Why learn to play an instrument?

Why learn to play an instrument? I believe this is the question that music teachers should ask all the time. And, of course, looking for answers. I say “answers” because I believe there are countless reasons to learn to play an instrument, reasons ranging from a quest for personal satisfaction to the neurological benefits of learning. We listen to music all the time, we're in the car going to work with the radio on, at the gym or just taking a break to feel good.

There is a fantastic book called Hallucinations by the late and famous physician Oliver Sacks, where he explores and exposes various medical conditions related to music. For me, this book is what developed much of my fascination with the process of listening to and studying music. Sacks writes a wonderful preface where he states that the inclination towards music reveals itself in early childhood, manifests itself and is essential in all cultures and probably comes from the first human beings. All of us, except for a few rare exceptions, perceive timbres, rhythms, notes, melodies, harmonies (I always like to remember that each culture perceives music under a certain aspect, because this is not restricted to what we Westerners recognize as such). In short, we are naturally musical beings.

We listen to music with emotion, we perceive music with the body. Many studies have been done on the process of listening and studying music, the results indicate that music has access to parts of our brain linked to affectivity, impulses, emotions and motivation. In this way, it stimulates the type of memory called non-verbal, allowing the integration of different sensory perceptions. (For example, when I went to Disney for the first time, the song “Let her go” by the band Passenger was played on the radio almost every day. Today, when I listen to the song, I relive the feeling of the trip.).

Studying the instrument allows you to develop all these aspects related to emotion and affectivity, but also several other skills such as:

In addition to all these intellectual benefits, listening to and playing music has a lot to do with pleasure. We live in such a busy and stressful world that it is necessary to have more than just school/work and sleep. Just as it is physically and psychologically healthy to exercise, having a hobby related to the arts works the mind, takes us away from daily concerns. Many students, especially adults, report that the instrument has become a fugue. When they are tired or stressed, they start to play and they start to feel better, more motivated, happy. I started studying for pleasure, my older sister studied and I thought it was wonderful, I was there when I was six years old, since then I never stopped, what was pleasure also became a profession

Finally, I would like to leave a quote by Schopenhauer that summarizes very well all this pleasure that is listening and playing.

“The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but without reality and far from pain.”