Why Learning Music Is Different Than Learning Anything Else

5 Reasons Why Learning Music is Different Than Learning Anything Else

While all subjects have their unique challenges and rewards, learning music stands out. It is not as straightforward as adding two numbers together or writing an essay on Jane Eyre, but it does apply the same thought processes, and then some!

If you are on the fence about live music tutoring or online music lessons, consider the ways music distinguishes itself among other avenues of study. The benefits of music are many, and all worth the effort.

Why learn music at all?

Music is often considered separately from the “core” subjects offered in schools: math, science, language arts, and history. “The arts” are frequently discussed in terms of their importance in a child’s education, and are therefore often at risk of budget cuts or being removed from a curriculum altogether. The more traditional subjects are treated as more valuable and more important than music because it is an “art” rather than a subject that seems more directly applicable to careers upon graduation, like math.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Despite the struggles the arts are facing to stay alive in schools, the importance of learning music cannot be stressed enough. Music is not only an art to be appreciated but also a powerful learning tool that can impact all other aspects of education. This is not limited to children in school either!

While students often have easier access to learning music through programs at their schools, online music tutoring makes music available for everyone. Even for the adults who have left school and are wondering if it is too late, I am here to tell you that it is never too late to look into how to learn music. No matter what stage of life you are in, music can have a profound impact on your ongoing education as a human being engaging with the world. 

For the purposes of this article, the examples will largely pertain to instrumental or vocal music (and all its included elements, such as reading music) to help illustrate the many benefits of learning music. However, other applications of music, such as music theory or music production, have many of the same benefits and more. No matter which variety of music lessons you might choose, the same fundamental principles apply.

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1. Exercise all parts of your brain

You may have heard before that the brain is split into two hemispheres, and that each side controls specific functions. Generally speaking, the left side is said to control speech, comprehension, arithmetic, and writing (the “analytical” and “methodical” side). Meanwhile, the right side is said to control creativity, spatial ability, as well as artistic and musical skills (the “creative” side).

The truth is not so black and white as that. Music is not simply picking up a trumpet and pushing down on the valves, nor is music theory writing down any note on the paper that looks good. There are layers of thought processes involved in making music that go beyond the “right hemisphere.” 

Picture a girl sitting down to play clarinet in a band class:

  • She is sitting in her chair with her sheet music propped up on the music stand in front of her, using the proper posture to facilitate optimal breathing.
  • To play her instrument, she has to cover certain holes and press certain keys on the instrument to make the different notes, in addition to shaping her mouth over the instrument’s mouthpiece correctly (called an “embouchure”), which involves coordinating her motor, cognitive, and sensory systems.
  • To know which notes to play, she has to read the music in front of her, absorb that information, and then apply it.
  • When the class begins to play as a group, she has to listen to the people around her and be aware of the conductor in order to play together and in time. If a mistake is made, she has to think critically about what the problem was and then how to solve it. 

There are other thoughts that pass through a musician’s head while playing (many of which become subconscious over time), but it is plain to see that there is plenty of “comprehension” and “analyzing” required! The above example is also expecting the child to manage this all on their own, reinforcing independence and problem solving.

While math will strengthen analytical skills when solving a formula, and language arts will develop reading comprehension through literature, music engages all of these skills across disciplines.

For children, this helps build skills that they are still learning: reading, language development, spatial-temporal skills, and of course music. For adults, it reinforces the same skills that have long since been mastered, but could use some brushing up.

2. Learn the value of teamwork

Music can be enjoyed and created alone, but there are also many ways in which it can be done with others. This includes joining a band, orchestra, or playing with a friend, just to name a few. All of these require the players to work together to create music that fits together as a group.

Playing music together develops a strong sense of teamwork. For example, consider a solo vocalist singing alongside an accompanist on piano. As the vocalist sings, they must listen to the notes and chords that the pianist is playing to make sure they are at the right place in the song. Likewise, the pianist must follow the cues provided by the soloist through their emotion and body language to add the same feeling and pace set by the person leading the song.

This skill is applicable to all parts of life. Learning to work together and keep an eye out for the verbal and non-verbal cues with their teammates is important in class, at work, and in our personal lives. 

3. Great social activity

Similarly, engaging with music together with friends or classmates or colleagues builds social bonds! You likely already do this. Who among us hasn’t been in a car with another person and not commented on a song playing on the radio?

Creating music together is also fun! A common extracurricular such as band class in school is a great way for children to make friends. They work toward a common goal daily to make great music, within their own section of instruments in particular. For students who join a marching band or a pep band for sporting events, there is an extra layer of teamwork and camaraderie built from all the time spent together practicing during and after school. Performing together at concerts also brings a sense of accomplishment from all the hard work they put in as a group.

For adults, options expand even further. You can have a jam session with a family member or two playing your favorite rock song, or go to a local restaurant or bar with friends and participate in karaoke with your new singing skills or show off your instrumental abilities at open mic night with a guitar solo! Strengthening your relationships with other people is a wonderful bonus to learning music.

4. Scientifically proven to improve health

No matter your age, music has been scientifically proven across the board to improve health. The benefits are nearly limitless, but here are a few to consider.

As we age, so do our bodies. For some people, this results in chronic conditions such as arthritis, which is caused by inflammation and subsequent pain in joints (such as those in our hands). For people suffering from arthritis, it is vital to stretch those joints to maintain range of motion. Piano is an excellent way to do this, as it requires two hands stretched across multiple keys, with multiple fingers moving at once. While hardly a cure, playing piano is an enjoyable way to get that exercise in to keep the pain at bay.

Learning music is so beneficial to mental health that there is even a subcategory of therapy called “music therapy” that uses music as its primary treatment method. Time and time again, research has shown that music has positive effects on mental health (such as depression), and this is not limited only to listening to music.

Actively listening to music and focusing on its rhythm or its lyrics can work as an aid to help people work through difficult emotions or experiences. Anyone can name a song that means something personal to them and brings about positive feelings. Playing music and writing music are also powerful tools when combatting mental health, as they provide an outlet to express the feelings that are causing stress.

5. Simply put, it’s fun!

Even if music is employed for class or for work, it is still a creative activity with unlimited ways to enjoy it! 

Learning music does take time and effort, but the rewards are more than worth it. Not only will you have a new skill to enjoy in your free time as a hobby, it is also a wonderful way to relieve stress. There is a sense of personal achievement to be found in creating music (either original or familiar) for yourself or for others.

Once you have learned even the basics of music, instead of simply listening to music on the radio or at a concert, you may find yourself listening more critically and finding more layers than before. Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin is an energetic, moving piece of classical jazz and is great fun to listen to on its own. After spending time learning music, however, you can also identify the smaller details to expand your appreciation of the piece: the rising crescendo of the opening clarinet solo, the contrast between the loud brass and the smooth piano, and the same themes that repeat throughout the song played by different instruments or in varying styles. Every time you listen, you find something new!

This extends to other pieces of media as well! Great movies are only further empowered by great soundtracks. What is Star Wars without its explosive opening theme? The suspensful two-note theme from Jaws is iconic and recognizable to people who haven’t seen the movie as well as those who have. 

The same is true for video games, plays, and even your favorite sporting events. Music is all around you, and by learning to make it yourself, you can take your current enjoyment and push it even further.

First step: find your music tutor

Music is a wonderful subject to pursue, with numerous benefits beyond those mentioned here, and there is much an online music tutor can offer you when getting started.

Whether your goal is to start a new hobby for pure enjoyment or to supplement your child’s music education in class, Wyzant music tutors can help you find the right tools for your needs and goals to ensure you get the most out of what music has to offer.

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