North Texas Daily

Summer is the perfect time to pick up a new instrument

Summer is the perfect time to pick up a new instrument

Summer is the perfect time to pick up a new instrument
May 06
12:00 2022

As children, many of our first exposures to playing an instrument came through novelty. Brightly colored toy pianos, plastic guitars with five buttons or a small plastic drum-set that immediately becomes an enemy of household peace. There are many benefits to these headache-inducing music toys in early development, such as enhanced brain function, accelerated speech skills and the promotion of creativity.

However, just as fast as these objects can become the cause of a parent’s headache, the wonder of a new toy dissipates. 

Eventually, the novelty toys are traded out for pitched instruments. Toy pianos become Casio keyboards, collecting dust in the corner of a room. The plastic guitar becomes the First Act acoustic guitar, forgotten to time in the back of a closet with three broken strings. The plastic drums are traded for a plastic recorder in an elementary school music class, lost to the depths of your fifth-grade locker.

While some parents elect to enroll their children in piano or guitar lessons or retain an interest in music from a young age, many of us simply sat our instruments down one day, unaware that it was the final time we’d touch them for the next decade until we searched for a new pandemic hobby.

Why not pick it up again? 

Regardless of if you plan to seek out lessons or just want to sit down on the couch and fiddle with something, the personal satisfaction and physiological benefits of playing an instrument are well worth your time in the long run. Additionally, it’s a low-stakes and highly rewarding way to introduce yourself to a new hobby.

The list of physiological benefits from learning an instrument is extensive, including studies that link learning an instrument with a decrease in psychological distress, fatigue, depression and an improved sense of self-esteem and independence. Playing an instrument is one of the better tools for exercising the brain and reorganizing neural pathways. It allows older adults to experience the positive outcomes that come with retaining greater sensory, cognitive, and motor functions and possibly reduces the likelihood of developing cognitive impairments in advanced age. 

The hardest part of challenging yourself with something new is always the beginning. Hobbies are one of those things where they sound great in your head, but once you realize the amount of research, patience and money that comes with sticking through the beginner stages, it becomes a huge difficulty to persevere through something you’re still unsure you’d like in the long run. 

However, there’s no bad place to start when learning an instrument. 

One of the most common and approachable instruments is the piano, coming with a relatively low introductory cost and a highly passionate and helpful player base. While every piano might not look or feel the same, every piano is played the same. With an instrument as old and as popular as the piano, there are thousands of YouTube channels that focus on fundamental lessons like building technique, music theory and teaching you how to play any song you want to learn. All it takes is finding a little keyboard at a thrift store.

The same could be said about picking up the guitar, as it is highly approachable and has the same amount of free lessons and resources available for new players. Additionally, the guitar is only one of many instruments you do not need to learn music to play, thanks to a form of musical notation called tablature. Unlike traditional sheet music where the note is indicated by its pitch, tablature uses numbers that represent the fret to place your finger. Websites like ultimate-guitar.com host millions of free tabs for guitar, bass, ukulele, violin and drums

This isn’t to say that learning an instrument is easy. It’s a glacier of dedication, practice, frustration and patience, especially if you’re hard on yourself. Due to the nature of muscle memory, building skills in music truly comes from a “use it or lose it” mindset — requiring a dedication to consistency that has the potential to push anyone to quit — depending on self-imposed expectations of skill based on time spent learning. 

Your fingers will hurt until those calluses develop, your hands will ache until those muscles strengthen and you might feel like your musically inclined friends run circles around you when you play with them, but that’s OK. The reward of out-lasting your own expectations through dedicating yourself to something new is greater than any quick burst of dopamine we can harness in instant gratification.

This summer, grab an instrument and start out by setting a goal of learning a song. Then learn another. Then keep going.

Featured Illustration By Miranda Thomas

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Travis Norton

Travis Norton

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