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How does playing an instrument keep your mind sharp?

Needless to say, for different people playing a musical instrument means different things. To some people, it’s simply for fun; to some others, it’s an obligation and a must do – probably because they have made music their career choice; and to some others, it’s for self-gratification (they just want to play).

Interestingly, it’s quite surprising that many musicians are completely oblivious of the subconscious cognitive mind transformation that lies underneath the process of playing. Yes! Just like meditations and mantra, Playing or learning to play a musical instrument helps in sharpening your mind absolutely. Trust us, that’s a given!

As it is our tradition at Musical Instru to enlighten you on all you need to know about playing musical instruments, this piece too is channeled towards that direction. It will intimate you on what playing the musical instrument (especially the piano and the guitar) does to your mind. Isn’t that exciting?

The Science Explained

Succinctly, we attempt to explain how playing the instrument alters your brain and in the process augment your cognitive skills.

Generally, studies have shown that music itself is therapeutic. An example of such a study was conducted at the Mc Gill University. This research revealed that music enhances the immune system and is also, effective for stress reduction. What it does to the listener is unimaginable as it heals the soul and relieves stress. No wonder some health institutes have adapted musical therapy for treating their ailing patients. Now imagine, if music can do this to the listener, what would it do to the facilitators?

For the players or those learning to play, owing to rigorous sensory co-ordination involved in playing, the corpus callosum which is a network of nerve fibers that connects the two sides of the brain together becomes larger. Basically, the function of this part of the brain is to integrate the senses together with the cognitive performance of the cortex.  As such, for musicians or instrumentalist, they have enhanced sensory abilities for processing thoughts, aggrandized reasoning and psycho-motoric skills. Furthermore, for those musicians who started playing at younger age, the effect of the instrument on their cognitive performances is immense.

The cognitive benefits of playing the stringed instrument

You wouldn’t agree less that stringed instruments are masterpiece instruments. It’s just amazing how they produce their unique tonality and melodies. When handled by a Pro – the story is something else entirely as it could leave you fixated to a spot, transcending between realms. Wonder why some guitarist like Jimi Hendrix or violinist like George Enescu ever remained in their prime? Well, that’s the magic of the stringed instruments they played!

Whether it is a modern stringed instrument like the guitar or the violin; or it is a traditional stringed instrument like the Ukulele or the Banjo, these instruments are remarkable for pruning the mind. According to a Cambridge study, consistent practicing on stringed instruments, more specifically, the guitar and the violin helps to improve the level of one’s creativity.  By striving to pluck on the strings and attain a mastery of it vis a vis the blends, fills, and techniques attached to playing, the sense organs become more functional. Consequently, this leads to an improvement in psycho-motoric and cognitive practices. Suffice to say, when you play the stringed instrument, you increase your brain power.

What about your stress level? Of course, studies have also confirmed that playing the stringed instrument is potent for relieving stress. As revealed by the Loma Linda School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems, playing the violin, or guitar decreases pleasure level. It releases dopamine (stress relieving hormone released during sex). No wonder, these guys are always anxious to strap on their instruments. Remarkably, the stress reduction is actually one of the characteristics shared by all musical instruments, even music in general.

Apart from the fact that playing the stringed instruments keeps your mind sharp, other benefits derived from playing include the following:

  • Pills are good but try reaching out for your guitar, violin or harp when down with pains. Naturally, you could be healed without popping pills.
  • When you grow old, the probability that you would suffer from dementia is quite slim.
  • It could transform you into a rich man in no time. This is not debatable actually; once you are good at what you do, cash flow in and you end up a happy man.
  • Interestingly, according to the Mc Gill studies, playing the stringed instrument (the guitar especially) enhances the player’s sex life. It helps to improve your orgasm. Isn’t that unbelievable? Of course, if dopamine is released by playing, automatically, that’s good for your sex life too.

How about the piano: what does it do to your mind?

Ever listened to Henry Cory do a solo on the piano before? If you haven’t, well, you should; but if you have, do you not wonder where that coordination emanates from? How he combines chords with scales producing such electrifying sounds and aura. It’s just so angelic! This is what playing a piano does to you. Your mental horizon can become expanded to accommodate a lot of sensory and neuronal coordination.

It is no gainsaying that the piano and the keyboards too are spectacular instruments – they are one of a kind. Also, it is quite undeniable that these instruments are unique not only for their tonality but also for the sleek array of white and black notes on them. This makes the piano a gorgeous sight to behold, especially the grand piano.

As said earlier, playing the piano like every other musical instrument is functional in transforming your mind. Now, these physiological benefits of playing and how it keeps the mind sharp would be briefly captured below:

  • When you get accustomed to playing the piano, your brain changes positively. This is known as “neuroplasticity” which entails the ability of the brain to change its form and function in a specific manner especially when jazzed up by physical activities. This simply means that playing the piano consistently restructures the brain in a positive way. As some studies have indeed shown, playing the piano enhances your memory and psychomotor skills.
  • Playing the piano entails in-depth concentration. Piano players can relate with this – that case where you play with both hands, eyes on the music sheet and legs on the pedals. It is just so multi-tasking. Thus, this enhances your cognitive skills and improves your sensory nerves. It also impacts your mind such that multi-tasking in other areas of your life would become very easy to handle.
  • Just like the stringed instruments too, playing the piano can help relieve stress. Several studies have shown that most piano players suffer less from depression and anxiety. Also, for piano players, because the stress level is low, blood pressure level is automatically normal. This improves efficiency in other activities too.
  • Studies have also shown that playing the piano helps in the production of the pituitary gland (a human growth hormone). This effect is largely beneficial to children and adolescents who started playing the piano at a tender age. For such kids, they become smarter and full of life than their mates who are not music-oriented.
  • Other benefits of playing the piano include; fame, source of income and a sense of fulfillment. It’s fun too.

Lastly, we’d like to end this article with a caveat which is intended for prospective players and starters. In case you think you should stop playing because learning to play can be so rigorous and insipid most times, you should reconsider. Think of what playing these instruments can do to your mind. It’s a sacrifice worth paying.

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