There are many things a person can do in their free time. You can see a movie, go on a hike or play video games. All of these are great, but one activity stands out as one of the most gratifying, time-consuming and fun: learning to play an instrument.
Learning to play an instrument stands out, because it is accessible and can be a life-long skill. In fact, some of the greatest minds in human history have taken up an instrument or two as a hobby.
“Life without playing music is inconceivable to me,” Albert Einstein once said. “I live my daydreams in music … I get most of my joy out of music.”
If Einstein talks up learning an instrument, it must be pretty good, right?
Playing music has long been established as a cathartic and exciting activity. Whether you are picking up a pair of drumsticks for the first time or finding your rhythm on the bass guitar, the effects of playing an instrument and seeing yourself grow are undeniable.
Hundreds of thousands of scientific studies have followed how music affects people, including how it affects those playing. One study performed by the University of Montreal found that new musicians become more mentally alert after learning an instrument than they were previously. A 2013 study found that musicians with only a moderate understanding of their instrument preserved a sharp processing of speech sounds as they aged.
While there is a wide breadth of medical upsides to learning an instrument, most of our gratification comes from the way it feels emotionally and socially. Owen Thompson has played the trumpet since fifth grade and is a member of the Iowa State Marching Band. A large tattoo of a trumpet resides on his right forearm.
“Playing is just so relaxing,” Thompson said. “I practice all the time, I even used to in my dorm room. When I get bored of watching Netflix or playing [video] games, I go to playing my trumpet, and that never usually gets boring.”
Anyone who has learned an instrument or is learning will tell you that the best part of picking up an instrument is seeing yourself progress. Although there is usually a steep learning curve, passing each personal milestone while learning an instrument is immensely gratifying. In turn, your confidence and pride enjoy a major boost.
Not only is music personally beneficial, but it also has the potential to be financially beneficial. While boatloads of money aren’t widely available to most musicians, performing gigs at local bars or venues is a good way to earn some pocket change.
Austin Rader attended Iowa State from 2005 to 2010 and served as the frontman for his college band, Four Word Cause. He performed at popular Ames venues such as the Maintenance Shop and Mother’s. Rader said playing music in college was one of his favorite experiences during his time there.
“I never personally played in downtown Ames, but I am thankful that I was able to play every one of these bars and venues many times throughout my time at Iowa State,” Rader said. “Not only was it my financial support my last three years of school, but it was always such an awesome experience getting large groups of friends together, along with other fellow students and Ames residents to bond through music.”