Recharge: Make Time for Playing an Instrument

Whether your parents had you take piano lessons as a kid or you picked up the guitar in college, it may be time to try it again: The wellness benefits of music hit all the right notes.

Recharge by Playing an Instrument

Why You Should Do It

To reduce stress, maintain mental sharpness and nurture social interactions. “Music is a new visual language—you must coordinate vision, hearing, movement and emotional communication, all at the same time,” explains Jessica Grahn, PhD, a professor of music neuroscience at Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute. Playing impacts the brain, especially when it comes to improving executive function and memory. 

Related: How Experts Cope With Stress

Also, being absorbed in an enjoyable activity that produces measurable progress can be a great stress reliever. We’re more likely to stick with music, unlike other difficult pursuits, because it stimulates our reward centers, particularly when we share it with others. According to neuroscientists, just listening to music is beneficial. Multiple areas of the brain fire up at once as they process different elements of sound and then bring them all together. 

How to Make It Happen
Time is the biggest obstacle to any hobby, but you can shoehorn music in. Marco Chelo, cofounder of the New York Jazz Workshop, a school that teaches music to adults, suggests starting small. Begin with 15 to 20 focused minutes of practice per day, and build from there. But first you’ll need a class, whether you’re reacquainting yourself with an instrument or discovering a new one. If you can’t find anything local, go virtual. There are lots of online classes, covering all types of instruments and musical styles, in a range of price points. Some are live and others are Skype courses that you can take at your own pace—a plus for those with very busy schedules: 

artistworks.com

udemy.com (search for “playing” X instrument) 

newyorkjazzworkshop.com/ skype-music-lessons

fender.com/play 

online.berklee.edu 

Eventually, you may want to find a buddy to play with or join a musical group—social pressure and engagement are more likely to keep you committed. 

Readjusting your thinking is important too. “The idea that it’s harder for older people to take up an instrument is a misconception,” says Chelo. “In fact, they often know exactly what they hope to achieve, making them more motivated and focused.” 

What You’ll Need
First and foremost, patience! Music can be challenging for adults who strive to do things perfectly, or at least well—and because others can actually hear it when you mess up.

If you’re resuming a musical practice, dust off that old instrument and have it checked and tuned. Newbies are better off renting in the beginning.

If you’re not sure how, Google “rent musical instruments near me.” 

Most classes will provide sheet music, but keep in mind that study at any level will involve varying degrees of cost. In addition to classes, there’s the rental, purchase and upkeep of your instrument. Or, says Chelo, you could try singing. “Your voice is an instrument too!”

Also see: 5 Secrets to Stress-Free Mornings