10 Scientific Reasons to Learn Guitar
Many scientific studies have shown how listening to music is good for us but more and more of the latest neuroscience is suggesting that learning a musical instrument, as opposed to just listening to music has profound impacts on our brains, emotions and even our physical health.
Learning music can…
1. Reverse the Aging Process
Neuroscientist Michael Kilgard, Ph.D. conducted a study which included adults between the ages of 55 and 76 and showed that participants with musical skills had better physical and mental abilities. This included those that related to motor skills and spatial judgment, which typically decline as a person grows older. A psychological study, by Taylor and Hallam in 2008, found that learning music seemed to raise self-esteem and “minimize the negative effects of physical and psychological ageing”. Moreover, the benefits were anything but short-lived. According to the study, musical skills that were learned at a young age played a part in improving a person’s mind in his or her later years.
2. Reduce Stress
Researchers studying the benefits of music have reported that playing a musical instrument on a regular basis can help reduce stress. Studies show that playing an instrument helps lower the heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Michael Jolkovski, a psychologist who specialises in musicians, believes that music also helps in bringing down stress levels by helping people connect with others. “It (music) can satisfy the need to unwind from the worries of life, but unlike the other things people often use for this purpose, such as excessive eating, drinking, or TV or aimless web browsing, it makes people more alive and connected with one another.”
3. Boost the Immune System
Music has been shown to promote higher levels of the antibody “immunoglobin A” in our bodies. These are sometimes referred to as “natural killer cells” because they actively fight cancer and bacterial infections.
4. Improve Memory
Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich states: “We found that even in people over the age of 65 after four or five months of playing an instrument for an hour a week, there were strong changes in the brain. The parts of the brain that control hearing, memory, and the part that controls the hands among others, all become more active. Essentially the architecture of the brain changes”.
5. Make you Smarter
The Washington Post reported that one of the largest scientific studies into music’s effect on the brain has found that musical training doesn’t just affect your musical ability – it provides tremendous benefits to your emotional, cognitive and behavioural maturation. For example, one study showed that participants enjoyed a massive improvement in executive functions (EF). These include high-level cognitive processes such as memory, regulating our behaviours, making wise choices, problem solving, planning and adjusting to new situations. Another component of EF is having the mental flexibility to adjust new tasks on demand.
Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich, said: “Learning to play a musical instrument has definite benefits and can increase IQ by seven points, in both children and adults.
6. Improve Your Social Life
A study on adults over the age of 65 that played in a piano ensemble found that they learned not just for the sake of learning to play the instrument, but were also empowered to continue due to “emotional or social motivation and personal satisfaction in playing music”.
Neuroscientist Lutz Jäncke, speaking about people with musical skill states “…not only does this make it easier to pick up other languages and have a better verbal memory in your own language, we have also seen that musicians are able to pick out exactly what others are feeling just on the tone of their voices. Empathy, disappointment, that kind of thing.” Think of the implications of this. Music lessons actually make you better able to relate to and understand other people!
7. Give You Confidence
And you don’t even need to be good at it! Every time you pick up the guitar and learn something new, no matter how small an achievement it seems, it gives you an immense feeling of achievement and success. When you practise every day this feeling of success grows in intensity and develops into the sense that “I can do anything”. In my own experience with my students over the last 15 years I’ve noticed that besides a general love of music, adults have found playing enjoyable, challenging, and empowering.
8. Give You Will Power
Music skills don’t show up overnight. It takes continued effort over a period of time to experience results. This helps us to develop patience as well as self discipline. Huge strides can be made in this area especially if we sit down and do our practice when we really don’t feel like it. To do something that you don’t have to do, at a time when you don’t particularly feel like doing it is the fastest way to develop massive will-power that can overcome almost any obstacle in life. Learning an instrument is great practise for this. It’s like a great work-out in a “will power gym”!! I don’t have any science to back this up…only my experience.
9. Improve Creativity
Learning an instrument can enhance our own creativity, help spark new ideas and really get the creative juices flowing. Because of the way learning music stimulates our cognitive abilities, it spurs us on to think “outside the box”.
In his book, “The Creative Economy”, John Howkins shows how “new ideas, not money or machinery, are the source of success today, and the greatest source of personal satisfaction”. More and more in today’s world we are seeing “creative types” becoming leaders in many different areas life, especially in business. As well as being a wonderful creative outlet which gives a great deal of personal satisfaction, music can be a fount of inspiration in itself, opening our minds to new possibilities and ways of thinking.
10. Develop Self-Discipline and Perseverance
Learning to play an instrument takes continued commitment and a willingness to show up at the guitar day-in day-out. Of course, this isn’t the most attractive part of learning an instrument but the rewards of sticking at it day after day and seeing your progress gives you an enormous sense of accomplishment. In my experience this ability to discipline ourselves starts to show up in other areas of our lives outside our music practice.
11. Work Better Than Pain-Killers
One study found that listening to music before surgery reduced stress better than prescription drugs! Music therapy is standard practice in many hospitals throughout the world now where it is used to help patients with various illnesses from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s through to asthma and chronic pain.
So…it’s fun, it feels good and it’s good for you…
Need I say more?