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Is it a good idea to play an instrument while studying? If so, what are the benefits?

Is it a good idea to play an instrument while studying? If so, what are the benefits?


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We've all heard that listening to classical music and such while studying can be beneficial, but I was wondering about actually playing an instrument? If I were to absentmindedly play my accordion while reading a textbook, would it have any benefit to either my absorption of the material or ability to play music without having to focus on it? Or is this just a bad idea?

Specifically, have there been any studies relevant to this, or is there any other data on the subject?


Multitasking research suggests that people can't really multitask. I don't have any evidence to back this up, but I suspect that it's much better for your instrument skills than your studying. The accordion detracts from your focus and attention while you work, perhaps even if it doesn't feel like it. At the same time, though, that exercise may improve your ability to, say, sing and play at the same time.


There is a reason why (at least where I'm at) it it illegal to hold and talk on a cell phone while driving. Not that hands-free talking really makes any difference.

One loses efficiency or what-have-you when attention needs to be shared amongst different activities that require cognitive control. By shared I mean more that time slices need to be divided amongst the activities. Attention is really a fascinating thing.

I can mindlessly listen to music while studying. But I know that I really don't pay much attention to the music, especially because most often I choose to listen to songs I know well and really like.

But.

Can one really "mindlessly" play the accordion? Other than the physical movements that can in a sense be automatic, can one really determine what notes to play "mindlessly"? I am trying to picture a musician who has painstakingly spent hours upon hours memorizing a piece of music and I guess one's playing can reach the point of almost "mindless" playing.

Even if so, I think the attentional resources that studying demands would not allow enough attentional resources for playing an instrument…


Life Skills:

Prepare your kids for life after they move out by taking a &ldquolife skills&rdquo class in high school. This can cover everything you consider to be most important, from changing light bulbs to checking their own oil.

Foods/Cooking:

Allow your child to plan, purchase and prepare 2 meals a week. Not only will this teach them to cook, but also teach them to budget and plan wisely. For added fun, give them a theme to stick to. (Mexican, Harry Potter themed, meat less meals, etc.)

Entrepreneurship/Business:

Give your teens a head start in life by allowing them to brainstorm and create a new business. They can come up with a business plan, budget and hash out the details on their own.

Wood Shop:

Learning to work with your hands is a skill that is becoming less common. Allow your kids to complete wood projects. You can create anything from picnic tables to bookshelves!

Child Development:

I highly recommend every teen taking Child Development in high school. I didn&rsquot plan on having any kids, but 3 kids later, I&rsquom thankful that I learned simple tips, like getting to a child&rsquos eye-level when talking to them.

Conservation/Nature Studies:

If you have an avid outdoorsman, conservation may be something they will love. Spend time outdoors trying to figure out what you can do to help in nature. A visit with the local Conservation Department will be super helpful.

Auto Mechanics:

From the basics like changing oil to the more detailed things like building a motor, auto mechanics is a class that will pay off for years to come!

Keyboarding:

Improve typing skills with a keyboarding class. This is perfect for anyone who plans to be a writer, work in an office or just wants to type more words per minute.

Foreign Language:

Most colleges require at least 1 year of foreign language to apply but with so many options, it&rsquos easy to find something that tickles your fancy. From English, German, Russian and Portuguese to Latin, Italian and Hebrew, there&rsquos something for everyone!

Agriculture:

Raising your own animals, learning all about them and understanding their needs is a great way to earn a credit in agriculture studies.

Horticulture:

Growing your own garden can easily be considered one of the most popular high school elective ideas for homeschoolers. If you&rsquore worried about not spending enough time on your plants, consider looking into how you can use plants in medicine, food and irrigation.

Theater:

Many homeschool families join forces with their local theater to ensure their teens get plenty of exposure to theater. From stage hands to the star of the show, there&rsquos plenty of opportunities to learn.

Dance:

From ballet to interpretive dance, studying it can be tons of fun for those passionate about it!

Musical Instruments:

Learn to play a new instrument or two with a musical based class. Choose between piano, voice, guitar, ukulele, tuba, trombone, drums or all of the above!

Sports:

If your kiddo spends hours playing sports, it&rsquos fine to include it as a high school elective. From baseball to golf, there&rsquos a sport that everyone will enjoy!

Art is a great high school elective because there&rsquos so much to choose from! Painting, pottery, drawing, or sculpting are just some of your options.

Digital Marketing:

Learn the tips and tricks to successful marketing in the digital age. From utilizing the internet to understand what makes people click the &ldquobuy&rdquo button, digital marketing is a booming business.

Genetics:

Learn how you came about your eye and hair color as you explore genetics. The results will be as interesting as the entire class!

Wilderness Survival Skills:

From building a fire to seeking shelter from the weather, being able to survive in nature is a great skill to have! One thing to remember, you can generally forage for enough food for days but you have to know what&rsquos edible and what&rsquos not!

Film Making:

How cool would it be to create a film, written and directed by your high schooler? Not only does this teach editing skills, techniques and introduce technology but it will also create an amazing keepsake you&rsquoll treasure for years to come.

Creative Writing:

Creative writing is one of our favorite high school elective ideas for homeschoolers because it forces them to think outside the box. Exploring different types of writing and completing unexpected assignments helps build a strong writer.

Biking, running and other action-packed activities are perfect for earning a PE credit in your homeschool!

Game Design:

Teens tend to spend hours in front of devices, so allowing them to create and design their own game is a great way to help spark their creativity!

Culinary Studies:

Ever wonder how chefs create such amazing foods? Explore culinary creations and figure out how to create foods that will give your taste-buds a party!

Geography:

Learning the lands of the world is a great way to experience the world without ever leaving your home.

Forensics:

Learn to pay close attention to details with a forensics science class. Kids will love becoming detectives to try to solve the cases presented.

Psychology:

Take a peek inside the human brain with a fun psychology class. Learn about everything from Pavlov&rsquos dog to human development.

Blacksmithing:

Learn the basics of metalworking with a blacksmithing class. Towards the end of the year, you will have some awesome keepsakes, like knives that you&rsquove created with your own hands.

Marine Biology:

From dolphins to coral reefs, there&rsquos so much to study in the ocean! Learn all about wildlife, water and everything in between with a Marine Biology class.

YouTube:

Start your own YouTube channel and figure out how to grow an audience as you share your passion with others. From gardening to board games, there&rsquos an audience for literally everything!

Coding:

Create softwares, apps and websites using coding. The sky is the limit as you learn to tweak even the smallest details.

Health & Wellness:

Learn the importance of physical, mental and emotional wellness while understanding how your health contributes to all.

Economics:

Explore how households, governments and society use their resources in this interesting class.

Social Media:

These days, social media is a mega-market. Learn ways to use social media responsibly, grow a business and explore other benefits of technology.

Current Events:

Take a closer look into events that are happening in the world around us every single day. From the issues in America to poverty and wealth in other countries, discover how issues vary from country to country.

Bible:

One of our favorite high school elective ideas for homeschoolers is digging deeper into the Bible. Help your kids to question everything and seek answers for some of life&rsquos toughest questions.

Computer Science:

Techy kids will enjoy learning more and more about computers as they discover the world if IT, system analysis, and so much more.

Yearbook:

Keep your high school memories close by with a fun and hands-on yearbook class. Allow your child to include photos of field trips, class projects and even personal events in their yearbook. It&rsquos something they&rsquoll treasure for years to come.

Discover the importance of the agriculture industry. From irrigation to farming, ag is incredibly important and a fun subject to study!

Photoshop

Erase fine lines and blemished with the touch of a brush. Create a glorious purple sky in the background. Swap out silly kids for a more presentable image of them. All these things can be done once you learn your way around Photoshop.

Web Design:

Create your own website and custom design with simple software and basic knowledge. You can create a website just because or to launch a future career.

Art History:

Ever wondered what Manet thought about while painting his famous works? Or where Picasso painted? Learn all about famous works of art and the history behind them with an art history class.

Screenwriting:

Write your own scripts for movies, short films, commercials or TV shows. Learn all about the industry, as well as tips and tricks to help you succeed.

Anatomy & Physiology:

Have a future nurse or doctor? Learn the human body and so much more with a human anatomy and physiology class.

Intro to Literature:

From British to American literature, there&rsquos something about reading popular books from other cultures that bookworms just love.

Mythology:

Study greek myths, roman myths or Hittite mythology in this fun elective.

Sign Language:

Often used as a foreign language credit, sign language is fun to learn and opens up many opportunities for you life.

Marketing:

Learn basic marketing strategies that will help boost sales, grow a business and make your company a household name.

Astronomy:

From the skies to the planets, there&rsquos so much to learn about astronomy! The universe has so much left to explore and there&rsquos no time like the present.

Critical Thinking/Logic

Solve word problems, figure out puzzles and put your brain to the test with a fun critical thinking and logic class.

World Religions:

Explore the religions of people all around the world while trying to discover how their beliefs originally came about.

Photography:

Learn everything from the rule of thirds to the laws of light in a fun and hands-on photography class.

Architecture:

From famous structures to how to design jaw-dropping buildings, architecture is a great choice for kids who love design.

Veterinary Science:

If you have a kiddo who wants to be a vet, there&rsquos no reason not to get started early on learning all about animals and veterinary science.

Real Estate:

Have a kid interested in homes? Real estate is a great way to get inside and see the insides of homes. Here they can see what sells well, learn design tricks and discover a huge opportunity to make some money.

Carpentry:

Learning to install trim, hang doors and set cabinets are skills that kids can easily learn, if given the chance.

Leadership:

Let your kiddos grab life by the reigns when they learn important leadership skills. Whether they will head up an entire company or just the PTA, these skills will forever come in handy.

Test Prep:

Shave thousands of dollars off your college education with a test prep class. You can boost your ACT score, figure out where to spend more time studying and learn test-taking tips.

Public Speaking:

Don&rsquot let fear hold you back! Public speaking is easy when you learn how to do it correctly. Your nerves will ease up once you know HOW to address an audience, as well as simple tricks to make you a great speaker.

Human Development:

Learn all about human development, from conception through death and you&rsquoll understand yourself and other humans so much better.

First Aid:

From CPR to how to stop bleeding, first aid is a skill that you pray you&rsquoll never need but if you do, you&rsquore prepared.

Construction:

Ever wanted to build a tiny house? How fun would it be to learn to run electric, water lines and hang sheet rock while creating your own tiny house.

Drivers Ed:

There are few things as important in life as learning to safely drive a vehicle. Learn the basics of car care and how to carefully drive a car, while earning credit for school!

Wood Carving:

Whittle, chip and carve your way to gorgeous works of art with a wood carving class.

Personal Finance:

Learning to manage your money is a skill that will pay off for years to come. Learning from pros like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman or just use common sense saving, just like your grandparents did!

Poetry:

Studying poetry is a fun way to learn about different cultures, rhythm and prose. From reading poetry to writing your own, it&rsquos fun and works well for those who enjoy writing.

Women in History:

From Rosa Parks to Hillary Clinton, dig in and learn what&rsquos shaped some of the most famous woman who ever lived.

Fashion Design:

Whether you want to design a new wardrobe or just a prom dress made out of Duct Tape, fashion design is a fun way to learn about current trends.

3D & Animation:

Create fun animation and 3D designs with your computer or using old-school pencil and paper. Explore all the different types of animation, as well as how 3D images work.

Interior Design:

Learn basics like rug size,where to hang curtains and how to create a fluid movement in your home with a hands-on home interior class.

Pet & Animal Care:

If your kiddos love animals, there&rsquos no better class than animal care. Future vets will love learning about different animals while some kids prefer to learn all there is to know about one specific animal.

Sociology:

Explore the human society when you dig deeper during a sociology class. From culture to relationships, sociology covers a huge area of interaction.

Weight lifting:

Encourage your kids to push their limits with a weightlifting class. Build muscle, tone your body or just learn how to get the shape you want, while getting healthy, too!

Microsoft Office:

Become a pro at everything from Microsoft Works to Excel spreadsheets and all other programs that Microsoft has to offer.

Engineering:

From popsicle bridges to hand drawn sketches, applying math and science to projects will make engineering a great class for teens.

Stop Motion:

Who knew that moving inanimate objects to create a video could be so fun? Learn tips and tricks, while perfecting your editing skills.

Herbology:

Learning which herbs you can use to help you feel better is a skill that you will use for the rest of your life! Kids will enjoy digging deep into history and learning how herbs have been used for hundreds of years.

Costume Design:

Whether you&rsquove signed up for a theater class or you just want to create a gorgeous Comic Con costume, learning to design your own costume is as fun as it is handy!

Speech & Debate:

Whoever thinks it&rsquos a great idea to teach teens to debate must be crazy. That&rsquos generally a built-in skill. 😉
Learning to debate with class, making valid points and presenting your opinions in a tactful manner is a skill that many adults could stand to learn, as well!

Welding:

Welding is in HUGE demand right now. By allowing your kiddos to get a head start on their training, they can enter the workforce early and start earning big bucks!

Journalism:

If you kids enjoy writing and reporting, journalism is something that may be a great fit for them!

Volunteering:

Wether you choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, food pantry or the Ronald McDonald House, volunteering is one thing that pays you back in blessings!

Accounting:

Math buffs will enjoy accounting and it&rsquos a skill that will pay them for the rest of their life!

Cosmetology:

If you&rsquove got a teen who loves doing hair and makeup, they can easily take a cosmetology class as a high school elective. Encourage them to try new styles, perfect their techniques and create their own YouTube videos to inspire others.

Horsemanship:

Learning to care for your horse, budget for their needs and learn the ins-and-outs of horse shows is a great elective for equestrian lovers of all ages.

Outdoor Explorations:

If your kiddo enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting or camping, an outdoor exploration course may be just what they need! Spending time outdoors is always loaded with benefits for your physical and mental health.

Alternative Energy Science:

Learn all about alternative energy ideas and how to save money on electric bills when you study alternative energy science. From solar panels to energy efficient homes, there&rsquos plenty to learn.

Myths and Legends:

From the Loch Ness Monster to The Spooklight, kids will love trying to learn the truth about myths and legends from years past.

Meteorology:

Studying weather patterns, learning the tools of the trade and even visiting your local news station is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can experience when you study meteorology.

Cartooning:

Budding artists will enjoy fine-tuning their drawing skills with a cartooning class. From basic illustrations to comic book drawings, teens will enjoy learning new techniques and skills.

Bee Keeping:

With the convenience of bee kits, it&rsquos never been easier to start your own hive. With bees around, your plants will be pollinated and you&rsquoll always have a fresh supply of honey on hand. And that&rsquos just 2 of the perks!

Robotics:

If your kiddo enjoys tinkering with robotics, you can easily create a high school elective for them. Simply give them a couple of projects that require them to stretch their thinking and skills outside of the box.

History of Rock & Roll:

Learn all about how music has evolved over the years and how rock and roll completely changed the way we listen to music!

Geneology:

Trace your roots by diving in to your genealogy this year. With technology like ancestry.com, it&rsquos easier than ever to find out who your ancestors were! Be sure to check your local library for free access to the site instead of spending hundreds on your own membership.

Crime Scene Investigation:

If your teens love Horatio Caine as much as mine do, choosing crime scene investigation may be a good choice for them! Let them learn the tips and tricks to solving murders, the tools of the trade and the technology that makes it all happen!

Leather Working:

If your kiddo loves creating things with their hands, leather working is one of the perfect high school elective ideas for homeschoolers to explore. Learn to design, cut and set everything from wallets to chaps.

Personal Safety:

In this day and age, you can never be too careful. Prepare your kids for the ugliness in the world with self-defense classes, internet safety tips and teaching them to be alert.

Blogging:

Did you know that bloggers often make a 6 figure income? It&rsquos a fairly easy job that has incredible perks, like working from home and setting your own hours. Get your kiddos a head start by allowing them to start a blog about something they&rsquore passionate about.

Cultures of the World:

Explore the cultures of the world, from Africa to Russia and from Hungary to Peru! Teens will love learning all about other country&rsquos cultures.

Criminal Justice:

For those who enjoy Court TV, they&rsquoll fall in love with learning all about criminal justice system.


10 Benefits of Listening to Classical Music

1. Decreases blood pressure

Want to keep your heart healthy? According to an Oxford University study, listening to classical music can help reduce one’s blood pressure.

In the study, researchers played participants different styles of music, including rap, pop, techno, and classical.

Classical music was effective at lowering participant’s blood pressure, while rap, pop, and techno actually raised blood pressure.

2. Boosts memory

Did you know that listening to Mozart can actually help improve your memory? According to a study, people who listened to Mozart’s music showed an increase in brain wave activity that’s linked directly to memory.

So next time you have to memorize a big speech or presentation, put on some Mozart while you practice.

3. Sparks creativity

To get your creative juices flowing, listen to some classical music. While listening to classical music won’t instantly make you creative, it will help put into a more creative mindset, according to music experts at Guitar Junky.

Next time you need to brainstorm, try listening to some Mozart or Bach to get your mind thinking outside the box.

4. Reduces stress levels

If you’re feeling particularly stressed, listen to some classical tunes. A study found that pregnant women who listened to classical music were less likely to feel stressed throughout their pregnancy.

Scientists claim that classical music’s tempo is similar to the human heart, which eases both anxiety and depression.

5. Supercharges brainpower

Do you have a big test or project coming up? Boost your brainpower by listening to some classical music.

In a study, French researchers found that students who listened to a lecture in which classical music was played in the background scored better on a test compared to other students.

6. Fights depression

When you’re feeling down in the dumps, ditch the donuts and opt for some classical music instead.

Several studies have proven that classical music helps relieve depression and melancholy.

In fact, a study from Mexico discovered that listening to classical music can help ease symptoms of depression.

7. Puts you to sleep

Do you toss and turn for hours before finally falling asleep? Rather than squeeze in another episode of Games of Thrones or New Girl, listen to classical music.

According to a study of people with sleep issues, listening to classical music for just 45 minutes prior to bed can help improve sleep quality.

8. Relieves pain

Instead of reaching for another Tylenol, you might want to consider playing a Bach or Beethoven playlist. Multiple studies have shown that listening to classical music can help relieve pain.

According to researchers in London, patients listening to classical music used significantly less pain medication.

9. Makes you happy

Want to get out of that bad mood you’re in? Listening to classical music can help increase dopamine secretion, which activates the brain’s reward and pleasure center.

In fact, a 2013 study found that music can help put people in a better mood.

10. Improves productivity

It’s a Monday morning and you can’t seem to get it together. To help boost productivity, listen to some classical music.

A series of studies have proven that music makes repetitive tasks more enjoyable.

A study performed by researchers at the University of Maryland found that Baroque classical music in the reading room can help improve radiologists’ efficiency and accuracy.


Long-Lasting Benefits for Musicians

Brain-scanning studies have found that the anatomical change in musicians' brains is related to the age when training began. It shouldn't be surprising, but learning at a younger age causes the most drastic changes.

Interestingly, even brief periods of musical training can have long-lasting benefits. A 2013 study found that even those with moderate musical training preserved sharp processing of speech sounds. It was also able to increase resilience to any age-related decline in hearing.

Researchers also believe that playing music helps speech processing and learning in children with dyslexia. Furthermore, learning to play an instrument as a child can protect the brain against dementia.

"Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can't," says Loveday. "It's a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust."


Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument

  • Deep Breathing – Most of the time our breathing is very shallow, but activities like singing or playing a wind instrument require deep breathing from the diaphragm. This strengthens your lungs and respiratory system. Playing the harmonica can even help with pulmonary disease !
  • Immune Response – When we learn to play an instrument, we often become inspired to create our own music. According to an article by Live Science , making music “enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.”
  • Stress Relief – Playing music brings your energy and focus into a positive activity, which can help alleviate stress. Those reduced stress levels can help get your blood pressure and heart rate down to a healthy level.
  • Fine Hearing – Learning music refines your hearing skills by training you to isolate sounds as they occur. Studies have even shown that musicians are better at picking out specific voices and sounds in a noisy environment.
  • Exercise – Playing an instrument naturally leads to increased physical activity. Whether you’re playing the piano, guitar, strings, or a wind instrument, you’re using your arm and back muscles to play and/or hold up your instrument. And if you play the drums, you even get to do some cardio!
  • Posture – Any good music teacher will correct your posture during lessons. This can help you get into the habit of sitting up straight and having proper alignment even when you’re not playing. These are all great ways to alleviate neck and back pain.

Mind & Body Articles & More

When I gave birth to my first-born, I listened to CDs of classical music in the hospital. I figured that music would help calm me and distract me from the pain.

You might use music to distract yourself from painful or stressful situations, too. Or perhaps you’ve listened to music while studying or working out, hoping to up your performance. Though you may sense that music helps you feel better somehow, only recently has science begun to figure out why that is.

Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music heightens positive emotion through the reward centers of our brain, stimulating hits of dopamine that can make us feel good, or even elated. Listening to music also lights up other areas of the brain—in fact, almost no brain center is left untouched—suggesting more widespread effects and potential uses for music.

Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing. In particular, researchers have looked for applications in health-care—for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.

Here are five ways that music seems to impact our health and wellbeing.

Music reduces stress and anxiety

My choice to bring music into the birthing room was probably a good one. Research has shown that listening to music—at least music with a slow tempo and low pitch, without lyrics or loud instrumentation—can calm people down, even during highly stressful or painful events.

Music can prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels—all biological markers of stress. In one study, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

Performing music, versus listening to music, may also have a calming effect. In studies with adult choir singers, singing the same piece of music tended to synch up their breathing and heart rates, producing a group-wide calming effect. In a recent study, 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music—either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist—three times a week while recovering in a neonatal ICU. Though all the musical forms improved the babies’ functioning, the parental singing had the greatest impact and also reduced the stress of the parents who sang.

Though it’s sometimes hard in studies like this to separate out the effects of music versus other factors, like the positive impacts of simple social contact, at least one recent study found that music had a unique contribution to make in reducing anxiety and stress in a children’s hospital, above and beyond social contributions.

Music decreases pain

Music has a unique ability to help with pain management, as I found in my own experience with giving birth. In a 2013 study, sixty people diagnosed with fibromyalgia—a disease characterized by severe musculoskeletal pain—were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In another recent study, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery and until the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post surgery, the group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

It’s not clear why music may reduce pain, though music’s impact on dopamine release may play a role. Of course, stress and pain are also closely linked so music’s impact on stress reduction may also partly explain the effects.

However, it’s unlikely that music’s impact is due to a simple placebo effect. In a 2014 randomized control trial involving healthy subjects exposed to painful stimuli, researchers failed to find a link between expectation and music’s effects on pain. The researchers concluded that music is a robust analgesic whose properties are not due simply to expectation factors.

Music may improve immune functioning

Can listening to music actually help prevent disease? Some researchers think so.

Wilkes University researchers looked at how music affects levels of IgA—an important antibody for our immune system’s first line of defense against disease. Undergraduate students had their salivary IgA levels measured before and after 30 minutes of exposure to one of four conditions—listening to a tone click, a radio broadcast, a tape of soothing music, or silence. Those students exposed to the soothing music had significantly greater increases in IgA than any of the other conditions, suggesting that exposure to music (and not other sounds) might improve innate immunity.

Another study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to Mozart’s piano sonatas helped relax critically ill patients by lowering stress hormone levels, but the music also decreased blood levels of interleukin-6—a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes, and heart problems.

According to a 2013 meta-analysis, authors Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel Levitin concluded that music has the potential to augment immune response systems, but that the findings to date are preliminary. Still, as Levitin notes in one article on the study, “I think the promise of music as medicine is that it’s natural and it’s cheap and it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects that many pharmaceutical products do.”

Music may aid memory

More on Music & the Arts

Throughout our history, humans have felt compelled to make art. Ellen Dissanayake explains why.

Discover how playing music together can help kids develop empathy.

My now-teenage son always listens to music while he studies. Far from being a distraction to him, he claims it helps him remember better when it comes to test time. Now research may prove him right—and provide an insight that could help people suffering from dementia.

Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory. In a study published last year, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to speak, or speak in a rhythmic fashion, or sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy.

Evidence that music helps with memory has led researchers to study the impact of music on special populations, such as those who suffer memory loss due to illness. In a 2008 experiment, stroke patients who were going through rehab were randomly assigned to listen daily either to self-selected music, to an audio book, or to nothing (in addition to receiving their usual care). The patients were then tested on mood, quality of life, and several cognitive measures at one week, three months, and 6 months post-stroke. Results showed that those in the music group improved significantly more on verbal memory and focused attention than those in the other groups, and they were less depressed and confused than controls at each measuring point.

In a more recent study, caregivers and patients with dementia were randomly given 10 weeks of singing coaching, 10 weeks of music listening coaching, or neither. Afterwards, testing showed that singing and music listening improved mood, orientation, and memory and, to a lesser extent, attention and executive functioning, as well as providing other benefits. Studies like these have encouraged a movement to incorporate music into patient care for dementia patients, in part promoted by organizations like Music and Memory.

Music helps us exercise

How many of us listen to rock and roll or other upbeat music while working out? It turns out that research supports what we instinctively feel: music helps us get a more bang for our exercise buck.

Researchers in the United Kingdom recruited thirty participants to listen to motivational synchronized music, non-motivational synchronized music, or no music while they walked on a treadmill until they reached exhaustion levels. Measurements showed that both music conditions increased the length of time participants worked out (though motivational music increased it significantly more) when compared to controls. The participants who listened to motivational music also said they felt better during their work out than those in the other two conditions.

In another study, oxygen consumption levels were measured while people listened to different tempos of music during their exercise on a stationary bike. Results showed that when exercisers listened to music with a beat that was faster and synchronous with their movement, their bodies used up oxygen more efficiently than when the music played at a slower, unsynchronized tempo.

According to sports researchers Peter Terry and Costas Karageorghis, “Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions, and encourage rhythmic movement – all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise.”


10 reasons you should take up a musical instrument

Learning to play a musical instrument has so many benefits – whether it’s building your confidence, enhancing your memory or widening your social circle. Here are the ten reasons you should consider taking up an instrument this year.

1. Playing an instrument makes you smarter

Einstein once said: &ldquoLife without playing music is inconceivable to me. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music&rdquo. And as it turns out, Einstein was onto something: many studies show a correlation between musical training and academic success, in both children and adults. Learning to play an instrument stimulates the brain, improving functions like memory and abstract reasoning skills, which are essential for maths and science.

2. Your social life will improve

Playing an instrument isn&rsquot only good for your brain, it&rsquos also great for expanding your social circle (sorry, pianists and organists). Joining a musical group at any age encourages you to develop relationships with new kinds of people. It also builds skills in leadership and team-building, as well as showing you the rewards of working with others.

3. Playing an instrument relieves stress

Music keeps you calm. It has a unique effect on our emotions, and has even been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Psychologist Jane Collingwood believes that slow classical music is often the most beneficial. &ldquoListening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.&rdquo

4. Playing an instrument gives you a sense of achievement

Messed up your double-stopping in rehearsal, then totally nailed it at the performance? Playing and succeeding at a musical instrument gives you a huge sense of pride and achievement, especially when you manage to perfect a passage you&rsquove been struggling with for weeks.

5. It builds your confidence

Playing an instrument helps you get comfortable with self-expression. As children begin to master their instrument, they will probably end up playing to a few audiences, starting with their music teacher or parents, and branching out to groups of other pupils and concert audiences. Playing in public can help children feel confident in presenting their work in a non-academic context.

6. Practising a musical instrument improves patience

OK, Franz Liszt wrote some insanely difficult music. But it&rsquos an important lesson to learn that the more effort you put into something, the better the result will be. Dawsons Music advises to &ldquogive it a year&rdquo before you see big improvements in ability and confidence. &ldquo[Then,] you&rsquoll look back and be glad of those hard first few months. Indeed, those first few months will forever be a badge of honour, saying you stuck it out and earned your stripes. There are no shortcuts to learning an instrument.&rdquo

Just imagine how good it&rsquoll feel when you can play Liszt like this:

7. It helps improve your memory

Researchers have found that learning to play a musical instrument can enhance verbal memory, spatial reasoning and literacy skills. Playing an instrument makes you use both sides of your brain, which strengthens memory power.

8. It increases discipline and time management skills

Unless you&rsquore an out-of-this-world child prodigy, learning to play an instrument isn&rsquot a skill you can master overnight. Learning music takes time and effort, and helps children understand that if they want to be good at something, they&rsquoll need to put in the hours and organise their time effectively.

9. Playing music makes you more creative

Practising and perfecting a piece of music does wonders for the creative side of your brain. No matter how much a composer annotates their composition, they cannot fully express how a piece of music should be played. So it is up to the player to put their own stamp on a piece, to inject some of their personality into the music. There&rsquos a reason classical artists win awards for their performances &ndash here&rsquos Julian Lloyd Webber with his super-emotional performance of Elgar&rsquos Cello Concerto.

10. Playing music is fun!

We can harp on about all the scientifically accurate benefits to learning a musical instrument &ndash but what matters most is that it&rsquos enjoyable for the player. While other hobbies like watching TV or flicking through social media are passive, playing music actively engages and stimulates the brain, making you feel happy and occupied.


How music could help you to concentrate while studying

Should we follow what research says, or is listening to music while working just down to individual preference?

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It’s fair to to say the majority of students prefer to study while listening to music. Whether frantically cramming some last-minute reading to Kanye, or finalising an essay to the sound of the Arctic Monkeys, go to any university or college library and the majority of students there will be listening to their music of choice.

Music is a very significant part of our daily lives the image of the quietly-focused student isolating themselves into a personal study zone has led to interest into whether listening to music actually helps studies or not. Research into the field has proven fairly ambiguous, with many studies contradicting each other. However this does provide an useful insight for students who maybe looking into ways to use music to enhance their exam performance.

The most famous theory linking music and cognitive performance is the ‘Mozart effect’, the popular idea that listening to Mozart makes you smarter. The research itself was interested in the relation between Mozart and ‘spatial-temporal reasoning’, or knowing how to fit things into other things, basically. The idea that music - particularly classical - can improve exam results has endured, with websites such mozarteffect.com selling music supposedly designed to “charge the brain.”

However, research has shown that performance in tasks involving memory and concentration was better in a silent environment, though, studying in place often disturbed by talkers, sneezers, or traffic, few students have access to a silent study space. Subjects tested in environments with background music were found to get better results than those tested against background noise. Therefore, taking along an iPod and a set of headphones may come in handy if you’re looking to avoid being distracted by any ambient sounds.

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The style, volume, rhythm and ‘state’ of the music a student listens to, as well as the personality of the student, can also be significant factors. Classical music is generally viewed as the best to listen to whilst studying, however there is no decisive research to back this. What has been proven is that listening to music which is constant in state, has a steady a repetitive pulse, and is not too loud is better for concentration than inconsistent musical styles, meaning you should probably avoid listening to anything labelled ‘Mathcore’ when trying to be productive. The same study also found evidence that people perform worse when listening to their preferred, rather than neutral, music.

Personality has also been shown to affect performance, with introverts more likely to test worse than extroverts. Similarly, people tested who are bad at multi-tasking have also been shown to test worse when listening to background music. For those who feel the pressure during exams, it has been observed that calming music, for example a Haydn string quartet, can help to reduce anxiety in an individual.

This highlights the main thing to consider when listening to music while studying: that how you do so really just depends on you. There is no decisive doctrine or absolute piece of research which tells you what to do, whether it’s a Four Tet Boiler Room set or Cannibal Corpse you think helps you to study, do what you believe helps. Listening to music has been shown to cause the release of dopamine, meaning that it is a pleasurable, rewarding experience which can relax an individual.

On the whole, what a student can take from research is that using music to create an environment yourself is conducive towards the task you wish to complete.


The power of music isn’t limited to interesting research. Try these methods of bringing more music—and brain benefits—into your life.

Jump-start your creativity.

Listen to what your kids or grandkids listen to, experts suggest. Often we continue to listen to the same songs and genre of music that we did during our teens and 20s, and we generally avoid hearing anything that’s not from that era.

New music challenges the brain in a way that old music doesn’t. It might not feel pleasurable at first, but that unfamiliarity forces the brain to struggle to understand the new sound.

Recall a memory from long ago.

Reach for familiar music, especially if it stems from the same time period that you are trying to recall. Listening to the Beatles might bring you back to the first moment you laid eyes on your spouse, for instance.

Listen to your body.

Pay attention to how you react to different forms of music, and pick the kind that works for you. What helps one person concentrate might be distracting to someone else, and what helps one person unwind might make another person jumpy.

Definitions

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large machine that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to see inside your body. Unlike an X-ray, MRI testing does not use radiation. If you undergo this test, you&rsquoll lie on a narrow table that slides inside a tunnel-shaped scanner for about 30 to 60 minutes while health-care professionals watch from another room. If you feel anxious in small, enclosed spaces, ask your physician about an open MRI that is not as close to the body.


What Can You Do with a Music Degree?

  • Accompanist (public and private schools, music schools and performing arts camps religious centers and schools dance rehearsals and performances other venues)
  • Acoustics
  • Adjudicator
  • Artist management
  • Artistic director (includes box office, concert series, programming house manager) (K-12, college, military, sports)
  • Clinician
  • College admissions director, assistant
  • Community music school director
  • Composing for musical theatre
  • Concert Manager, promoter (orchestras: K-12, college, community, youth, domestic/international)
  • Copyright consultant
  • Digital aggregator
  • Digital score recordist
  • DJ (K-12, college, university, conservatory, religious organizations, private studio) (including audio engineering, mastering, mixing, music directing, producing, program directing, programming, recording engineer, studio manager, MIDI technician)
  • Entertainment lawyer music business lawyer (Composing, editing, supervising, arranging/adapting, mixing, conducting, orchestrating, synthesis specialist, theme specialist)
  • Fundraiser, grant writer
  • Instrument builder, designer
  • Instrument company or music store (owner, manager, sales)
  • Lecturer (schools, media, cruise ships, community)
  • Librarian
  • Master classes
  • Media development
  • Merchandise management
  • Merchant
  • Music agent
  • Music consultant
  • Music critic or reviewer
  • Music curator
  • Music engraver
  • Music licensing and clearance
  • Music online and print magazine writing, editing, publishing
  • Music preparation
  • Music publishing
  • Music school administrator
  • Music supervisor
  • Music web producer
  • Music instrument repair and tuning (Vocal and instrumental soloist, session musician, orchestra/band/group member, background vocalist or instrumentalist, performing artist, show band. Venues may include business meetings, conferences, cruise ships, weddings, hotels, restaurants, clubs, religious events, orchestral contractor.)
  • Personnel Manager (orchestras, arts organizations, shows, events)
  • Piano tuner, mover
  • Playback singer
  • Promoter
  • Public relations agent or coordinator
  • Radio – programming, research, management (producer, engineer)
  • Recruiter for talent agencies, universities, etc.
  • Royalty analyst, royalty accountant
  • Sales
  • Score coordinator
  • Session musician
  • Song contractor
  • Song recordist (including composer, lyricist, producer jingle writing for television, radio and internet freelance work librettist) (sound engineer)
  • Talent representation (booking, management)
  • Talent scout
  • Technical music assistant
  • Tours/road work (road manager, sound technician, tour coordinator, tour publicist)
  • Vocal coaching
  • Vocal contractor (injury prevention and intervention)


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