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Published on July 13th, 2017 | by Guest

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Why Learning to Play a Musical Instrument Sharpens your Brain

Here’s a guest post from our friends over at ZingInstruments.com who are almost as obsessed about music and health as we are!

If you’ve ever seen the movie or TV series Limitless, you probably wished you could find a magic pill that could transform you into a genius overnight. Sadly, no real life NZT-48 has been discovered just yet.

But what we do have is music. Music has dozens of powerful enhancing effects on the brain. Just learning to play an instrument can sharpen your brain.

Never forget a birthday again

Regular lessons improve a number of areas in the brain, associated with all kinds of activities. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it helps children develop fine motor control, but did you also know that weekly lessons can improve memory too?

When you think about it, it’s not such a surprise. All of the musical theory, the patterns and the tiny little details of learning how to get the perfect tone and nail the individual techniques add up for a lot of stuff for the brain to remember. In order to do this, it’s going to have to keep the memory department sharp. This translates to a better memory overall, not just for the instrument you’re learning.

Become a human calculator

Music is an inherently mathematical pursuit. Learning to play an instrument requires you to develop a keen sense of timing and rhythm. A 1959 study showed that students who take music lessons perform better on tests of mental arithmetic than those who don’t.

So if you’ve got a test coming up, or you spend a lot of time working with numbers, it’s time to dust off that guitar and taking the time out to learn how to play it.

Higher literacy

The ability to read and understand information in written form is a crucial skill in our society. Those without these basic skills are at a huge disadvantage.

But if you’re anxious to make sure your child is confident in this area, it turns out that constant reading and writing lessons may not be the best way to achieve this. Instead, split their time between regular reading lessons and learning how to play an instrument. A 2009 study has shown that children who take music lessons are better at complex cognitive tasks such as reading when compared to children who don’t take music lessons.

Laser concentration

If you’re one of those people who always has deadlines looming, but you just can’t seem to concentrate without the fear of being late to propel you forward into a frenzy of work, you should really try learning to play an instrument.

Playing an instrument requires you to coordinate multiple skills, and improving takes dedication and concentration. Like a muscle, these attributes get stronger the more you use them. By training your concentration by playing an instrument, you also improve your concentration when it comes to other tasks in your life.

Reduce stress

Anxiety is becoming increasingly common. The huge range of negative effects anxiety has on the mind and body are pretty scary.

Thankfully, music has come to the rescue once again.

The ideal tempo for stress reducing music is around 60 beats per minute (bpm), or what’s known as ‘larghetto’ in classical music. Participants in a 2009 study reported big improvements in their mood and productivity when they listened to baroque music – which frequently hovers around the 60 bpm level.

So next time you’re feeling particularly stressed, instead of trying to black out your problems with alcohol, pick up a guitar instead. Playing every day for half an hour in the morning or evening is a great way to manage your stress levels.

Learning to play an instrument is its own reward. You don’t have to aspire to become famous to see the benefits of becoming a musician. No matter what you do, learning to play an instrument will make you better at it and keep your brain sharper.

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