The benefits of learning an instrument


Lisbeth Nordmeyer

Students learning guitar in class.

By Lisbeth Nordmeyer, Reporter

If you play an instrument, you probably know this moment: You think you will never understand this. You are frustrated. Your parents or your teacher want you to practice more. And you have probably thought about quitting more than once. 

Learning an instrument is time-consuming and it is a long way to go until improvement is noticeable. Sometimes, it takes longer than you want it to take. But learning or playing an instrument has many benefits.

Playing an instrument requires more of the brain than regular everyday activities do. That’s why musicians develop a stronger, more diverse neural structure than non-musicians, according to an article published by the National Association of Music Education.

Music education, especially learning an instrument, not only fine-tunes auditory skills but also has a large impact on the social, emotional and psychological state of an individual, according to Kent State University. Success while practicing can provide emotional encouragement to overcome struggles in other domains of life. Many students have also found that music education helps them with their anxiety, according to a study about the benefits of teaching music by Kent State University.

Mr. Sweet, a guitar teacher at Lane, thinks that practicing an instrument is a great stress reliever, too.

 “Here at Lane, the stress level is enormous,” Sweet said. “When you have that kind of stress, pick up a guitar for five minutes and play and decompress and then get back to study.”

Mr. Sweet started playing the guitar when he was nine years old. “I know, any time you learn something new, it’s frustrating, but if you stick with it, your rewards are pretty great,” he said. 

He said he wanted to quit the guitar so many times the first two years he was taking guitar lessons. 

“I am super thankful I didn’t,” Sweet said. 

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Music Merchants, 85 percent of adults in the United States that were being surveyed regretted not learning to play an instrument.

In fact, music also builds intellectual curiosity; by learning an instrument or listening to a song, you will naturally increase your intellectual curiosity about music and perhaps even life in general, according to a Kent State University study.

It does not matter how much you practice, it matters how much effort you put in the time, according to Mr. Sweet.

“You don’t have to be the next new star,” he said. “Picking up an instrument at any age is going to give you a stress reliever and it’s going to be a great amount of joy.”

Michael Collazo, Div. 069, plays the clarinet, bass clarinet, piano and guitar. With the clarinet as his main instrument, he is part of Lane’s Symphonic Band. 

“I enjoy the clarinet because it’s my get-away,” Collazo said. “Whenever I play the clarinet, I am allowed to express myself through music.” He explained that playing music really clears his head whenever he is stressed or nervous.

“It’s just like learning a new language. Especially in the beginning, you will be challenged with harder music that seems impossible to play, but I promise it’s worth it once you get the music,” he said.

Like Collazo, Ella Pesch, Div. 251, thinks that playing an instrument is a nice break from everything else that is going on. 

“It is like an escape,” Pesch said. “It helps me focus more. I just feel more relaxed and more accomplished after practicing. Maybe even a bit more responsible.”

According to the Kent State study, learning an instrument provides a unique way of self-teaching and learning discipline. For instance, if a student is not very successful at playing their instrument, they will realize that the more they practice, the quicker they improve.

Although every healthy human brain can perform all the complex tasks needed to listen to music, musicians’ brains are more finely attuned to these tasks, according to Harvard University’s Music and Health study. Researchers speculated that listening to music helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the right half of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions. 

Music also has an impact on a person’s mood. For example, bright and cheerful music can make people of all ages feel happy and energetic. In addition, music can also help with depression, according to Harvard University Music and Health study.

While there ate a lot of benefits to playing an instrument, learning an instrument can be a big commitment. Since it is really time-consuming, many people don’t find enough time to practice. 

But as Mr. Sweet explained, “It’s not the time you put in it, it’s what you put in the time.”