by Guest Blogger Justin Miller
By the time we reach adulthood, signing up for music lessons can seem like a frivolous expense. Many adults might also be intimidated by the prospect of trying something completely new. Instead of simply giving it a go, people just find excuses not to sign up at the local music school.
However, scientific studies have shown that engaging in music lessons comes with myriad positive effects. Here are three reasons why every adult should start learning to play an instrument today.
1. Music lessons lower stress and make you smarter.
Studies have shown that music education can increase IQ in both children and adults; it’s also a great stress reliever. Life can be hectic and very stressful, and easing stress is essential in every adult life. Why? Long-term stress can really wreak havoc on the brain by releasing “an enzyme that effectively breaks down part of the structure…of the neurons in the prefrontal cortex.” That’s brain damage, folks. Luckily, according to Amy Arnsten of Yale University, this damage can be “not only stopped, but reversed.”
The ideal situation, of course, is to keep stress levels low in the first place, and taking music lessons can be relaxing. At the same time, practicing music also builds up the brain, making it a double threat in the most positive way.
2. Learning to play an instrument comes with a built-in community.
After college in particular it can be difficult for adults to make new social connections, but studies show that having quality relationships with other people has a direct effect on the amount of loneliness we feel.
One of the first steps toward building a new friendship is finding common ground, and as adults leave being their educational careers it can be easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to starting new hobbies. However, trying new things can provide a new “common ground” on which to meet other people.
Signing up for a music class can open the door to meeting other people of all ages who have a similar interest. There’s the instructor, for one, but many studios offer group music lessons. Having a class in common with another person can open the door to exploring new aspects of friendship—they might have new hobbies to explore, children of a similar age to your own, or simply be looking for new friends, too.
In addition to providing a community, music lessons have other advantages. They have low physical risk, which means that adults of virtually any age can take lessons. You’ll also never have to worry about injuring another person, unlike with some team sports—unless, of course, you accidentally knock someone with your clarinet. Finally, adults can practice with a partner, either in person or online—the opportunities are endless.
3. Music lessons can help stave off hearing loss.
For many adults, this could be a major selling point. According to a recent study from Northwestern University, taking music lessons as an adult can reduce the effects of aging on neural timing, which is “the nervous system’s ability to precisely encode sound.” Basically, what this means is that engaging in musical training, even at advanced ages, can help to offset the deterioration of speech and hearing skills. Communication is essential to all humans, and as we age the foundations on which our communication is largely based—the ability to hear and to speak—can decline. Music lessons, according to this study, can help the adult brain to delay or reduce hearing loss, making it easier for people to, say, hear another person’s voice in a crowded room. Those who fear having to constantly ask friends and loved ones to repeat themselves might stave this off by committing to music training.
The benefits are clear: even one of these effects could make a huge difference in the life of an adult, whether they’re in their twenties or nineties. The investments of time and money are minimal compared to the benefits adults will get from taking music lessons, and the risks are incredibly low. If you want to reduce stress, meet new people, and enhance your brain, music lessons are the way to go. Don’t wait.