An article submitted by Helen Fields
How playing music can help life become pitch perfect
Confucius once wrote,
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”
People who love to play music and those who enjoy listening to it would generally agree that music does indeed deliver a type of pleasure unequalled by most other activities. Music as a social activity can help you have more friends and can even help attract the opposite sex – how else could Coldplay’s Chris Martin ever have got the attention of Gwyneth Paltrow! Yet it would now seem that music can offer much more than entertainment or enticement. Making music could in fact be the ticket to a healthier, wealthier and wiser life. Here we look at how music can enhance wellbeing, earning power and even intellect.
Music as medicine
Most music lovers already know that listening to or bashing out a great tune brings true relaxation. Research in fact goes further than this and suggests that music can prevent as well as help treat anxiety related conditions. One study, carried out by a team of scientists in Sweden, examined the impact of listening to music on pre-surgical patients. They found that by reducing surges in heart rate associated with stress, music actually worked better than anti-anxiety medication. Studies have also been carried out with choirs which show that performing collectively can synchronize breathing and heart rates producing a group wide calming effect.
Music has also been widely used as a form of therapy in addressing a variety of medical conditions. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music can be used in this context to treat physical, social, emotional and cognitive issues and is particularly helpful for those who may find it difficult to express themselves. Examples of this include patients on the autistic spectrum where music can actually aid in the development of communication skills. Listening to music has been found to have a particularly powerful impact on young people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A study carried out at the FIO Center for Children and Families concluded that music could be as helpful as medication in helping children with ADHD focus on specific activities such as homework.
Music brings money
While we’ve all been exposed to the age-old image of the impoverished musician, barely scraping an existence, today’s reality is much more positive. According to a report completed by Berklee College of Music there are a whole host of roles available from performance to writing to audio technology, many of which are seeing salary ranges trending upwards. The expanding influence of social media has led to new paths being created in areas such as audio advertising production while the rise of all things digital has also meant new opportunities in mobile app development and wireless engineering.
Of course there is always the dream of hitting the big time and becoming a performance artist. In today’s digital age it has certainly become much easier to get your music out there and get it heard. Channels such as YouTube, Tumblr and Soundcloud have meant virtually anyone can upload and distribute their musical offerings. Building a buzz around your music is essential if you want it to stand out from the ever increasing crowd of digital artists but there is no doubt that it can be done. Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen are just two of the many well known performers who began their careers on YouTube. Even if you don’t care for their music it would be difficult to ignore their profile and wealth. Bieber, now worth an estimated $200 million, is after all considered one of the world’s richest young musicians.
Music boosts mental agility
Even if you choose not to pursue music as a career, the good news is that playing an instrument can make you smarter so whatever your job, you’ll be better at it! Researchers in Scotland’s University of St. Andrews have discovered that musical activity can significantly boost brain function. Amateur musicians who participated in the study experienced better and faster responses to simple mental tests and were quicker to pick up on and correct mistakes. The findings are not only encouraging to those who want to make the most of their mental functioning for work related reasons, but also provide hope to people suffering with age or illness related reductions in cognitive capability. Another study carried out by a team in Boston Children’s Hospital also found a direct link between high level brain processes (known as executive functions) and musical training. The researchers concluded that picking up an instrument at an early stage in life (as young as seven) had the biggest potential impact and could positively influence the anatomy of the brain.