If you look carefully, you’ll find musicians at the top of almost every industry.
Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, plays the guitar. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard. The co-founder of Google, Larry Page, played saxophone in high school.
Whether they only played music in high school or continue to play it today, a lot of successful people have gone through the process of learning to play an instrument.
If you’ve ever heard about “the Mozart effect”, you might not be surprised that listening to music leads to higher brain activity and improved performance on certain mental tasks.
However, there’s a huge case to be made for the effect that playing music – of any genre – has on your mind and the positive impact it can have on your life.
1. Reinforces confidence in your ability to be creative
At its heart, music is a creative process. When you pick up that instrument and start making a beautiful sound, you’re tapping into your mind’s ability to create something out of nothing. The instrument itself is just the medium in which you let out that creative drive.
And creativity itself is a skill that is required for almost every area of your life. Whether you’re trying to find a solution to a problem or thinking of a new way to get work done in the office, a creative mind is advantageous.
Playing music is about funneling that creative force into something constructive and useful.
2. It helps you learn how to be collaborate with others
Music naturally lends itself to collaboration. Performing in groups – whether it’s in a school band, or another ensemble – is something familiar to most musicians.
It’s not enough to be good by yourself. You have to work as a team with everyone else in the group. Good music naturally flows from the harmony you create as you come together.
All of this promotes the idea of teamwork and collaboration with others. It teaches you all the positive results that can happen from working together as a group. And, as it turns out, working in groups like this can make you, quite literally, play well with others.
3. Thinking in patterns and new connections
When you play an instrument, you’re not just making a single note – you make a string of them together – that’s what makes the music flow. As such, music isn’t just a series of single notes, it’s about how they connect together to form a coherent piece of music.
Playing music teaches you to visualize all those notes together and find the pattern they make – why coming together the way they do works. Playing music teaches you to find the interrelationships between the notes.
The ability to spot patterns and seeing interrelationships is a critical component of intelligent decision-making. By combining past experience, intuition and the ability to recognize patterns, we’re better able to predict the consequences of one action over another.
4. It strengthens mental skills like discipline, self-control and concentration
Learning how to play an instrument and read music is quite a difficult task when you first start out. Most of us are not naturally born musicians so we need hours and hours of practice to sound decent.
That requires a lot of mental focus, determination and patience to turn the flat and lifeless music we first create into something with a lot more pep and rhythm. And hearing yourself play better, is a wonderful reminder of how all that discipline and focus pays off. That’s a lesson you can take with you in so many other areas of your life.
5. It improves your emotional intelligence
Playing music makes you a more attuned listener. And being a good listener is important for interpersonal relationships because emotions are often conveyed by the tone or melody of voice or speed of speech. It’s not surprising that studies have shown that musicians are more perceptive in interpreting the emotions of others.
6. Your memory gets better
Learning to play your chosen music piece correctly means remembering what note comes another the other. In some cases, the amount of memorization is astounding – for instance, a soloist for a symphonic concerto usually performs for twenty minutes or more from memory alone.
All that concentration on what note follows another strengthens your mind’s memorization muscle. And that can extend into other areas of your life.
Playing music has been shown to increase your ability to remember words and helps auditory learning skills. Some have even shown that musicians have better retention skills while reading.
7. It improves your ability to plan and strategize
Playing music is actually quite a complex task. Your brain needs to coordinate motor control and auditory information – there’s a lot of planning strategizing and paying attention to detail going on requiring simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects of the music.
When you’re playing music, you have to coordinate your brain’s activities to carry out all the steps to making the musical piece work. That takes following instructions through a series of steps, detecting and correcting errors and anticipating what’s coming up.
Keeping track of all this activity not only connects multiple processes of the brain, but studies have shown that it creates greater interconnectivity of the two hemispheres. So, in effect, playing music helps connect every area of your brain together to focus on tasks you’re trying to accomplish.
Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, self improvement and adventure. He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting. For fresh ideas on living life to the fullest, join his newsletter.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.