You are creative. And learning to unlock your creative potential is a serious level-up. Some would even go as far as to say that this is where we find our purpose… in the creative ‘human’ space of life.
And learning to play a musical instrument is not only creative, but also has incredible benefits on a personal level…socially, functionally, and culturally.
As you will see below, when you experiment with creativity in something as simple as playing an instrument, those skills, thought patterns, and beliefs impact your entire life.
In a world preoccupied with churning out compliant employees, education for all that fits into a model based on productivity and output, with machines taking over the work once done by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of humans…
The impending need for you to become the 100% unique human being that you are becomes more important every day.
Make no mistake… This ability to produce quickly and at scale is progress.
But as a result, many have lost touch with the natural human ability to create.
I hope you will be inspired, challenged, and encouraged to create when you learn about these 19 different ways that playing an instrument can help you to:
- Learn powerful life lessons
- Enhance your mind
- Cope with and build-up your life
- Improve your physical health
There’s also a tonne of research that shows how learning a musical instrument improves child development, so we’ve thrown in some bonus benefits on how playing a musical instrument benefits kids too.
The key, then, is to pursue it… to pick up your instrument, and invest time into it every day.
19 Benefits of Playing an Instrument
1 – Develop Patience and Discipline
Learning to play a musical instrument takes time, dedication, and routine.
Nobody picked up a guitar, said “I’m going to learn this today,” and took to the stage the next morning. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which means if you practice for an hour a day, you’ll still be learning 25 years later…
Aside from the sheer amount of time that musicians dedicate to learning their instrument, they also need to consciously dedicate time to practicing and playing it, developing diligence and discipline that carries over to multiple areas of life.
2 – Learn Goal Setting And Follow-Through
Learning an instrument is all about small increments.
You don’t learn a 3 over 4 polyrhythm at your first drum lesson; you start with some core techniques and rudiments, and build up your skillset from there. All the time, though, you have that goal in the back of your mind to play like John Bonham or Neil Peart.
This process is no different to other areas of your life where you set long-term goals, define the steps along the way, and work on them daily.
Developing this type of thinking while learning music benefits the learner in many life areas, as well as providing boosts of dopamine to the brain as you achieve tasks and develop your ability.
3 – Cultivate Creativity
Probably one of the most obvious benefits of playing an instrument is that it helps to develop your creativity, strengthening the parts of the brain that are responsible for creative endeavours.
Whatever instrument you choose, as your skills develop, you will no doubt find yourself getting better at writing your own pieces.
This is vital to your growth as a musician, as music is not just about learning chords, scales, and songs, but rather about embracing an opportunity to express one’s emotion through an instrument.
The reality is this… everyone is a creator in their own unique way.
While creating from an instrument, you create not only a real and tangible embodiment of your feelings and emotions… but you also accomplish the goal of being a co-creator in the world.
As you create, you make the world a better place. You inspire other creators, and that is how we progress.
4 – Increase Your Confidence
Not all of us are outgoing, confident people. But learning to play an instrument can actually help to change that.
At the beginning of their journey, students are faced with an unrelenting barrage of mistakes, mess-ups, and errors, as they develop the motor skills and memory required to master their instruments.
Learning to fail, and to be okay with failure, is an essential part of learning and developing confidence.
As your skill in music strengthens, you will be greeted with the opportunity to perform in front of others, which instills a great deal of self confidence.
5 – Find Your Flow State
Flow State is a concept coined by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, and refers to the “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
If you try to play Bach on day one, you will quit. Conversely, if you stick with Mary Had A Little Lamb for too long, you grow bored.
The flow state is when you take on an appropriate level of difficulty, stick with them until they become automatic or habits, and then level up via another challenging tier.
By instinctively accessing your flow state with an instrument, you then learn how to tackle any challenge, overcome any obstacle, and accomplish every life dream that enters your heart.
6 – Exercise Your Brain
It has long been known that the left side of the brain is responsible for mathematical and linguistic processing, with the right taking care of creative duties.
Well, one of the greatest uses of musical instruments for the mind is that playing music actually uses both sides of the brain.
When we complete certain activities, different areas of the brain ‘light up’ as different neurons fire and send messages to one another.
Looking through a brain imaging device, scientists have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of neural connections being activated as research participants listened to music.
When they studied individuals playing an instrument though, what they saw in the brain dropped jaws.
Basically, the entire brain lit up. The attention, fine motor skill, memory and creativity required to play an instrument utilizes neural connections in all regions of the brain, essentially creating a full body workout for the mind.
7 – Strengthen The Corpus Callosum
We know that while playing music, the entire brain is engaged. But what’s interesting is that playing an instrument actually strengthens the link between the two hemispheres.
Known as the Corpus Callosum, this thick strip of brain matter allows communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Healthy growth of the Corpus Callosum is important to the development of language and motor skills, as well as vision and hearing functionality.
Thanks to repeated communication between the two hemispheres during musical practice, the musician’s brain typically shows a strengthened Corpus Callosum and high ability for inter-hemisphere communication.
8 – Enhances Cerebral Circulation
Blood flow to the brain is an essential factor in, well, keeping your brain alive.
Known medically as cerebral circulation, blood flow to the brain is vital in providing oxygen and nutrients to this central processor. When this circulation is compromised, the brain can suffer damage.
Fear not though, because those who play an instrument are beneficiaries of additional cerebral circulation. In particular, studies have identified that playing music increases blood flow to the left hemisphere. So, pick up that guitar and get the blood flowing!
9 – Strengthen Your Executive Function
No, we aren’t talking about suiting up and strapping on a smart pair of brogues.
Executive function is the set of mental skills that involve self-control, memory, and flexible thinking. Strong executive function makes it easier to focus, handle emotions, and follow directions.
As you continue to learn your instrument, you are constantly pulling into play both short and long term memory, as well as fine tuning your mental flexibility in response to different rules and demands.
10 – Improve Your Memory
Learning to play a musical instrument involves an incredible amount of memory. You’ll need to remember performance techniques, rules relating to reading and playing music, chord and scale shapes, and song structures, among other things.
Your brain is an incredibly complex machine, constantly assigning and reassigning memories to different areas of storage.
When developing your musical skills, you’re also learning to better make use of your memory storage, which is good news for those of us who find it easy to forget things…
11 – Enhance Information Processing
We live in a pretty full-on world, and it can be tough to process all of the information thrown at you. The average person is exposed to more than 5000 adverts every day.
That’s not 5000 sources of information, that’s just ads.
Our brains are pretty powerful machines – but even the most powerful computer would find it difficult to process the amount of information our brains do.
With that being said, however, the amount of stimulation they are receiving continues to rise.
Practicing a musical instrument involves processing several visual (reading music, watching what your hands are doing, watching other musicians), and auditory (listening to the music you are playing along to, listening to the music you yourself are playing) sources at once, improving the mind’s ability to do so in other circumstances.
12 – Develops Social Skills
Nobody goes through life truly alone. Even the most solitary and introverted of us must interact with others on a daily basis.
A lot of the time, especially in the workplace, this involves some form of cooperation, compromise, and ability to work with others towards an end goal.
The same thing happens when playing music in a group context.
As you develop your musical skills, you’ll eventually start playing with other musicians.
Not only is this a great way to advance as a musician, you’ll also learn important social skills, identifying when to take the lead and sit back, how to work together to meet a goal, and how to problem solve when things go wrong.
13 – Relieve Stress
Research shows that writing and playing music lowers cortisol levels, which is a stress related hormone.
Many musicians use their instrument as a way to unwind after a long day, to express and let go of stressful emotion, and to refocus, refresh, and reanimate.
14 – Emotional Release
There’s a reason why so many popular songs are so relatable: they pull at your human emotion.
Whether lyrically, or through the music itself, there is a form of expression there.
Mastering an instrument gives you the ability to take part in this expression too, letting go of and releasing emotion. It can also be an effective form of therapy.
15 – Work Out Your Brain AND Body
We know that playing music is like a full body workout for the brain, but certain instruments can actually offer fantastic cardiovascular workouts.
Drums in-particular are an instrument that involves the whole body, and depending on what and how you are playing, can really work up a sweat!
16 – Improve Motor Skills And Coordination
Fine motor skills are an important and valued component of everyday human life.
In fact, they are one of the things that set us apart from many other species. Learning to play instruments such as violin, piano, and guitar, encourage the development of fine motor skills through repetitive action.
While fine motor skills develop in the fingers when learning these instruments, gross motor skills are also improved upon, particularly in instruments such as drums.
Additionally, coordination is a key part of playing music, whether that’s between two hands such as in stringed instruments, or using both the arms and legs such as when playing the drums.
17 – Improve Breathing And Lung Capacity
While a lot of instruments involve only the hands and feet, wind instruments like the trombone or clarinet rely on the player’s breath.
It goes without saying, then, that the stronger your breathing ability, the better you’ll be able to play. Same goes for singing, which involves a lot of deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
Developing deep breathing techniques is great for both the mind and body, circulating oxygen while improving your respiratory system and strengthening your lungs.
Benefits Of Learning An Instrument For Kids
18 – Develops Reading And Listening Skills
When children take up and begin to study an instrument, they are consistently bringing into play not only their reading skills as they read music and play along, but also their listening skills as they concentrate on the sounds their instrument is making.
A large American study has found that early music engagement has a positive influence on reading tests as the learner develops.
They’ve even found these positive outcomes to be prevalent in children as young as four years old.
19 – Improve Math Skills
That same study found links between engaging in learning a musical instrument, and positive learning outcomes in maths. Music, although a creative endeavour, ultimately has many ties in mathematical concepts.
Things such as time signatures, tempo, and intervals all have a mathematical root, and these ideas help to strengthen a child’s ability in maths as they learn new concepts.
There are many benefits to playing an instrument, including improved time management skills and concentration, as well as both physical and mental improvements. Even social skills develop as a player advances and begins rehearsing music with friends.
Studies have shown that many of these benefits start taking effect as young as 4 years old. So, if you’re a parent, email some local music schools and get your child involved early!