By Lea Mercado
Web Content Contributor
I was 9 years old when I got my first guitar. It was handed down to me from my brother after he got, well, a better one. The fretboard was too wide for my hands, the strings were old and rough against my uncalloused fingers, but I loved it.
In high school, I decided that guitar was going to be my life. I joined an orchestra and had lessons every day from a plethora of guitar teachers in my community until I became a teacher myself. I performed for whoever was willing to listen and put hours into my practice. Playing guitar became more than a sense of comfort or a cool hobby, it was my identity.
Then I graduated.
The experience is a common one. You’re forced to choose an instrument in middle school, encouraged to play through high school and then you eventually put it down to rest as a nostalgic memory.
But what are the benefits that are being laid to rest along with your instrument?
As individuals enter adulthood, they are faced with different challenges relating to work, school and finances. That’s just the tip of the ice burg. During COVID-19, screen time has increased substantially while most Americans work from home. Playing an instrument is the perfect way to break away from electronic stress outlets and blow off some steam.
Instead of scrolling through TikTok, music allows you to engage in a beneficial skill while releasing sweet, sweet dopamine.
In a 2011 study, Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, found that there is a direct correlation between the number of times adults have played a musical instrument and cognitive performance/preservation over time. The adults who have played longer show better performance in their cognitive ability such as memory.
Hanna-Pladdy later went on to conduct another study that revealed the benefits went beyond the initial findings and consisted of phonetic fluency, immediate recall and motor dexterity.
Playing an instrument has a unique way to promote discipline. Though trying to learn a cool riff or impressive solo can often be frustrating, the gratification felt after finally getting it encourages the player to be more persistent and disciplined. When using music as a creative outlet, there isn’t any pressure to achieve your musical goals, yet any musician can agree that self-discipline is well worth the result.
I suppose all of this is to say, playing music doesn’t have to be in a structured class setting and it doesn’t have to be your passion in life. Sometimes, it is nice just to fiddle around, make a little noise, even crash on a cymbal here and there (with your neighbor’s consent.)
Just have fun with it! Your brain will thank you.
Featured image by Lea Mercado.