For those who don’t play an instrument or sing anywhere but in the shower, the act of making music might fall into two categories: school bands, and professional musicians. Even if we never went into the band room, most of us were at least aware that the schools we grew up in had music programs. Some as early as grade school, others not until high school, but it was there. On the other hand, the only music most people are exposed to after they leave school is performed by a professional musician, be it an internationally acclaimed stage band, or just the local group that plays Saturday nights at the restaurant around the corner. Far too few people think of making music as something that is infinity accessible, and as something that can have a profoundly positive impact on their everyday lives. But the reality is you don’t have to want to be a rock star to start playing or singing music. Music doesn’t have to be a path to stardom, or something that ends with high school. Music can be, and really should be, a fantastic hobby. Just let me tell you why.
Better Time Management and Organizational Skills
One of the less obvious side effects to making music one of your hobbies is that it teaches you how to be better organized, while you manage your time more wisely. After practicing for a while, you’ll be able to recognize that good, quality practice time is better than how often you practice. Most people live pretty busy lives these days, and you’ll be forced to learn new organizational skill if you make the commitment to continue to improve upon your musical skill. In order for you to progress quickly, you’ll learn to organize your practice time and plan new challenges to work on, using your time efficiently.
Increases Your Memory
If you’re a student trying to cram facts, figures, and dates into your brain in time for a test, or an adult who’s just concerned with improving and maintaining their memory, the answer is to start making music. Research has shown that both listening to music and playing an instrument can stimulate your brain, and increase both your memory and how quickly you recall things.
There is a growing body of science that shows how musician’s brains are functionally and organizationally different from non musicians. It’s been clearly shown that playing an instrument, even for just a few hours a week, can actually grow and develop the parts of your brain that control your motor skills, hearing, storing of audio information, and memory. These part of the brain also become more active overall when you start playing music.
Boosts Your Decision Making Function
Learning to play music has an interesting effect on the bridge between the two halves of your brain: it thickens the connections, making them stronger and faster. One of the possible side effects of this thickening might be that musicians gain stronger “executive functions,” the ability to make decisions, process and retain new information, and adjust their course based on that new information. What does all this mean for the musical hobbyist? For students, it may mean more academic success. For adults, it might mean more focus, better attention, and improved performance at work. It can also help with neurological problems that involve decision making in adults and children, like ADHD.
Slows Brain Aging
In addition to improving your memory and executive functions, making music a hobby will also mean that these benefits are not lost over time. Countless studies have shown that the benefits that the brain enjoys from making music will remain for years, well into retirement even. What’s more impressive is that these benefits hang around even if you stop making music. Studies have shown that making music as a child can have profound impacts on speech recognition decades later. But that’s no excuse to stop playing; those who play music for longer have extended benefits. One study involving people aged 60 to 83, showed that those who had played music for 10 years or more could recall more sensory information, including sounds, sights, and the physical feeling of things, than those who had played for 9 years or less.
Instant Mood Lifter
Whether you play music or not, everyone can recognize music’s power to alter mood. Even if it’s a subconscious drive, we’ve all used music to help regulate mood. Just think about the last time you were angry, so you listened to angry music, or conversely, listened to calming music to sooth you. I think everyone can relate to listening to sad music following the end of a romantic relationship. Science has studied this phenomenon, and we know it’s real.
Listening to music is a powerful tool for controlling your moods, but imagine if you were the one actually making that music. Bringing an instrument or singing into your life can bring music’s power to regulate mood to a whole new level. You can control the emotion in any song, or even express the emotions you’re feeling through songwriting.
In fact, even those who play music casually seem to have better emotional control and concentration. And science backs that up, showing that musicians can better regulate their emotions, anxiety levels, and capacity to pay attention. In other words, even casual musicians may suffer from fewer stress-related mental and physical symptoms, like burnout, high blood pressure, and headaches.
This should come as no surprise, but all these mental-health improvements add up to better feelings about yourself. And how can it not? Your brain works better, your stress levels and emotions are in control, you’re learning to manage your time and effort better, and all while keeping your brain young and healthy. No wonder you’re feeling better about yourself! And yet again, the science backs it up. Several studies have shown that both kids and adults who received music lessons score higher on self-esteem and confidence, feel more part of a group, and feel more successful.
Far too many people see music as too big of a commitment to make time for in their lives. To them I say, you don’t have to become a superstar! There is no reason to rush to improve your skills, and there is no timeline for success except the one you give yourself. The benefits of making music a hobby are far too important to pass up.