The Proven Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument you'll Love

Tony Davies - 15 Jun 2023
Stage with piano chello and drums

Having the ability to play music on an instrument of your choice is something many people aspire to. Playing music is immensely enjoyable and can be an almost spiritual experience at times. People may not be aware of the many other benefits derived from playing an instrument, some of which are backed by an increasing body of scientific evidence.

It’s never too late to start and it’s important to realise you don’t have to be a virtuoso to really enjoy the benefits playing music has to offer.

Sense of accomplishment

Learning an instrument takes dedication. Many hours of practice are necessary to get to an accomplished standard but once you can play at a proficient level, you’ll enjoy a great sense of achievement. You’ll have earned plenty of bragging rights too!

Your sense of accomplishment shouldn’t be limited to the time you feel you’ve mastered the instrument. Whenever you complete a piece or song, you can be proud of what you’ve achieved.

Develop a deeper appreciation of music

You may already have a great appreciation of music but this will only improve once you start playing for yourself. You’ll automatically be thrust into the music when playing. You’ll develop an understanding of when it’s important to play loud or quiet, how to accentuate your notes with vibrato. You’ll start to appreciate how chords and melodies fit together and why different styles of music sound as they do. You may also find you have the ability to improvise or create your own music.

Learning an instrument will take you on a journey of discovery that never ends.

Relaxation / mental health

Silhouette of person in front of picturesque sky

Many of us suffer from mental health issues these days. The modern world is a stressful place. Playing music has been shown to be a great antidote against life’s stresses and strains.

Whilst you’re playing, your mind will be transported away to focus on the soothing music rather than the worries of the day. For me personally, I feel more relaxed not only whilst playing music but subsequently as well. Playing an instrument is a mind encompassing activity especially when you’re challenged with a piece you are learning or when you’re playing a piece of music you love.

Even practising can be therapeutic and the little achievements that are made during these sessions will make you feel good.

Post-session cortisol levels were markedly decreased for piano playing, clay molding and calligraphy, indicating a reduction in stress due to participation in creative activities; the effect of piano playing was significantly greater than clay molding and calligraphy.
Study covered by Sage Journals

Whether you suffer with your mental health or not, playing a musical instrument is a fantastic way to relax and unwind.


People socialising

As social animals, making new friends and acquaintances is good for our well being and socialising is good for our mental health.

Learning an instrument gives us the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians. You may decide to create a band at some point or simply just have an informal get together with a few musicians at home. Being able to play an instrument is a great way to meet new like minded people.

Good for the central nervous system

You may have heard experts use the term “use it or lose it” when describing the brain. Scientists have discovered the importance of using different areas of the brain to retain function and promote neural plasticity.

There’s so much information regarding the benefits to the brain associated with playing a musical instrument. Many articles explain how just about every major part of the brain is simultaneiously active when playing an instrument, especially the auditory, visual and motor areas.

I’m not qualified to describe the effects playing a musical instrument has on brain health, but here are a few quotes from papers researching the subject:

Recent studies suggest that music may be a uniquely good form of exercising your brain - John Dani, PhD, chair of Neuroscience at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.
Study covered by Penn Medicine.
In other words, compared to their nonmusician cotwin, musicians playing an instrument in older adulthood had a 64% lower likelihood of developing dementia or cognitive impairment.
Study covered by the National Library of Medicine
Our findings show, for the first time, how 11 weeks of music training can significantly enhance audio-visual synchrony perception. Hence, our results support previous research showing a musician’s advantage in processing audio-visual temporal correspondence
Study covered by
The beneficial effects of playing music in old age were examined in an experimental study in which musically naïve elderly participants (aged 60–85 years) were randomly allocated to an experimental group (6 months of intensive piano lessons) or a no-treatment control group (Bugos and others 2007). The experimental group received a half-hour lesson each week and was required to practice independently for a minimum of 3 hours per week. Following this period of musical training, they showed improvements on tests of working memory, perceptual speed, and motor skills, while the control group did not show such improvements.
Study covered by

Other articles I’ve read mention brain differences. Musicians generally have a larger hippocampus and corpus callosum than non musicians. The hippocampus is important for learning and memory and the corpus callosum is a huge bundle of nerves connecting the two sides of the brain together.


Woman playing a violin outdoors

Studies also highlight the increased dexterity and finger strength that come with the coordinated movement of playing music. Again, this is not an area I can write about myself but here are a couple of quotations from research papers.

In a more recent study, Lampe et al. (2015) reported that 18 months of piano instruction, 30– 45 min twice a week, significantly improved the uniformity of keystrokes of children and youths with hand motor disorders resulting from early brain damage.
Study covered by Frontiers in Psychology
On bimanual coordination and manual dexterity, however, a robust and stable advantage of music training emerged. At the end of training (post-test), children from the music group significantly outperformed children from the sports and control groups, an advantage that persisted at follow-up 4 months after training at the start of the following school year.
Study covered by APA PsycNet

Opportunities to teach

Another benefit of learning to play an instrument is having the ability to pass your skills onto others. I’ve always found teaching to be enjoyable with much lower stress levels than just any other job I’ve had.

You don’t have to be highly advanced in your skills to teach music. Once you’ve been learning for perhaps a year or two, as long as you feel comfortable in what you do, you should have acquired plenty of knowledge and skills benificial to budding musicians at the beginning of their journey. When you teach a beginner, you’ll realise how far you’ve come.

As you improve further, you can look to teach more advanced musicians.

Playing alongside other musicians

Two guitarists playing

Most music is composed for multiple instruments and although there’s nothing wrong in playing individually, music can really come to life when you collaborate with other musicians.

Whether you play in a duet, a band or an orchestra, playing alongside other musicians allows you to see how they approach the music and how you can compliment the dynamic best with your own instrument.


The obvious reason to play music is for enjoyment. Listening to an amazing piece of music is wonderful but actually being able to play it yourself can be mind blowing. Imagine then going on to play this music at a gig or concert.

The fun doesn’t end there either. Once you can play an instrument, you can try creating your own music. Depending on your chosen instrument, you may make up entire songs from scratch or you may want to improvise over a backing track. You can collaborate with other musicians for jam sessions. A world of opportunities will open up for you.


In short the answer is yes.

Writing this article has taught me the multitude of different ways learning an instrument can be good for you. It’s clear many people could benefit from playing music themselves.

You don’t have to be ultra dedicated to enjoy music and the benefits it brings. Taking up music as a hobby you engage in for two or three hours a week is more than enough to make steady progress whilst reaping the additional advantages to your health and wellbeing.

Remember taking up an instrument is good for young and old alike. It’s never too late to start playing music.

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