Could playing a musical instrument bring out the best in you? It has for some. We look at the many benefits that music and learning a musical instrument can have on a freelancer’s mindset
Here’s one way to beat the blues. Start playing them
The 19th-century German poet and writer Berthold Auerbach didn’t grab a bottle of wine after a trying day putting steel nib to paper. Okay, maybe he did. We may never know. But what we do know for sure is he did turn to the transcendent powers of music.
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” he said.
Music can help us to let go of our worries and stresses, and to connect with our deepest selves. It can also help us to feel more alive and more connected to the world around us on those days we have perhaps spent too many days hunkered down in the home office.
However, what if you went one step further and just didn’t listen to music, but took up an instrument? Or signed up for some singing lessons? Just for the hell of it.
As the days get shorter and darker, and the weather turns colder, many freelancers might find themselves spending more time indoors. This can be a great opportunity to try out new activities, and one of the best things you can do for your mind and body is to learn to play a musical instrument.
My music story
Music changed my life. When I was nine years old, my mother signed me up for the violin at our local Suzuki Strings Academy. I was the oldest beginner. The others were two and three-year-olds. Yes, really. Little talented geniuses. But instead of folding my arms and protesting not to perform with the little maestros, I was inspired by them. If they can do it, surely I can.
Pouring your emotions into a piece of music is so much healthier than a tub of ice cream.
For those not familiar with the Suzuki Japanese music teaching method, discipline is ingrained into how you learn. For example, I had to memorise a new piece of music each week so I could play it without sheet music in the next week’s lesson. I was also expected to have impeccable posture and hand movements. Following an average of two hours of practice each day (my mother was a saint as she had to observe and keep me accountable for my progress) it was time to perform in groups and even solos. After a few months, something shifted in my confidence, That’s when I saw the change. I went from a C student to an A student. A mouse of a thing to someone who believed in herself.
The thing is when you practice a musical instrument, your memory gets better. You become more focused on many aspects of your life. You forget the things in life that are upsetting you. Music is a great escape. Pouring your emotions into a piece of music is so much healthier than a tub of ice cream.
I went on to learn the viola. Less competition when auditioning for the first chair in the orchestra. Sadly, though, I gave up playing when I went to university. I took up tennis instead, which was odd given the university’s reputation for music majors.
I often wonder what would happen if I took up an instrument again. I could always buy a few earplugs for the family until I got back into the groove again.
We did some research and found learning an instrument in adulthood had amazing and lasting benefits. We outline them below. If you could do with a few of these perks, it could be time to tune your freelancer mindset to some music.
Playing a musical instrument has been shown to have a number of cognitive benefits, including:
- Improved memory: Playing an instrument requires you to remember notes, rhythms, and melodies. This can help to improve your overall memory function.
- Increased attention and focus: Playing an instrument requires you to focus on multiple things at once, such as reading music, playing the right notes, and keeping time. This can help to improve your attention and focus in other areas of your life as well.
- Enhanced problem-solving skills: Learning to play an instrument can be challenging at times, but it is also a rewarding experience. As you learn new skills and overcome challenges, you are strengthening your problem-solving skills.
- Improved language skills: Playing an instrument can also help to improve your language skills. This is because music and language are both processed in the same areas of the brain.
Playing an instrument has so many physical benefits that we do not always consider. Here are a few:
- Improved fine motor skills: Playing an instrument requires you to use your fine motor skills to move your fingers and hands in precise ways. This can help to improve your overall fine motor skills, which can be beneficial for everyday tasks such as writing and typing.
- Improved coordination: Playing an instrument requires you to coordinate the movements of your hands, fingers, and other body parts. This can help to improve your overall coordination.
- Improved posture: Many musical instruments require you to sit or stand up straight in order to play them properly. This can help to improve your posture, which can lead to a number of other health benefits, such as reduced back pain and improved breathing.
Playing a musical instrument can also have a number of emotional benefits, including:
Reduced stress and anxiety: Playing an instrument can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity. It can also help to take your mind off of your worries and stresses.
Improved mood: Playing an instrument can release endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.
Increased self-confidence: Learning to play an instrument can be a challenging but rewarding experience. As you learn new skills and improve your playing, you will develop a greater sense of self-confidence.
Playing a musical instrument can also be a great way to socialise and meet new people. You can join a band or orchestra, or simply play music with friends and family.
How do you get started learning an instrument?
If you are interested in learning to play a musical instrument, there are a few things you can do to get started:
Choose an instrument: This may seem obvious, but there are many different musical instruments to choose from, so it is important to choose one that you are interested in and that is appropriate for your age and skill level. And if you have room for a piano or not.
Find a teacher: A good teacher can help you to learn the basics of playing your instrument and to develop good technique. There are more tutors online since the pandemic, so you could easily be jamming with someone in California or Cardiff.
Practice regularly: The more you practice, the better you will become at playing your instrument. Try to practice for at least 30 minutes a day, several times a week. But do not dread it like homework. It isn’t, it’s your time to escape and grow as a person.
Useful websites when looking for musical lessons:
British Suzuki Music Association (For Kids)