The Benefits of Playing Instruments


Art by Nicole Mejia

Marissa McElreath

Any instrument can be picked up at any age in order to experience a number of cognitive benefits.

Parents have been encouraging their children to pick up instruments for generations and there may actually be a benefit to it. Kids are not the only ones who can experience benefits when playing instruments. Teenagers, adults, elderly, and anyone at any age with any amount of interest in a musical instrument can experience benefits from playing instruments as well. The truth is, instruments are beneficial to anyone, whether you are playing or listening to others play. So if you weren’t raised on the piano, it’s never too late to start hitting those keys. 

It is fairly well known that listening to classical music such as Mozart and Beethoven is beneficial to the brain and its ability to focus. Research from Penn University Medicine suggests that the people performing these masterpieces are actually getting the most benefits. John Dani, PhD, states, “[Playing instruments] engages every major part of the central nervous system.” Since basically every instrument requires two hands doing two different things, multiple parts of the nervous system have to fire every time someone plays an instrument. This not only exercises the brain, but it also exercises fine motor skills. These benefits can occur at any age range. A study Penn Medicine conducted had people between the ages of 60 and 85 receive piano lessons regularly for six months. There were reports of “more robust gains in memory, verbal fluency, the speed at which they processed information, planning ability, and other cognitive functions.”

If you research the subject, the only information  will be on the benefits of people playing classical instruments rather than electric instruments. While there isn’t research on if playing classical music is superior to other genres, James O. Young, a professor of philosophy at the University of Victoria, says, “In at least one respect, (listening to) classical music is superior to popular music. Classical music… has greater potential for expressiveness and, consequently, has more potential for psychological insight and profundity.”

When speaking to students who play instruments of their own, each had different answers on what their favorite genre to play was. However, most kids in the school’s Orchestra prefer to play different forms of classical rather than jazz or any other genre. However preference can also depend on what someone has been exposed to throughout their instrumental career.

When asked why they picked up instruments in the first place, most students said they just needed  something to do with their free time. Each of them have experienced and can attest to the benefits of playing. Owen Davis explains, “When you play an instrument you stop fidgeting.” When the conversation opened to Brayten Paulsen, he agreed whole-heartedly as well. Both had different experience levels and started playing at different ages with different instruments, but they still experience the same benefits.

Instruments can be picked up at any age whether it’s a stringed, brass, electric, or percussion. All seem to offer the same benefits of finer motor skills and improved focus. The school offers several different instrument-related classes from Band to Orchestra to Guitar. So get out there and pick up a new hobby! If you already play an instrument, try out another one and broaden your horizons.