THE BLOG
by CHUCK

Stuff You Should Know’s Guide to Proper Adulthood: Why You Should Learn to Play a Musical Instrument

POSTED August 13, 2013
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Courtesy of RUSH Courtesy of RUSH

Here at Stuff You Should Know, our job is to impart wisdom to the masses. Most of the time it’s not so much advice as it is interesting facts that will make you a richer person. We believe that knowledge is power and the more you know, the better equipped you are to deal with life as a grown up adult.

Sometimes we also get to pass along little nuggets that we’ve learned over our combined 80 or so years. Call it advice, call it gentle suggestions, these are just things we’ve learned that we want to pass along to our listeners. Many times they come in the form of passing comments, but here on the blog we can really get down and dirty and tell people, “You should do this.” This week we want to pass along one such simple message – learn how to play a musical instrument. Just do it. You don’t have to be a master or make it your life’s work, but trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Playing a musical instrument benefits you in almost innumerable ways. For one, it’ll make you smarter. Yeah, you heard me. Learning to play a musical instrument is tough and it’s been proven to actually increase your memory’s capacity as well as your ability to concentrate. And it’s not just a temporary thing either; studies suggest that it has a lasting effect, long after the instrument is back in the case. It’s also great for developing your motor skills, it’s literally good for your ears, and it can improve your cognitive abilities. It’s also been shown to improve your math skills, even if you never learn to read music. And if you do learn to read and write music, it’s will help you in the reading and writing department as well. And this isn’t just me talking — there are countless studies and a lot of research that back up these truisms. Basically, it’s an all-around great workout for your noodle, like a brainteaser puzzle you have to use your hands (and sometimes feet) to solve.

Learning to play an instrument will also pay off at work in many ways, like by helping to improve your organizational skills and assist you with how you manage your time. It takes a while to learn to play an instrument, so figuring out how to fit it into your schedule, as well as the payoffs of completing a goal are both valuable. Persistence is a great life quality and you’ll get it in spades if you pick up a guitar with even modest goals in terms of how accomplished you want to be. And if you join a band (also something everyone should try) you’ll get some very real lessons in teamwork, social skills, personality management, and again, tenacity and perseverance. All of these things will help you at your job and in your personal life.

If you’re a parent, giving your kid a musical instrument will make them a more responsible future adult human. Caring for a drum set or a clarinet takes time and careful attention to detail. If you let your kid pick out an instrument, they’ll have even more incentive to learn how to care for it properly. It’ll probably make your kid more social as well, whether they join a school band or form one of their own in your garage. Of course there are always the guitar weirdoes who hole up in their bedroom studying Rush tablature for hours on end, but let this play out and you may surprised when your reclusive Geddy Lee Jr. eventually forms his own Rush tribute band. (“The Temples of Syrinx” would be a great name for said band). Trust me on this one — encouraging your child to learn a musical instrument will definitely benefit them socially at some point, if not right away. I’ve seen it happen time and again — there’s a social bond among players, “gearheads” and collectors that’s pretty special. The sense of accomplishment and achieving a goal is also great for kids, especially those who have trouble with confidence.

There are many other things playing an instrument can help, like improving your respiratory system, helping you conquer stage fright, relieve stress, and blah, blah, blah. We could literally write ten pages of such benefits if we had the time. But let’s get down to brass tacks… Whether you’re a dude or a chick, playing a musical instrument will help you get other dudes and chicks to like you in that special way. It’s a proven fact. There’s never been a single professional or aspiring musician who has had a harder time getting dates after they’ve killed it onstage. There’s just something inherently attractive about strapping on a guitar or bass, or sitting behind a drum kit, and playing your heart out. And here’s the really cool part – what you play doesn’t even matter. If a musical instrument exists, there is someone out there that is a groupie for that instrument. If this is your motivation, I’d say any mainstream rock band instrument might work better than say, the oboe, but I bet you dollars to donuts that the first chair oboist for the New York Philharmonic doesn’t have a tough time getting dates.

It’s not too late, folks. This advice is not just for the young. In fact, learning a musical instrument at a later age can be even more beneficial, as it could help you regain some of the aforementioned skills you may have lost over the years. I myself formed my first band at the ago of 38. We’re all old, married dudes who get together once a month to drink some beer and play cover songs in my basement. We play out in bars and neighborhood festivals about three times a year. And you know what? It’s the absolute best thing I’ve ever done and one of the highlights of my grownup adult life. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. And wield a sweet axe while you do so.

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