Just sit for a moment and imagine a world without music.
No music on films, television, advertisements or radio.
No music in the school play or your games. No nursery rhymes. No music anywhere.
It is a pretty difficult thing to imagine but now you are probably aware of how much we listen to music in our everyday lives.
Music is an incredibly important part of human society and culture, used for expression, entertainment, socialising and sharing.
Not only does music enrich our lives by simply listening to it, by learning to play it we can also:
- Connect to other people both living and dead (e.g. composers);
- Broaden interests and learn more about history and the world;
- Challenge ourselves and achieve;
- Problem solve;
- Express complex thoughts and emotions;
- Find inspiration in the work of others;
- Have fun;
- Develop a sense of pride;
- Create a “world” where we can escape the everyday and relax;
- Become more aware of our body, mind and spirit.
All of the above outcomes of learning to play music help to give meaning to life through connection, challenge, self-expression, enjoyment and awareness.
“Meaning in life is not just a theoretical or philosophical construct, but it has a bearing on human health and well being … to live without meaning, goals, or values provokes considerable distress …
Meaning serves a number of important functions in human lives (Frankl, 1992). Firstly, meaning provides a purpose for our lives. Secondly, it furnishes values or standards by which to judge our actions. Thirdly, it gives us a sense of control over the events in our life. Lastly, it provides us with self-worth. When people are unable to find meaning for any of these functions or when they lose or outgrow the meanings that they once had, they become distressed. Many emotional problems result from a failure to find meaning in life and can be resolved only through finding something to make life worth living (Frankl, 1992).” http://www.all-about-psychology.com/the-importance-of-meaning-in-life.html
You could therefore say that learning to play an instrument, no matter what the outcome, is one of the healthiest activities you could pursue in life.
But, of course, as outlined in a number of articles on this Blog, in order to feel you are experiencing the above outcomes, you need to be learning music in a healthy fashion.
Making sure you are:
1. Forging connections through your music.
This can take many forms.
The first relationship you forge is with your teacher.
It is ok, to teach yourself but it is also definitely worth finding someone to help you learn music.
When you have a good teacher and a good relationship with them, you will often find that they become a mentor in your life and a person who can give you guidance in many other things besides music.
So, just be aware that it is really important to choose a teacher not based on how well they play but on:
- How well they communicate,
- How welcome and comfortable they make you feel,
- How organised and professional they are,
- Their awareness of your needs and your boundaries, and
- Their ability to help you achieve your goals and broaden your horizons.
Later on your musical path, you will hopefully get to play with others.
It is such a wonderful feeling to be able to connect with people through playing music and you can achieve this by:
- joining a choir,
- organising a jam with your friends,
- going to open mic nights, or
- forming a band.
If you are a musician who learns composed pieces, find out about the composer and their life. That way you will understand the meaning behind the music and how the times they were living in impacted upon them. It’s so interesting to know a little about life in the past and history.
If you want to read a little more about this you may enjoy this Article series.
2. Broadening Your Interests
Forging connections with others and investigating the lives of people we admire will inevitably broaden interest in the world and in history, making you a much more interesting and knowledgeable person.
When we talk to other people, or play music with them, we discover new ideas, concepts and thoughts that can lead anywhere we wish to take them.
I think you would agree this makes life much more exciting and enjoyable.
3. Challenging yourself and achieving goals.
Life would be incredibly boring if everything was easy.
Challenge is one of the best paths to self-discovery and learning music is one of the greatest, never-ending challenges you can meet.
You never get to the finish line when you learn music, so it is something that can hold your interest for the rest of your life.
The thing I love about learning music is that at every stage there is challenge and there is achievement.
These two aspects need to be well-balanced in order for you to continue enjoying your learning.
So, again, having good guidance from your teacher and using useful resources, such as the practice diary, which encourages self-reflection, is highly important for healthy learning outcomes.
Problem solving is such an important skill for any person to develop if they are to become self-sufficient and confident in life.
It has been proven in many studies that the music helps children to develop this skill.
“A small study was done two years back involving ten three-year-olds who were tested on their ability to put together a puzzle and the speed at which they could do it (“Learning Keys” 24).
After the initial test was taken, five of the children were given singing lessons for 30 minutes a day and the other five were given piano lessons for 15 minutes a week (24). The lessons were conducted over a six- month period of time, and after the six months, all of the kids showed substantial improvement in the speed at which they could put together the puzzle (24).
The researchers understand this skill in putting pieces of a puzzle together as the same reasoning that engineers, chess players and high-level mathematicians use. In this study of inner-city kids, their initial scores were below the national average, but afterwards their scores nearly doubled (24).
The term they give to the type of reasoning and thought that goes into putting pieces of a puzzle together is called abstract reasoning. By teaching music, people exercise the same abstract reasoning skills that they use for doing math or some other exercise in which the people have to visualize in their head.
An eight month study was conducted by Frances H. Rauscher of the University of California at Irvine, in which 19 preschoolers, ranging in age from three to five, received weekly keyboard and daily singing lessons while another 15 preschoolers received no musical training at all (Bower 143).
At the start, middle and end of the study, the subjects were tested on five spatial reasoning tasks (143). After only 4 months, scores on the test to assemble a puzzle to form a picture improved dramatically for the group with the musical training, while the control group didn’t, even though both groups started out with the same scores (143).
It can be understood that this kind of improvement may not be substantial enough to alter the way people are fundamentally taught, but its results cannot be ignored. Rauscher explains, “Music instruction can improve a child’s spatial intelligence for a long time, perhaps permanently” (qtd. in Bower 143).” http://www.reversespins.com/effectsofmusic.html
For adults, learning music would have the same affect but would perhaps take longer to recognise because our brains have already been “hard-wired” in certain ways.
However, it has been proven that our brains are “plastic” and therefore always able to change and improve to meet the challenges of our circumstance.