“I should have learned to play the guitar, should’ve learned to play them drums”, so sang Dire Straits in 1985. While a total lack of musical knowledge or awareness hasn’t been an impediment to many people working in the music industry today, many of us regret either not having learned or abandoning the learning of a musical instrument. Today, we’ll look at why it’s never too late to pick up an instrument, the pedagogic and psychological benefits, as well as looking over some great instruments for neophyte musicians. Learning a musical instrument is more than just a fun hobby, it’s a valuable skill that has numerous cerebral benefits as well as being a cool trick to bust out a parties!
It’s literally never too late:
Virtually everyone benefits from some sort of creative outlet and while we’re all just sort of expected to find the right one in our teens or early twenties, many of us don’t find the right mode of self-expression until they get into middle or even old age. There are few subsets of people for whom the dexterity and mental faculties to play an instrument are prohibitive. If, for example, your arthritic hands make playing the guitar or piano problematic you may benefit just as much from learning the harmonica or the panpipes.
Getting over the learning curve:
The landfills are littered with guitars that were discarded because their owners deemed it “too hard”. Most of them were impatient children or teenagers (We all knew someone at school who quit their guitar lessons because they didn’t become a virtuoso within a month.). As an adult, you may surprise yourself with how well you navigate the learning curve. While your older mind may be set in its ways, you will have learned the value in persistence elsewhere in life.
For most instruments, unlocking the fundamentals is a huge step in smoothing out the steep learning curve. In guitar playing, for example, much of your musical vocabulary is formed by mastering the ‘barre chords’ – moveable chords. When one has the measure of these, they can play any minor or major chord from a good root position. It takes time to master, but it unlocks so much of the instrument’s potential when you do. When this obstacle is hurdled, a player has the inside scoop in learning to cover their favorite music and even learning to write their own.
Cerebral and psychological benefits:
When playing (or even listening) to music, multiple areas of the brain become active. Musicians may look calm and composed but there are firework displays in their neurons. Processing music is actually an incredibly complex mental process, giving our brains a great workout that most of the time we’re not even aware of. It keeps our brains young and aids cognitive dexterity.
Finding the right instrument:
Hopefully, you’ve been moved to consider taking up a musical instrument, but you may wonder which are the best or most accessible ‘starter instruments’. String instruments such as guitar, violin, piano, cello, and bass are fairly accessible for new learners, as are the flute and clarinet. The saxophone presents a slightly steeper learning curve but it’s so ubiquitous in so many forms of music, that learning to master it opens up a lot of doors.
There’s no such thing as the wrong instrument. Even learning an instrument that you don’t stick with tends to be a gateway to learning more. And isn’t it always fun to try new things?!
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