9 Non-Musical Benefits of Learning Music

Apr 3, 2024

Choosing to play an instrument is the beginning of a journey, not just a musical one. The journey is exciting and often filled with strife, struggle, and hard work. It forces you to absorb new information and master new skills. But the benefits of undertaking this journey go way beyond simply learning music. And in today’s world of social media and the criticisms against it, specifically when it comes to its impact on the developing minds of children, that journey may be even more useful and important.

This week, we will explore some of the many non-musical life benefits of playing an instrument. Many people who take up music get discouraged by the amount of time and effort it takes to reach any real level of skill, so it’s important to keep these less obvious benefits in mind.

The Non-Musical Benefits of Learning Music

Music Uses Every Part of the Brain

Science has shown us time and time again that musical training has an incredible impact on the brain. It actually changes structures and function for the better, including better brain development in the young and improved long-term memory for all ages.

In fact, brain scans show differences in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians. Perhaps the biggest change is in the corpus callosum, the giant bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two sides of the brain: it’s much larger in musicians. There is also improvement in movement and hearing.

Interestingly, even if you only have a brief period of musical training, you still reap long-lasting benefits, including in reading, memory capacity, and happiness.

Learning Music Improves Memory

As hinted a moment ago, music has powerful effects on memory. In 2003, ABC Science discussed a study performed with high school students, half of whom had musical training. The test involved the students listening to a list of words and then being asked to recall them after some time had passed. The study found that the students with musical training performed much better on verbal memory than the non-musical group. In addition, the more training the students had in music, the more words they were able to remember.

Boosts the Immune System

While researching the effects of music on the body, physiologists and neuroscientists Daniel J. Levitin and Mona Lisa Chanda discovered that listening to music and playing an instrument boosted the immune system. Specifically, music prompts the body to create the antibody immunoglobulin-A (IgA), which kills viruses like the common cold or the flu.

Improves Reactions

In a study by Dr. Simon Landry, researchers compared the reaction times of musicians with at least seven years of training with non-musicians. With a speaker in front of them, Dr. Landry asked the participating students to place one hand on a mouse and the other on a “vibrotactile” device. If the student felt a vibration from the vibrotactile device, heard a sound from the speaker, or sensed both simultaneously, they were asked to click the mouse. Ultimately, the experiment found that the musicians had significantly faster reaction times in all the tests.

Reduced Stress

A recent study published by The National Center for Biology Information investigated how effectively music lowers stress. Volunteers were split into three groups: one listening to relaxing music, one listening to the sound of rippling water, and one listening to nothing. The study showed that the people listening to music showed significantly lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels than either of the other two groups. Imagine what making your own music can do for your stress!

Build Patience & Perseverance Through Learning Music

Learning music usually isn’t easy. It doesn’t just involve adapting your body but expanding your mind as well. You’ll learn fingerings and chord shapes, develop playing techniques, and memorize new information. Slowly, over time and with good practice skills, you’ll notice yourself getting better. With each new milestone or goal reached, you gain a small reward and fresh motivation to continue. Making music requires patience – you won’t get immediate results, so you’ll have to push through and persevere, a valuable skill in other areas of life.

Builds Confidence

Learning to play an instrument automatically means playing in front of other people. At first, this might just be your teacher, but eventually, it will mean recitals or simply for curious friends. This will help foster the valuable experience and grit needed to keep it together while others watch. The confidence you build in your experiences with performing will be carried over into other areas of your life: “If I could do that, then I can do this!

Improves Self-Discipline

Learning to play an instrument is a commitment that won’t be finished overnight. Making music requires a lot of hard work and a consistent level of time and effort. A certain amount of self-discipline is needed to follow the steps of consistent, focused practice—especially with all the distractions available today. Strengthening self-discipline, like confidence, can be carried over into other parts of your life.

Better Time Management Skills

Here in the 21st century (AKA “The Future”), we’re all marching to the beat of a busy schedule. Learning music can certainly be an added challenge, especially if you have lofty goals. The desire to improve will help you find ways to schedule time to practice during your already hectic day. In turn, you will improve the valuable life skill of wasting less time and using your time more effectively.

Learning Music: In Conclusion…

More than anything else on this list, music makes you happy! Not much can be compared to the joy you get from sitting down with your instrument and letting your emotions flow through your fingertips and out across the notes and chords of a piece of music. And that’s what makes every benefit of learning music worth the long journey: it’s fun – and if it’s fun, chances are you’ll stick with it!

If you’re looking to start your journey, or if you’re already on it but need a new guide, check out all the programs, classes, and ensembles that The Music Studio has to offer for children and adults!

It’s never too late to start reaping the benefits of musical training!