There are a number of interesting studies on the impact that learning to play a musical instrument has on the brain. It keeps the brain supple and more adaptable to change, and there are indications that learning to play an instrument helps to make you smarter.
A study at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the University of Salzburg revealed that the brain waves of guitarists playing a jazz tune together became synchronized as they performed. That study, published online in BMC Neuroscience, indicates that group activities that require what are referred to as interpersonally coordinated actions, such as performing live in a band or recording in a studio, are preceded and accompanied by brain wave coordination.
It Comes In Waves
Activities that require brain wave coordination include social bonding behaviors such as eye contact, shaking hands, and pacing when walking. It also includes activities such as participation in team sports. So, the synchronization is not necessarily related to music, but is certainly a valuable benefit in creating a unique bond between singer and musician.
For years, elementary school teachers have been aware of the positive impact that music has on learning. Studies have also shown that children who take music lessons may experience advantages with respect to some cognitive and perception skills and often have higher test scores in math and perform better on puzzle-solving tests than those that have not had music lessons. Musically trained adults perform better on word memory tests than other adults.
Process More Information
One advantage that comes with playing an instrument is the ability to process multiple pieces of information. For a person playing piano, the brain must be able to process separation of messages sent to the left hand and right hand, just as a guitarist must work the frets along the neck of the guitar while strumming.
Playing an instrument requires the development of technique, expression, rhythm; changes in pitch, and understanding musical notation. So, for a singer, it provides both a tool to complement or support the vocal instrument, but it also provides an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for its potential. It offers further fine tuning and invites opportunities to play with new sounds, rhythms, and forms of expression.
As a singer it also gives you an additional communication tool and makes you more adaptable in moving from venue to studio to new arrangements to new relationships with accompanists. It helps you to pull together, get in sync, and stay on the same page.
Never Too Late To Learn
And itâ€™s never too late to learn how to play piano, guitar, or whatever instrument you choose.
Coordination and quickness may not be as neat and sharp as when youâ€™re younger, but the life experience of maturity brings many gifts to the learning process such as empathy, understanding, patience and appreciation. Studies from the University of Illinois indicate that learning to play an instrument later in life, when coupled with an increase in physical activity such as daily exercise, can help to improve memory, multi-tasking, and sharpen decision making skills.
So, for those of you who wonder if learning to play an instrument can help you be a better singer, the indications are that it clearly gives you more information and greater potential for inspiration. It will make you a better communicator and will help you adapt to various situations and meet more challenges as you move step by step to the highest level of your success.
Share Your Stories
There is more on this coming soon; but in the meantime, what is your take on this? For you singers that are also musicians, please share your stories in this forum on the impact that playing has on your singing and that singing has on your musicianship. For those that are thinking about learning to play, share your questions, fears, and concerns.
The more you learn, the more you grow, and that will lead you to experience the fullest potential for your unique voice in pursuit of your singing success.