You may already know that exposure to music such as listening or playing an instrument can greatly benefit many aspects of your life. Listening to music utilises various parts of your brain as it recognises melodies, rhythms, pitch individually and as a whole. However, playing a musical instrument has a far bigger impact on all areas of your brain, and can significantly develop and enhance them, which also improves the processes of the brain not only in playing music but also in academic and social situations. So, while practising and training your musical skill will improve on your musicianship directly, it influences you in more ways than you can imagine improving multiple areas of your life simultaneously.
You can read more about it further on and do feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts, questions, experiences or suggestions you'd like to share - I'd love to hear from you.
1. 'Full body workout' for your brain
Imagine the benefits a comprehensive, challenging workout session designed for your whole body will offer, for example, improving your strength, balance, agility, stamina and developing yourself in general - well, something similar happens to your brain when you play a musical instrument. It is only in the last few decades that neuroscientists have been focusing on specifically how playing an instrument affects your brain and, while the research is fairly new, it is proven that it affects practically every single area of your brain with emphasis on motor, visual and auditory cortices.
2. Better 'connection' between left and right hemisphere
As you probably know, both parts of the brain are more involved in processing different types of information. The right hemisphere is responsible for all creative processes while the left hemisphere represents precision and logic. While playing an instrument triggers all parts of the brain, it also stimulates corpus callosum, which is the bridge between both hemispheres, and it can also increase its volume, which results in better, faster and more diverse information processing between both sides of your brain.
3. Brain that works as a powerful memory and search engine
An important part of playing an instrument is remembering different pieces of music and certain skills you have learned throughout your musical education. It is quite predictable that this will strengthen your memory, making it easy for you to store and access information in your brain. Not only that, but because various parts of your brain have developed increasingly, your brain is able to store the necessary information and almost put 'tags' on them, applying your skills and memories to different situations accordingly.
4. Applying the skills acquired through playing music to everyday situations
You probably have already gathered that, if playing a musical instrument influences your entire brain, surely you will be able to use that in other areas of your life. Well, you are right, because musicians may particularly excel in solving different problems and tasks and finding more creative solutions to different situations (referring back to better co-operation of logical and creative hemispheres of the brain). You can therefore use these skills in almost any situation in life, whether creative, academic or social - pretty great, right? It gets better - because playing music involves reading and understanding its emotional message, musicians develop better executive function that helps enhance your planning, strategic functions, memory, attention to detail, time management etc.
Scientific experiments, research and facts!
Although there are many obvious benefits to playing a musical instrument, like me, you may be a little sceptical when reading such a bold statement that playing music improves your entire brain like no other activity. Well, I have put together some studies and experiments with links that you can read more about below - I am sure they will truly amaze you! Remember that you are truly gifted with a skill a lot of people do not possess and if you do not play a musical instrument - I hope this article has encouraged you to learn something new and impress yourself and others around you.
Quick 5-Minute YouTube Lesson by Anita Collins on Ted-Ed
explaining the above points in a fun, illustrated way
'In a press briefing on November 11, 2013 Gottfried Schlaug, MD, PhD—who is an expert on music, neuroimaging and brain plasticity from Harvard Medical School—summarized the new research from three different presentations at the conference. These insights suggest potential new roles for musical training including fostering plasticity in the brain; have strong implications for using musical training as a tool in education; and for treating a range of learning disabilities.' - Read More on Psychology Today
'SAN DIEGO, California — A trio of new studies shows that musical training affects the structure and function of different regions of the brain, how those regions communicate during the creation of music, and how the brain processes different sensory stimuli...The studies were presented here at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.' - Read More on Medscape.com
'According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, playing an instrument as a child keeps the mind sharper as we age.
The study, done at the University of Kansas Medical Center, recruited 70 healthy adults ages 60 to 83, who were divided into groups based on their levels of musical experience. The musicians performed better on several cognitive tests than individuals who had never studied an instrument or learned how to read music. The brain functions measured by the tests tend to decline with age. <7 Ways the Mind and Body Change With Age>'
- Read More on Livescience.com