How does learning to play the guitar change our well-being in profound ways?
Research suggests that guitar players’ brains work a bit differently to everyone else. Some see this as a sly nod to the oddball genius of some of the masters. On the other hand, there is some physiological evidence here. The art of learning to play the chords and read sheet music opens up new neural pathways. Essentially, a guitarist does rewire their brain in a positive way which leads to all kinds of cognitive benefits.
The benefits of playing guitar can be categorized into 5 distinct areas:
- Social Benefits
- Personal Benefits
- Professional Benefits
- Mental Health Benefits
- Physical Health benefits
This guide to the advantages of learning to play guitar will look at the key positive points in all five of these categories. Some will be obvious, others could be very surprising.
Let's start with the social benefits of playing guitar.
1. Social Benefits
The guitar is an instrument that brings people together as a group and connects them through music. Socially, guitarists can enjoy the following benefits:
Raise the mood by playing the guitar in a room full of people.
Few instruments equal a guitar when it comes to uniting people. Pianos can offer a similar vibe in the right setting, but guitars have a sense of spontaneity to them.
Bring one out at a party, and you can become the center of attention. It starts with a few absent-minded chords to add some ambiance. From there, you can be bombarded with requests for songs and end up with a big group sing-along.
There is a catch, though. You do need to be able to play the songs!
The odd fumbled note can be endearing, but you need to be pretty competent to win people over. That is why it is important to learn to play, not to mess around on the guitar.
Here at Liberty Park Music, you can take up our comprehensive 7-Day Guitar Program to get you going.
Bring new people into your world by unveiling your hidden talent.
The shy, unassuming guy in the corner at a party could be a budding songwriter or a talented drummer. Your spontaneous playing may encourage him to strike up the courage to talk to you. Then there are the members of the opposite sex. Guys have a thing for girls that can play an instrument and vice-versa.
Likewise, it never escapes the attention of band members that it is often the guitarist that gets the girls. Bass guitar just isn't sexy. Just the image of a guy with a guitar in his hands can change a woman's first impression. However, it does help if you can back it up with the talent.
2. Personal Benefits
There are more reasons to pick up a guitar than to score with girls. The right lessons and passion can take you to a new level. You can go from a tentative player strumming out some classics in your bedroom to a true musician creating your own riffs.
However, it’s much more than that. You will become a well-rounded person by learning to play the guitar. Here are some of the key advantages of playing guitar for personal development.
Improve your concentration and memory by learning to read guitar tabs and creating chord shapes.
A study at the University of Zurich concluded that the areas of the brain responsible for memory were stimulated while playing the guitar. This relates to both cognitive and muscle memory. Children with ADHD are sometimes advised to pick up an instrument to help them focus their energy into something creative and positive. Improved drive and discipline will help you focus on this new skill and improve concentration. This hobby also helps players improve their memory.
Handle multiple tasks like a pro by improving your guitar hand coordination, sight-reading and listening skills.
During practices, guitarists are not just developing their musicianship - they also become good multitaskers. They are be able to:
- Read guitar TABS and scores
- Create the right chord shape with their hands
- Concentrate on playing the notes accurately
- Read ahead for upcoming notes
- Listen to the sounds being made
- Keeping time
If you try to add singing into the mix, then you will have a whole another element to contend with! It may sound quite complicated when you are just starting out. But the human brain will eventually rewire itself for the better in adapting to multi-tasking. Once you get the hang of this valuable skill, you can also apply it outside your guitar practices.
Boost your confidence and achieve a sense of fulfillment by creating new goals, such as mastering a guitar song.
Mastering chords, perfecting songs and nailing overreaching guitar solos are few of the greatest challenges that any guitarist faces. Yet the sense of achievement gained from doing so is truly gratifying. Achievements like these teach us that there is more to adult life than financial rewards.
Playing guitar as a hobby can give us a sense of fulfillment that may have been lost, or has not been fully explored. When you accomplish new goals to develop your guitar skills, you will gain so much confidence in your creative side.
Learn with LPM
If you are looking to review your guitar basics like tuning, setup, reading TABS etc. with Ze, check out his Intro to Guitar Playing Course for Beginners.
3. Professional Benefits
Personal and social benefits of playing guitar can have a knock-on effect on our professional lives. This new attitude may lead to a can-do attitude on a challenging project at work. If you mastered a difficult section of a favorite song over a weekend, those spreadsheets should be a piece of cake. The following advantages can also be gained from guitar lessons.
Improve your time management skills by setting time for guitar practices.
The act of learning to play guitar is also helpful for teaching people how to settle to a schedule. Just 20 minutes of practice a day can lead to some significant results. If you want to learn with enough passion, then 20 minutes is nothing.
Eventually, you can apply this to other aspects of personal life and work to help with time management and personal discipline. 20 minutes of exercise a day? This is no problem if this is followed by a relaxing guitar session later that evening.
Improve your math and English skills by constantly practicing guitar scales and chords.
The idea of developing math skills by playing the guitar sounds ridiculous at first. But did you know that music theory is in fact built on math with the different scales and chords? Though subtle, you might just be improving your math while lazily strumming your guitar. As for English skills, children that learn music theory at a young age have been shown to develop a greater reading comprehension than their peers.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that music theory in adult life will help with vocabulary. That is unless the lyrics sheets are particularly high-brow.
4. Mental Health & Emotional Benefits
There are great cognitive benefits here for improving focus, intelligence, and motor skills. This only scratches the surface of the advantages that guitar playing can provide. Beyond the cognitive changes, there are the following mental health benefits.
Gain a form of stress relief by shredding and heavy strumming.
The act of guitar playing can be deeply therapeutic. A study from the Mind-Body Wellness Center and Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems found that playing an instrument has a big impact on stress levels.
It is a great form of relief for anybody struggling to release the tension of a long day in the office. Many first time players are 40-something adults needing a release. Some people like to play a few rounds of golf, while others want to learn to unleash their inner rockstar.
Escape from anxiety by having a guitar solo or jam session with your friends.
The guitar demands your full attention. It insists that you switch off from the outside world completely. It provides an escape for those 20-minute sessions.
This means that guitar lessons could be a great option for people struggling with depression and anxiety disorders.
This is made better by the fact that it does give something back. That sense of accomplishment from achieving those difficult lessons leads to great happiness and self-worth.
Boost your creativity skills by improvising.
More and more of us are being encouraged to bring more creativity and a work-life-balance into our lives. For many, this means drawing painting or the ongoing craze of adult coloring-in books. Others like to bake. Then there are those that have no place setting foot near a mixing bowl or an easel. Music is a creative outlet that brings just as much joy through the same amount of passion.
Give yourself a sense of nostalgia by playing your favourite guitar classics
We get a great feeling from putting on a record of a favorite band from our teenage years. Learning to play those Nirvana or Smiths classics just takes that to a new level with even greater rewards.
There is a deep emotional connection with music. Music can make us cry with greater ease than a sad movie. It is easy to stir up memories of lost love and lost youth. At the same time, music can also create a sense of euphoria. Finding a song that relates to happier times, with uplifting lyrics, can instantly elevate the mood of a room.
Give hope and empowerment to others by bringing your talent to the public.
These positive emotions are amplified when we play songs to provide those feelings for other people. This has to be the ultimate benefit of learning guitar: to make others feel something wonderful. That goal drives everyone from the busker on the street corner to the global star trying to entertain an arena of thousands.
5. Physical Health Benefits
Playing guitar can be good for physical health, although those initial calluses and sore fingers might suggest otherwise.
Strengthen your hands and wrists by constantly practicing chords and strumming.
With time, your hands and wrists will become stronger and more flexible. This comes from all those chord positions and strumming. It is a constant process that builds up the muscles and stretches the tendons. This can also carry through into arm muscles and shoulders.
Lose weight by standing and performing onstage.
There are also those that point out the benefits of learning to play guitar for calorie burning. It does help to be up performing on a stage in a hot, sweaty venue. You won't lose much by learning a song on your couch.
Lower your blood pressure by playing guitar power ballads.
Harvard Health ran a study on the effects of music on blood pressure and anxiety on patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Listening to and playing relaxing music, like power ballads and love songs, can really help. Playing guitar in these times of anxiety can take you out of the moment to a better place & time in life.
Relieve pain by songwriting and creating your own guitar solo.
Research from the University of Utah’s Pain Research Center shows that the act of playing music can be so absorbing that people actually use it as a painkiller. This means that it can be a great tool for people dealing with chronic stress and pain.
There is one final benefit to end on because it relates to all the other topics mentioned above.
The simple answer to the greatest benefit of playing guitar is that it can last forever.
As long as you play guitar, you can entertain friends and family members with songs until your fingers no longer allow you play. When that moment comes, you can simply teach everything you know to your grandchildren.
That rewired guitarist’s brain will set you up for a long life of cognitive health. You just have to remember to keep up with your playing. The same goes for the effects on stress-relief and relaxation.
Guitar playing is so much more than a hobby for those with the passion to learn and better themselves. It becomes a part of who you are and a vital link in some of the best relationships you will have.
You’ve just read our top benefits of learning guitar. Now it’s time to hear from you.
What do you think of these benefits of learning guitar?
Do you feel inspired to take guitar lessons?
Feel free to leave a quick comment below!
About the Author: Ze
Ze first began his journey playing original music and top 40s pop tunes around the country's popular venues. Eventually, through the music of John Mayer, he found a strong attraction to blues music. Ze has years of experience teaching beginners and intermediate guitarists. Currently with Liberty Park Music he is teaching Introduction to Guitar Playing for Complete Beginners, Rhythm Guitar to learn about strumming, chords and more, Guitar Essentials as a fast-track review course, and lots of Song Lessons on pop and rock hits.