particularly children. Well-developed motor skills can set them up for a longer and healthier life.
Storing and retrieving memories effectively is a skill we all have to learn as children. Playing a musical instrument has been shown to increase the speed at which children learn this particular skill.
Learning a new skill allows us to build neurological connections in our brain. In children, this leads to better memory recall skills. This starts a domino effect when each skill they learn helps them to build the next one faster.
Improved motor and memory skills lead to better executive function in the brain. The executive function covers a wide range of skills from emotional development, attention to detail, and focus.
Children with high executive function skills are happier, perform better at school, and are more likely to be successful later in life.
#2 Teaches perseverance and ability to achieve something
Two of the most important skills we can learn in life are persistence and patience. Learning a musical instrument will teach children both.
If we’re honest with ourselves most of us wish we have a better-developed self-discipline system in place.
This is a skill that is possible to develop as an adult, but doing it as a child is much easier.
Daily practice not only builds discipline but it also helps the brain to cope better in all other areas of life.
There are a huge amount of benefits to creating a daily practice routine for your children.
It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, and by encouraging your child to practice regularly when young they will have clocked up these hours in no time. They’ll thank you later.
When your child is learning an instrument their teacher will set them short and long-term goals. As your child grows and achieves these goals their discipline and self-belief will grow too.
These goals are particularly important when your child is first developing their practice routine as they give them something tangible to focus on. Day to day it is hard to see progress, so when your child hits a milestone make sure to celebrate it. This will inspire them to continue practicing.
The skills of patience and perseverance are essential for the emotional development of your child. Practicing a musical instrument provides them with a safe space to understand themselves and what they can cope with.
#3 Improves coordination
We have briefly touched on how learning an instrument can improve your child’s motor skills.
In this section, we will be going into more detail about how great motor skills are essential for children.
By the time we reach adulthood nearly all of our motor skills will have become habits. We don’t have to concentrate when we walk or type.
Most of us have pretty good hand-eye coordination.
However, these are skills that we all had to learn at a young age. It has been shown that learning an instrument can increase the speed at which motor skills can be learned.
Some children are struggling with developing fine motor skills. For these children, the process of learning a musical instrument can help their brain to develop these fine motor skills in a different way. For these children, practicing a musical instrument can drastically improve their life.
Music for emotional therapy has been used for a long time, but in recent years we have seen the inclusion of music in physical and rehabilitation therapies. Learning to play an instrument is a simple way to rebuild motor skills that have been lost due to injury and can help your body access damaged parts of your brain.
One study even showed that playing a musical instrument can distract children from the pain that they are experiencing.
#4 Improves reading/comprehension and maths skills
These pathways make it easier for us to learn new things.
A great example of this language learning. We begin by learning the word for bread in our own language as a child.
Say we begin to learn French, our brain makes the connection between bread and le pain.
When we begin to learn a third language, like Spanish we have twice the amount of connections to each word as we did when we learned French.
El pan is able to build a connection between bread or le pain. Or an even stronger connection to both.
Playing an instrument improves your counting skills, it also improves your language skills, and your problem-solving skills too. By creating these neurological connections through playing musical instruments your child will find it easier to pick up other skills.
Comprehension, reading, and mathematical skills are particularly aided by musical skills.
Another crucial skill that is developed by practicing a musical instrument is the ability to multitask. Playing musical instruments requires coordinated hand movements, breathing, and reading. Your child will also be required to comprehend the music they are reading and translate it into actions.
These skills will benefit your child in later life. Many skills like driving, cooking, and coding require similar levels of multitasking.
#5 Creates Responsibility
Responsibility and object permanence can be a tricky thing to teach children. Learning a musical instrument offers a perfect opportunity through which to do this.
Most musical instruments require regular, if not daily maintenance. This can range from needing to be tuned to being oiled and cleaned.
These activities have a tangible effect on how the instrument performs.
Our brains translate this as an instant reward. We are more likely to make something a habit if it has a short term reward.
Responsibility is a skill that will benefit your children throughout their lives.
#6 Creates a sense of cultural grounding
One of the most entertaining ways to study a culture is to experience their music. Being able to expose your child to music from all over the world can help them to develop many important skills. One of the most important of these skills is empathy. Curiosity also comes hand in hand with this activity.
Many of us have an emotional connection to the history and music of our own cultures. By introducing your child to this you can help them to develop their own sense of self, within our large world.
This can be particularly helpful if you no longer live in the part of the world your family is from. Learning music from these cultures can be a fun way to engage your children in their family’s culture.
#7 Builds Self-esteem and Confidence
Confidence may seem like something that comes naturally to children. Sadly, it’s not that simple. Building self-esteem and confidence in a child is a delicate process.
This can be helped along by learning a new skill like a musical instrument.
So, how do we use skills like this to help our children believe in themselves?
Well, as we briefly touched on above, one of the major components to this is goal setting.
Humans often struggle with sticking to long-term goals like learning an instrument because they quickly lose motivation.
We can make this process easier for our children by working with their teachers to set them small and manageable goals.
Each time they achieve one of these goals two things will happen. Firstly, your child will be hit by a rush of satisfaction and motivation.
They will be more encouraged to go back to practice and learn something new.
Secondly, they will be hit by a wave of dopamine. When this happens regularly our brain begins to reprogram itself. This leads to us believing that we are capable of achieving the things we want.
Regularly practicing a musical instrument offers your children many more opportunities to succeed with these goals, and therefore it will help them to grow in confidence. And they can do this whilst building other skills that will benefit them later in life.
#8 Improves the ability to focus
This benefit really comes as a culmination of everything above it on this list. That is why we have saved it for last.
One of the most notable benefits of improved focus is improved performance at school, however, there are many other benefits.
The discipline that is developed when learning a musical instrument can improve nearly all areas of your child’s life.
Focus skills for a child are essential.
These skills can help with school work, but they can also help keep them safe at the roadside, and develop critical thinking skills.
So, why does learning a musical instrument increase a child’s ability to focus?
Well, firstly, learning a musical instrument increases brain function. Playing an instrument uses nearly every part of our brain. Studies have shown that increased motor function will result in increased ability to focus.
Playing a musical instrument has been shown to improve a child’s ability to read and perform mathematical calculations.
Playing a musical instrument also increases your child’s awareness of their own responsibilities. Whether that is making themselves listen during class or knowing not to run around the edge of a pool. This skill helps your child to develop their critical thinking ability and to look after themselves.
Confident children are more likely to focus. As is a happy child. The good news is that not only will playing a musical instrument make your child more confident (as we mentioned earlier) but it will also make them happier. Playing and listening to music releases serotonin in our brains and makes us happier.
#9 Music therapy is incredibly effective
The BAMT (British Association for Music Therapy) lists the benefits of music therapy for children as:
- explore and express thoughts and feelings
- nurture social interaction and communication skills
- encourage creative and spontaneous play
- develop concentration and coordination
- increase awareness of themselves and others
- boost self-esteem and build resilience
- stimulate language and listening skills
- strengthen family and peer relationships
Music therapy is generally used to help disabled children build social bonds, and develop their emotional skills. However, nearly every child could benefit from musical therapy.
Just like drawing and talking therapy, music therapy allows children to approach and express their emotions from a different angle. These ways often feel less overwhelming and they can help children to express feelings they don’t fully understand.
Group music therapy classes can create unique opportunities for children to practice being emotionally vulnerable. A skill that will become very valuable in later life.
These group classes can also improve a child’s social skills and help them to build lifelong friendships.
Here are few more benefits of learning to play an instrument can bring to your child:
- Playing music makes us happier
- Increased emotional development
- Increased social skills
There are a nearly endless amount of benefits to getting your children to learn to play a musical instrument.
‘Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything; It is the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just, and beautiful.’ – Plato
Benefits of Learning an instrument for adults
Learning a new instrument is one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions every year. Up to 60% of adults want to learn how to play an instrument at some point in their lives.
If it’s something most of us want to do then why don’t we?
Here are some of the reasons people site for not learning an instrument:
- Not having enough time
- Not knowing where to begin
- Being too shy
- Not being creative enough
- They don’t think they’d be very good at it
If many of us released how beneficial a habit like this could be. Learning to play a musical instrument can actually make us happier, less stressed people, with better hearing and bigger brains.
Below we have collected a list of 9 benefits that come with learning a musical instrument as an adult. We hope that these reasons will make you release that your fears are unfounded. Learning a new skill like this can actually improve your life.
Many of us feel that starting to learn a musical instrument as an adult is too late. However, some of us are more likely to succeed at it as an adult. Whether it’s because we have chosen to develop this skill or because we are more aware of the positive effect the practice is having on our lives.
#1 Reduces Stress
Stress is one of the biggest strains on our health. We will all experience it at some point (if not daily) as an adult.
Did you know that the regular practice of a musical instrument can reduce your stress levels? Why is stress so bad? Stress can have a negative effect on every part of our body:
- Increased likelihood of heart attacks
- Raise blood pressure
- Erectile dysfunction
- Muscle tension
- Back pain
- Slowed metabolism
- Increased likelihood of developing allergies and IBS
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to practice a musical instrument. Why is this so effective? There are two main reasons.
Firstly, playing a musical instrument gives you something else to concentrate on. It distracts you and takes you out of your immediate situation. Practicing a musical instrument actually engages all parts of your brain and prevents any subconscious worrying on your part.
The extreme focus and repetition that comes with practicing a musical instrument put you into a very similar state to meditation. These states have both short and long-term benefits – from slowing your heart rate to rewiring your brain to make it less vulnerable to stress triggers.
The reduction of stress in our lives is possibly the most important benefit of learning a musical instrument.
#2 Helps with patience and perseverance
Building self-discipline is one of the most difficult things we can do as adults. This is partly due to the fact that our brains have evolved to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, this is not practical in the modern world. Self-discipline is an essential skill that we all need to develop to build ourselves a satisfying life.
Thankfully, there are some tried and tested ways to improve self-discipline. Learning a musical instrument is one of these ways.
It takes between 66 and 100 days to successfully build a habit, and once you’ve built one the rest will come more easily.
Practicing playing a musical instrument is a great habit to try and build as it comes with many short and long-term benefits. Both of which are needed to keep the brain motivated.
Sometimes, you may feel like giving up because you feel like you’re not seeing any progress or you just can’t be bothered. When you feel like this, set yourself a small goal that you can achieve in the next week. This will help push you forward.
Learning to play an instrument is a slow process, but the rewards are unlike any others. You will see the benefits of building perseverance throughout all areas of your life – at work, in your relationships, and when learning more new skills.
Practicing a musical instrument has even been proved to improve a person’s timekeeping abilities. It can also make you a more productive person who has a better understanding of how to effectively use their time.
#3 Appreciate music itself
One of the major benefits of learning a musical instrument at an older age is that you have a much more developed taste in, and understanding of music.
This is a twofold benefit, (a) learning an instrument when you’re older means you can play pieces you truly love, and (b) you will gain a new appreciation for songs that you adore.
According to Aristotle the only way to truly appreciate music is to learn how to make it.
When you play an instrument you get an unparalleled insight into the complexity of writing and performing good music.
Some many amazing things have been done in the world of music. Like the band Tool writing an entire album based on mathematical phenomena (like the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio), or Mozart writing multiple concertos after going deaf.
Learning an instrument can also open you up to a whole new world of music. Whether it’s a genre you’ve never heard of before or even music from a whole new country. There is always new music to discover. And there is nothing like learning a new instrument to inspire you to do that.
#4 Increasing creativity
If you have creative goals in life that don’t revolve around music, you still might want to set aside some time to practice this skill.
Because playing a musical instrument makes you more creative. Many of the greatest writers and artists of all time have also played instruments.
Playing a musical instrument will allow you to wake up the creative part of your mind without draining you of your creative energy.
Here are some creators that have benefited from this technique, trust us, you’ll want to be part of this group:
- Steven King
- Maya Angelou
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Harper Lee
- Mark Twain
As we mentioned above, playing music can put you in a very similar state to deep meditation. Both of these states are used by writers, musicians, and artists to cure their creative blocks.
#5 Uses all parts of your brain
If you can remember all the way back to the introduction of this guide, we talked about ‘brain training’.
It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, built around the idea of keeping as many parts of your brain active as you grow older.
Some people may be shocked to find out that these brain training activities aren’t very effective. In fact, there are very few activities that use all parts of the brain.
Playing a musical instrument is one of the few exceptions to this rule.
Developing this skill has a huge impact on your brain health because of how complex the activity is.
While you are playing the guitar it may not feel incredibly complex. However, behind the scenes, your brain is receiving information in the form of sight, sound, and touch.
You are also engaging your fine motor skills and your comprehension skills too. We also make emotional connections to music that adds another layer of brain stimulation to this activity.
MRIs have shown that the human brain is incredibly stimulated by listening to music. However, playing music has an even more dramatic effect. Scientists saw the whole brain light up when testing someone playing an instrument.
What many people don’t mention as a benefit of learning a musical instrument is the way it changes your brain. Regularly stimulating your brain in this way can actually rewire it and help it to perform better.
Tests have also shown that musicians have better reaction speeds at all ages. And that they are more likely to retain these reaction speeds when they reach old age.
#6 Playing music makes you happier
There are very few traditions that have lasted the entire expanse of human history. And even fewer traditions have appeared in nearly every culture.
So, what makes music so special that it’s stuck around for so long?
Playing (and listening to) music has a similar effect on the brain as drugs and gambling do. When we listen to music our brain releases dopamine.
This is the chemical that drives us to be productive people.
It is also the brain chemical responsible for creating feelings of satisfaction.
Music has such a powerful effect on the brain that even thinking about making or listening to music can cause our brains to release this happiness chemical.
This is why millions of people flock to gigs and music festivals every year. Why major events like inaugurations and opening ceremonies prominently feature musicians. It’s why nightclubs are so popular.
And it most definitely explains why we humans have been making music since the beginning of our history.
Music has an amazing ability to stop us from feeling so alone. Whether the song reminds us of our home, or the lyrics make us feel understood. There are so many universal human experiences that can be captured perfectly through music.
Like all great works of art, music and lyrics transcend time, age, nationality and so much more.
Music is also a very powerful memory trigger. We all have songs that take us back to specific moments in our lives, both good and bad. This connection is so powerful that scientists have begun to use music as a treatment for dementia. Early trials have been fairly successful.
Playing music also makes us happy because it gives us a sense of accomplishment. Every great performance is the culmination of many hours of study and practice. Our brains also release dopamine when we take the time to reflect on our achievements.
So, why does playing music make us happy? Because it makes us feel connected and less lonely. It triggers happy memories and other powerful emotional connections. It leaves us feeling accomplished. And it gives us a similar emotional high to taking drugs or eating a really, really good dessert.
#7 Ability to bond with others
Playing a musical instrument can open our social circles up in two main ways: (a) we can meet new people who also play musical instruments, and (b) music can make us more empathic and emotionally mature people.
Let’s talk about how music can introduce you to other people with similar interests.
While it can be a daunting idea when you begin learning to play an instrument, playing with other musicians is not only a great way to improve your skills but to make new friends too!
You’re more likely to make playing an instrument a habit if the people around you do the same things.
Whether you chose to join a choir, band, or even just attend an open mic night – you’re sure to meet many like-minded people. You might even be able to form a music appreciation group with people who are already in your life and get to know them better.
So, how can music make us a more empathetic and emotionally mature person?
Thanks to the power of the internet we can access sheet music for songs from all over the world with ease. This kind of access to music will expose you to more viewpoints than you ever thought was possible.
Being able to emotionally connect to other people through music will help you empathize and understand them. Not only does this kind of emotional growth make us happier people, but it also makes us much more pleasant people to be around.
You’ll find it much easier to make friends and keep them as your supply of empathy grows. You’ll also have a lot more interesting things to talk about with your new friends.
#8 Strengthens the immune system
This benefit goes hand in hand with benefit #1 (reduces stress), as our stress levels are one of the main factors in the performance of our immune systems.
Studies have shown that musicians are far more likely to have an effective immune system.
While scientists have not worked out exactly how the habit does this, it is generally believed that the stress-relieving powers of playing an instrument is to blame.
As well as boosting your immune system playing an instrument has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
This can lower the risk of many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
If you’re an ex-smoker you might want to consider taking up a woodwind or brass instrument. These instruments have been shown to significantly improve lung function and even speed up the recovery process after quitting smoking.
Musicians also have better posture than the average person. This is because correct posture makes playing much easier. In turn, good posture can prevent back pain and even improve core strength and stability.
Playing a musical instrument increases the blood flow to your brain. This can counteract the effects of fatigue and exhaustion. It will also help you sleep better and improve your memory.
Do you have to study for an exam or an important presentation – try taking a break every hour to practice your instrument. You’ll be surprised by how much of a difference it makes.
So, not only can playing a musical instrument improve your mental health, but it can improve many areas of your physical health too.
#9 It will introduce you to a hidden side of history
One of the most fascinating parts of studying music is discovering the thrilling and sometimes dark history behind the great musicians and pieces of the world.
Music has been a powerful tool in many revolutions.
It has been used to raise millions of dollars for charity. It has documented some of the greatest romances of all time.
And it has spawned hundreds of conspiracy theories.
Here are some fascinating musical facts to begin your journey into the history of music:
- Orlando de Lassus’ (a renaissance opera singer) voice was so beautiful that he was kidnapped multiple times.
- There is an entire album that was recorded in space. Chris Hadfield recorded Space Session: Songs from a Tin Can after a cover he did of David Bowie went viral.
- In the 20th century playing music was an Olympic sport
- Many historians believe that Mozart was murdered by a jealous rival
- In the 1950s the Hurrian Hymn was discovered. The Hurrian Hymn is a set of lyrics carved into a clay tablet that is believed to be over 3500 years old.
It is never too late to start learning a musical instrument. No matter your age you will have a huge amount of benefits by doing so. Whether you’re looking for something to improve your health, make you happier, or to help you meet new people… Learning a new musical instrument has your back.
Learning a new habit like this will send positive effects rippling through all areas of your life. The improved brain function will help you at work. The improved self-confidence will help your social life. And the reduction of stress will make you a happier person.
Learning to play a new instrument can help you recover from emotional trauma. It can strengthen your immune system. It can bring back precious memories. It can make you a more creative and productive person. And it can even slow the decline of your hearing as you grow older.
You can see all of this for just a few minutes of your time a day. However, it is a skill that gives you more back, the more you invest in it. Practicing a habit like this can improve a bad day.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to pick up that instrument and carve five minutes out of your day to improve your life!