A number of studies have been carried out on humans and animals, when the brain of a person who was actively listening to music was analyzed using high-tech equipment and scanners.
It was found that listening to music led to the simultaneous activation of many regions of the brain. Unlike when we are doing a math problem, when only a certain part of the brain is activated, listening to music activates multiple regions of the brain. This means that a nice tone is able to influence us and touches many parts of the brain at the same time. Our body, mind and soul can pick up on the vibrations of the music we hear and respond to them in a multitude of ways. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. But always responding in some way.
So what happens inside your brain when you are not just listening to music but making it? Maybe you are strumming a guitar or a ukulele; playing a harmonica or the piano, singing, hitting some bongos, or any other act of musical creation. The creative process is excellent for your brain!
Making music is far better than just listening to music for the overall health and wellness of the brain. To understand more about the wonderful benefits that producing music can have on the brain than I could explain, here’s a link to a 4 minute animated video by Anita Collins from TED-Ed that has had over 6 million views: How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins:
After watching the video, consider this:
If you already play an instrument, play it more often. Play it with other musicians who might be playing the same or different instruments. Continue playing the songs you already know but make it a point to learn new songs. Start with one a week, then maybe one new one every other day. The act of pushing yourself beyond your self-imposed limits musically can be a thrilling and rewarding endeavor on so many levels. If you already play something, why not pick up a new instrument? I play the guitar. I recently picked up the mandolin, and just started learning how to play slide guitar. If you know a fretted instrument (ie guitar) it’s not that far a leap to banjo, mandolin and that old favorite the ukulele.
Which brings me to how to make music if you have never played anything before or it’s been years and years. The old reliable Ukulele. It’s becoming the rage amongst seniors these days, and if you are moved after reading this, go and get yourself a starter uke. You can learn a couple of one or two finger chords before you leave the music store and be singing and making music by the time you get home. There’s teachers galore on youtube.com and via craigslist and your local music store, and also on nextdoor.com right in your neighborhood. There are jam groups just for seniors, including the Saturday morning Ukulele jam and sing-a-long near the Crow’s Nest on the beach in Santa Cruz, every week 10am – 12noon. 150 people jamming to the music we all know.
Three more notes: Don’t forget the voice. Singing is making music. And then there is the ultimate in easy-to-carry, arthritis free music making – the harmonica. Lastly: KEEP YOUR INSTRUMENT OUT AND IN FULL VIEW SO YOU'LL REMEMBER IT IS THERE JUST WAITING FOR YOU TO SHOW IT SOME LOVE. DO NOT BURY IT IN IT'S CASE. FOR A GUITAR, UKE OR MANDOLIN, BUY A PORTABLE INSTRUMENT STAND AND KEEP IT OUT. INSTRUMENTS LIVING IN A CASE DO NOT GET PLAYED AS OFTEN AS ONES THAT ARE OUT AND ABOUT.
Have fun, keep your brain sharp, learn a new song, new chords, new theory every day. Keep that brain fit and body vibrating.