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The Benefits of Learning an Instrument

There are many reasons that people take up playing the harp. For most people, it’s because they want to be able to play it, because they know that not only will they be able to show their music to bring joy to other people, but also that the experience of playing itself is deeply enjoyable. But countless studies have shown that there are many reasons beyond just the pleasure of playing and performing that mean it’s wise to learn an instrument. Here are just some of the findings:

Musicians are better at learning languages

This study found that the range of skills that a musician uses when learning and performing promotes “brain plasticity” across a person’s life span. This not only means that musicians are better at learning languages, thanks to strengthened connections between auditory and motor regions, but also that there is “potential for music making as an interactive treatment or intervention for neurological and developmental disorders, as well as those associated with normal aging.”

Musicians’ brains age more slowly

Just like walking and eating healthily will prolong your physical health as you age, studies have shown that exercising your brain by learning a musical instrument can improve your memory, verbal fluency, the speed at which you process information, planning ability, and other cognitive functions. And even if you’re only picking up an instrument later on in your life the benefits are still there: “dividends could even be in store if you decide to pick up an instrument for the very first time in mid­life or beyond.”

Playing an instrument reduces stress and has other health benefits too

Research (and my own personal experience) shows that music reduces anxiety and stress, and has measurable positive effects on blood pressure, heart rate and even immunological response, helping us fight off viruses.

Learning an instrument improves your coordination

When you train your fingers to play a piece of music, those movements add to the list of things that your fingers are capable of doing. The first time you ever try to play an instrument, it’s really hard work to get your fingers to do what you want them to do. This is why the beginning of the course consists of simple melodies-it’s hard at first to get your fingers to play any notes in a particular order. But over time and through repetition it becomes easier, and a piece that takes a complete beginner many hours to learn can be picked up by an experienced player in minutes simply because their fingers are used to moving in certain ways. This can then transfer to other skills from playing other instruments to unrelated tasks like knitting or woodwork. The more you use your hands for playing the harp, the better your fingers will get at doing other tasks as well.

Learning and playing an instrument creates “fireworks” in your brain

According to this fascinating TED talk, learning to play an instrument helps you with lots of different areas of brain function, including problem solving, planning, strategizing, attention to detail and memory.

For even more benefits of learning a musical instrument, check out these articles:

And here is a 2021 article pulling together over 200 studies on the benefits of learning an instrument:

Benefits of music education statistics (200+ studies)

So this week set aside a little time, find somewhere nice to practice, and enjoy the benefits that this activity brings you.

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