May 24, 2015

Simple Pleasures: Playing An Instrument

After quitting my teaching career to pursue a more simple life back in 2001 I found myself with a wealth of time to use as I pleased. One of the first things I did with my new found stash of moments was pick up a guitar and start noodling around. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Since then I have noticed all kinds of mental benefits as a result of playing an instrument, most notably memory improvement, not something we usually associate with getting older.

As a teacher I knew that engaging in musical activities has many benefits for students, and has been shown to improve performance across all subjects. It is good for you.

The video above provides a short explanation of this phenomena.
"When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout." - TED-Ed
This is for everyone that has ever had the slightest urge to learn to play any instrument - DO IT.

Tackle the tuba. Get a guitar. Pound a piano. Massage a mandolin. Vibrate a violin. Have fun and work out your brain at the same time.

If life is too busy, consider simplifying things enough to have the time to learn and experience the endless joys of playing. I don't know about your neighbours, but your brain will thank you. 


  1. Anonymous5/25/2015

    Yes!! A wonderful post. My original reason to learn the ukulele was to have "homemade" music in the house, like when I was young. This additional benefit of helping my aging brain (I'm in my 50s) is icing on the cake. And like you mention, just noodling around on an instrument gives the brain benefit - you don't have to be an on-the-stage level of musician. Thanks again for the post, I am sharing it with other music players I know. -- Mary

    1. Mary,

      I had so much fun with the ukulele. Knowing basic guitar chords helped me learn the basics quickly, but I had to return it before getting into it. I do want to have one around the house again.

      Thank you for mentioning in a previous comment that you had a concert sized ukulele - I was not aware they came in different sizes, but it makes sense when I think about guitars.

      I looked up pictures of the instrument you described (nice), and now I would like to try all the different sizes before getting one of my own.

    2. Anonymous5/26/2015

      Yes, ukuleles come in these sizes: soprano (what we think of the typical "Hawaiian" uke); concert, tenor, and baritone. The soprano, concert and tenor are all tuned GCEA; the baritone is usually tuned DGBE. With his larger hands, my boyfriend plays tenor and baritone the most. With my smaller hands, I play soprano and concert.

      By the way, a Canadian is one of the most famous ukulele players today - James Hill. He created a program to teach Canadian children how to read/play music via the ukulele. Amazing musician. You might want to look him up on Youtube or Wikipedia.


    3. Mary,

      Thanks for that great info. Will be looking up James Hill this week during one of our musical mornings (which is what we have been doing instead of reading the news since our news fast began three weeks ago).

  2. Anonymous5/28/2015

    Looking back over some of your recent posts, I found myself wondering how both of you got on with your "news fast". I have not bought daily papers for some years now, we don't have television and so I pick up a lot of news almost by accident. I have to say it makes for a peaceful life. And things I need to know, like the Nepal earthquake for example, I seem to find out, and can then find out more information for myself as I need it. It is cheaper because I don't spend the money on newspapers, less recycling etc. Friends of ours take two daily papers and when they visit us it looks as though a whirlwind has hit the living room! Knee deep in paper! And most papers have a bias of one sort or another. I prefer to make up my own mind. Anyway, give us an update if you can.... All the best, Frances from the UK.

  3. Frances,

    Thanks for asking about our (ongoing) news fast. I intend on doing a post about it soon. Anything that makes for a "more peaceful life" is something I want to look at, and a news fast is one such thing as you point out.

  4. This video and post motivates me to at least think of what type of instrument I might like to learn to play! Amazing how beneficial learning to play an instrument is for the brain.

    1. Terri,

      So many instruments, so little time. A harmonica is inexpensive and very portable. And unplugged.


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