The Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument – Berkeley High Jacket


In a previous column, I touched on how classically trained young musicians gain wonderful lifelong experiences through their participation in youth orchestras. Whether they play the double bass, piccolo or xylophone, they benefit greatly from just being in a community that creates such a musical and social environment. However, one cannot be actively in a youth orchestra unless one has mastered a musical instrument with a certain degree of skill. Joining a youth orchestra is just a small drop in the lake; learning an instrument offers endless opportunities and benefits.

Speaking only from my own experience, I would assert that when people hear the phrase “musical instrument” the first thought that comes to mind is certainly not the voice. This most often occurs in a classical music setting, as mainstream pop, rock, hip hop, and R&B involve a tremendous amount of vocals. However, many people seem to disregard the voice as a valuable instrument when it really is the most natural musical instrument we own. Granted, there is classical music that has a voice part, but most people just define these pieces as “opera”. All of these classifications aside, singing is fun to do and has some surprising health benefits. Singing improves memory, reduces stress, and forges community bonds, according to a research article from the University of Oxford. As someone who practices singing regularly, although I don’t take classes, I have found it helpful to breathe more deeply and relax my body. It’s also a great way to memorize things; the more I am used to remembering lyrics and melodies, the better my working memory. There is also the pure pleasure of singing and listening to songs. Overall, in the world of classical music, the voice should be seen in the same way as other orchestral instruments and not just in a lyrical sense.

Now we come to the most well-known family of instruments outside of the classical music community: strings. Although pianos technically have strings, they are generally not considered to be related to the violin, viola, cello, and bass. These instruments get their name from the four strings they each have, and they vibrate when a bow is drawn on them to produce sound. The wonderful thing about stringed instruments is how “social” they are, as there are many opportunities for other string players to form groups and play the vast repertoire written for ensembles. I can say from my personal experience that chamber music has helped my mental health tremendously this year. I met my string quartet in person every two weeks, and it made me realize how much I miss playing music with other people. Learning the viola and violin has been one of the greatest activities of my life because I have met so many amazing people and have grown so much through my musical experiences. However, I won’t say that there aren’t some tough times in this whirlwind of music; performance anxiety, tight muscles and pain, and long hours of repetitive practice also occur. However, I wouldn’t call these difficult incidents the “drawbacks” of learning a string instrument, as they are just life learning experiences you can work on. It’s impossible to avoid all music problems, so you adapt and change for the better. Practicing an instrument might seem like the most awkward thing in the world, but you gain excellent problem-solving skills along the way.

In general, playing an instrument helps you develop great skills that you can use in your daily life, and it’s never too late to start. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to engage in music frequently – it doesn’t have to be classical – because you will find that it is not just a tool for personal development, but that it is will enrich your life.

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