ZhannaC writes about the many benefits of a musical education.
In Malaysia, music is often relegated into the realms of “When I got time for it-lah.” However, we fail to realise that playing a musical instrument offers benefits that extend far beyond mere entertainment.
Research has proven that musical education makes one smarter. Studies show that a child who plays an instrument develops certain parts of his brain, in particular, the left side of the brain. This area of the brain assists in the processing of language. However, do not panic if you have never played an instrument before and you think it is too late to ‘develop your brains’ (But didn’t we all, as Malaysian students? Remember the recorder in primary school?). Adults, too, benefit greatly from playing a musical instrument as research shows that it assists the mind in being alert and active, and improves the memory in the long term.
Besides that, playing a musical instrument instills strong self-discipline in a musician. In order to play an instrument, one has to painstakingly learn to read those ‘taugeh thingys’, or at the very least, chords. After this stage, comes the next hard part. We have to practice, and practice hard. After all, Rome was not built in a day. No sportsman ever became good without grueling hours of training and no student has ever scored straight A’s without studying (Puh-lease, don’t believe the lines of top students who declare, “I never study one-lah!”). Likewise, in order to earn the title ‘musician’, one has to at least be able to make some decent sounds on their instruments. And this can only happen with consistent practice… in which self-discipline is a must.
One of the most obvious benefits of playing an instrument would be that it is a stress-reliever. In today’s stressful world where even young kids feel pressured, music is one of the best ways to release stress. In fact, studies have shown that specific genres of music can promote relaxation and calm us down. Music therapy is increasingly being recommended to go hand-in-hand with certain types of traditional medicine. Playing music is a form of self-expression, and when we are frustrated with certain issues or depressed over life, running to our instruments is bound to release all the bottled-up tension within us. From my personal experience, in the midst of any examination, I always play the piano and guitar even more frequently than during non-examination times. I find that ‘playing out my tension’, so to speak; into my instruments is a far more efficient relaxing method as compared to sitting passively in front of the television or computer.
Music education cultivates skills that vary from the ones developed in an academic education. Learning music is a ‘hands-on’ type of education that requires students themselves to practice hard and correct their own errors. A music teacher can only show a student how to play, but unlike in the academic world where spoon-feeding is possible up to a certain level, in music it is ultimately up to the student himself to produce a successful performance. In other words, there is no spoon-feeding in learning music. There are no short-cuts, no ‘spotting questions’ (Malaysian students are no. 1 in this!) in learning music. There is also no such thing as a ‘last-minute musician.’ Whilst studying at the very last minute may yield some results in the academic world, it is very much the opposite in the music world. A piece of music needs thorough practice in order for the musician to determine how to shape and structure the piece. Last-minute practice will only result in a dismal performance, and there is absolutely no bluffing your way through if you do not know your music.
Apart from the points I’ve mentioned, there are plenty more benefits in learning music. As John J. Ratey says, “The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling-training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attentional skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression.” This statement of his effectively surmises this entire article. We only live once, and it’s never too late to pick up an instrument. As the saying goes, better late than never!
ZhannaC is a first year English student in the University of Malaya. She enjoys playing around with words and thoroughly delights in speaking Manglish. She hopes that Manglish will someday be recognised as a unique language. Whenever she feels itchified, she goes on MukaBuku.