“A guitar is a very personal extension of the person playing it. You have to be emotionally and spiritually connected to your instrument…” Eddie Van Halen
What is it about music that draws us to it? It soothes us. It tugs at the core of our being. And usually helps us to express our emotions in ways words fail to do.
Even a child that can barely pronounce mama understands music and will instinctively nod in rhythm when a song comes on.
While there are several benefits to listening to music, playing a musical instrument, especially guitar, may even have far more significant benefits. The best part, you don’t necessarily have to master the instrument to reap the benefits – just the mere act of trying to learn to play the guitar is enough to unlock huge rewards.
Researchers have found that playing the guitar can bring both physical and mental health benefits. And, regardless of your age, whether you are 14, 18, 30, or 60, playing the guitar is a great way to boost your physiological and psychological well-being.
In this piece, we explored some of the science-backed benefits of playing the guitar.
Learning to play the guitar can help improve brainpower.
Playing the guitar has a variety of benefits. But what you may not know is that learning to strum your guitar can, in fact, improve your mental acuity.
Researchers have found that musicians have distinct neural features that differ from those of non-musicians. They found that people who play the guitar or any musical instrument for that matter, exhibit a high level of brain activity which could lead to increased concentration, ability to spot mistakes easily, and can retain more information than their non-musical peers.
If you’re a parent, you may want to pay attention to this: a government-commissioned study found that learning a musical instrument bolsters children’s behavior, memory and intelligence.
Researchers found that learning to play the guitar creates new neural paths in children. And, as they practice regularly, these neural paths solidify thereby enlarging the left-side of their brain.
In another study, scientists compared the impact of music lessons with drama classes. They found that pupils who are taking music classes are more likely to have a higher IQ than those in the drama class.
The bottom line is if you want to improve your mental prowess or that of your little ones, you may want to consider learning or to encourage them to learn how to play a musical instrument.
Playing the guitar can help delay the onset of degenerative brain diseases
There is a growing body of knowledge that suggests learning how to play musical instruments can help stave the onset of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In a 2017 report published on the Journal of Neurosciences, Bernhard Ross and his team at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto, Canada revealed that learning to play a musical instrument can trigger brain wave synchronization in such a way that improves the individual’s listening and hearing abilities.
The alteration in brain activity as Dr Bernhard explains indicates that the human brain creates new neural paths to compensate for diseases that may hinder an older person’s ability to perform a task.
In another study, researchers tracked and interviewed 469 people over 75 years of age with no case of dementia, evaluating how often participants engage in leisure activities.
Researchers found that participants whose leisure activities include either reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments and dancing were at a lower risk of dementia.
Overcome stress by strumming your guitar
Life is filled with things that can stress you. From juggling work to managing your personal life and other commitments, it can get quite challenging to cope with daily stress. When not managed well, stress can wretch havoc on your well-being and mental health.
While it might be pretty hard to avoid stressful situations totally in your daily life, there are certain things you can do to lower stress levels. One of such activities is learning to play musical instruments such as a guitar.
Scientists have found that people who play the guitar can lower cortisol levels – cortisol is a stress-inducing hormone – and decrease anxiety.
Comparing salivary C-reactive protein levels and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) scores when participants play musical instruments and clay molding, researchers found that playing a musical instrument is more effective in lowering stress levels. (Source)
Mastering new skills, any skill at all, can go a long way in improving one’s self-confidence. The sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you now have a valuable life skill that can come in handy gives a boost to your self-esteem.
Learning to play the guitar is pretty challenging for most people. So when you are finally able to hit the right notes, play the scales properly and strike the chords repeatedly, you begin to believe you can do this – the very foundation for healthy self-esteem.
As a parent, encouraging your child to take an interest in music helps not only improve their self-confidence as they master their instrument but also helps them become more socially adept.
Improves creativity and concentration
We live in a world where we are required to exhibit creativity in almost every area of our lives. From being asked to become more creative in the workplace to finding innovative solutions to our problems.
Many of us don’t consider ourselves as creative people; however, research has shown that we can improve our creativity by learning how to play the guitar.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University came to this conclusion from watching guitarists play. These guitar players were hooked to scanning machines that allowed the scientists to monitor their brain activities as they played.
Scientists found that when these people played the guitar, there’s a distinct pattern of dissociation in the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for conscious thoughts and efforts), increased activity in the medial region of the brain and reduced activity in the lateral areas.
Explaining the result of their findings, Charles Limb and co-author Allen Braun suggested that the reduced activity at the prefrontal cortex and lateral areas indicates the suspension of conscious control and activation of more spontaneous thoughts and actions.
It is a well-known knowledge that listening to music is both beneficial to our mental and emotional well-being. However, playing musical instruments may even have greater benefits.
Learning to play the guitar provides several benefits including improved mental powers, delay of onset of degenerative brain diseases, lowers stress, boosts creativity and bolsters self-confidence.