You might remember having to learn a musical instrument in grade school. You may have liked it and continued playing it – or a different – instrument as you grew up. On the other hand you may have felt you were all thumbs, gave it up and never picked up a musical instrument again. Secretly though, you may have had the desire to learn to play a musical instrument and play it well. As a kid, maybe you just weren’t ready to learn music yet. Now that you’re older, you may be surprised how much enjoyment and even health benefits you can get out of learning to play a musical instrument. Here are some very good reasons why you should try:
The Personal and Health Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument
You’ve likely heard the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. That may be true of dogs, but it sure isn’t true of humans – especially older ones – even those over age 60. In fact, research published a few years back in the journal Neuropsychology revealed that older people (ages 60-83) who spent time playing a musical instrument faired better on cognitive aging tests than people who did not.
Strong changes in brain functions were noted in studies done with people over the age of 65 after 4-5 months of playing a new musical instrument. These changes positively affected their memory, hearing, and motor skills that control hand movements, word recall, nonverbal memory, a bump in their IQ levels by 7 points, learning flexibility, and much more.
So if you’ve always wished you had kept up with your piano, guitar, or violin lessons as a kid, here are some more reasons why you should make the effort to pick them up again.
1. Improved Cognitive Skills. As the studies above showed, people with musical training outperform those without training on learning tasks. Older people, who practice music/playing musical instruments, frequently have much less aging brain symptoms. In learning a musical instrument, your brain creates both new nerve connections, and re-strengthens older ones.
2. Memory, alertness improves. Learning music, and how to play a musical instrument, increases the capacity of your memory. It helps you stay more alert and remain active throughout the day.
3. Improves Time Management and Organizational Skills. Learning a musical instrument forces you to manage your time more effectively. Your teacher may require you to devote, approximately 30 minutes a day to practicing. You’ll have to organize your life to fit it in.
4. Improves Hand/Eye Coordination. Learning/practicing a musical instrument strengthens the parts of your brain that control motor skills – hand movements, body coordination.
5. Improves Math Skills. This one may surprise you, but it’s true. Learning music/playing a musical instrument helps sharpen your mathematical skills as music and math skills are related. In music, you have to learn how to count notes and beats which is controlled by the same part of your brain as learning to count numbers.
6. Improves Your Confidence/Self-Expression. Successfully learning any new skill boosts your self-confidence. It also gives you a new outlet to express yourself. Learning to play a musical instrument can be particularly gratifying in this area as you are not only mastering the workings of a technical device but also expressing yourself emotionally as you play it.
7. Improves Your Health. Practicing a musical instrument, though it may be frustrating at times, has an overall beneficial effect on your general health. It lowers your blood pressure by relieving stress and tension, and also helps release endorphins “feel good” brain chemicals. Studies have shown that learning music even helps with attention deficit disorder and depression. It can also burn calories! Your body moves while playing a musical instrument and burns energy to do so. Did you know playing drums for 90 minutes can burn about 500 calories?
8. Boosts Your Fun. Playing a musical instrument – even if you’re not very good at it – can still be fun learning. Taking a class in it can also help you get out and socialize with people you have something in common with – your choice of instrument and the desire to learn it. You may make a few new friends while you’re at it too.
It’s not necessary to have studied a musical instrument all your life in order to learn one now that you’re older. Maybe you couldn’t afford music lessons when you were younger or you didn’t have the time in your busy life. Perhaps, you’d just like to resurrect an old dream to see where it takes you or just have it be a private passion for your own fun and enjoyment. You don’t have to become a contestant on American Idol or play at Carnegie Hall to reap the benefits of learning a musical instrument. But, remember, there are some very musically talented people out there who were late-bloomer Boomers whose musical talents weren’t discovered until late in life. Just ask Susan Boyle!
10 Good Reasons To Learn a Musical Instrument http://wxrt.cbslocal.com/2013/04/05/10-good-reasons-to-learn-a-musical-instrument-its-not-too-late/
The Senior Brain May Benefit from Musical Activity http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/223170.php