Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why Learn Music? Why Play an Instrument?

WHY Learn Music? Why play an instrument?

Why? For one thing, because it’s really good for your brain.
The Brain: Wonderful and important parts of your brain turn on when you learn to play an instrument, so you can better absorb material and retain information. It is not unlike learning a new language. 
More good news: Playing music is an art form where you can express your thoughts and feelings.
There have been numerous studies about these benefits. Play music for an hour a week and the parts of the brain that control hearing, memory and motor skills, all become more active with long-lasting results.
In order to learn an instrument successfully you have to learn how to be organized and manage your time wisely. To progress quicker, a musician has to plan different challenges to work on. Hence you become responsible for your own learning as the capacity of your memory increases.
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 the page, your brain must convert that note into specific motor patterns while also controlling breathing and rhythm as well. 
Also for many instruments, you have to be able to have your fingers and/or limbs each performing different tasks simultaneously. Think of drummers who play a trap set. Every limb is moving and keeping time in different ways.
Self-Expression
The more advanced you become on an instrument or as a composer, you begin to be able to play what you want, 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.
Health Benefits
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. It can also account for a form of exercise. 90 minutes of drumming burns as many as 500 calories.
Discipline, Responsibility, Problem Solving, and Perseverance, Oh MY!
Learning to play an instrument takes time and effort, which results in the learning of 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 difficult sections of music multiple times before they can play it correctly. Since it is such a challenge, this teaches self-discipline and the importance of maintaining a steady practice schedule.
RELAX! Come in and enjoy the show!
Music naturally 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 level. Playing any instrument can actually help release the endorphins in your body, which will also result in reduced levels of stress.
Even after learning the simplest three chords, you have the ability to write your own song. Bob Dylan, for one, has 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, you just have to have a desire to learn! In my class, these very young players know the chords and notes of G major. These are easy enough to play and create with on piano, ukulele, guitar, and recorder.
Some instruments strengthen your respiratory system. A musician will often hear his/her teacher tell them to “use more air!” Not only does this help nerves before a performance, but it also helps to make wonderful-sounding music. Musicians often need to control the amount of pressure needed to properly make the desired sound. Breathing exercises are highly recommended for musicians and will strengthen their respiratory system.
Concentration improves especially while playing a solo composition. This requires the player to concentrate on things like pitch, rhythm, tempo, note duration, quality of sound, etc.  Playing in a group involves even more concentration because the musician must learn to not only listen to oneself, but must listen to how they are harmonizing with the rest of the group. Another reason why it sharpens concentration is because of the hand-eye coordination involved. Not only do musicians have to read the music, but they have to hit the right notes! On top of that, when playing in a band/orchestra/ensemble, the musician must keep an eye on the conductor. That’s a lot of work for one’s brain.
Math skills are improved by reading and playing music. In a study performed by Frances Rauscher, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, she found that math test scores for preschool-age students rose for those who received instruction in piano, rhythm or singing. The students who studied rhythm had the biggest gains, and she said she was not surprised. Rhythm is, after all, “the subdivision of a beat,” she said. It’s about ratios and proportions, the relationship between a part and a whole — all material you find in math classes.


When it comes to reading, Professor Nina Kraus goes on to prove that playing an instrument also improves our reading skills. “Our eyes and ears take in millions of bits of information every second and it is not possible for the brain to process all of that, so the sensory systems in our brains are primed to tune into regularities or patterns in the signals it receives. People who are musically trained are better at picking up these patterns because they learn to recognize notes and pitches within melodies and harmonies. The better you are at picking up these patterns in music, the better a reader you are. This makes sense as letters and words on a page are really just patterns.
As you can see, these are some of the benefits of learning to play music. And this is just the beginning.
Friendships can be formed as musicians learn to play together. Learning to support others in your group is paramount to a successful performance. Caring for an instrument and treating it with love and respect opens the musician up to being caring and meticulous. 
All of these skills are transferable to whatever you do and are at the root of forming solid, caring beings on planet Earth.


Alice Cotton is a professional musician, author, and artist who has been playing music and creating stories for children since the age of 8 when she bravely put her head under her father’s grand piano. With ears next to the piano strings, she listened to all its incredible sounds. Then before bed each night she would tell fantasy stories to her brother and sister. Thankfully the piano top stayed up and her stories were well received by her siblings and friends. Since then, (no surprise) a lifetime of music and storytelling unfolded. Hence, her books include The Case of the Flying Note, Adventure On A Blue Moon, Musical Tales and the Adventures of Hoody Hoody (a young girl) and Budhiem (her magical cat). In addition, Alice has been a lifelong reader of children’s literature and believes that “We are really all here to have a good time!”

Alice Cotton posts focus on children's literature every third Wednesday of the month. 


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