Article Thumbnail

This Is What Rocks About Musicians’ Brains, According to Science

If you want to give your mind a major lift, pick up a guitar

Despite how it can sometimes seem, musicians have more connected brains than non-musicians, according to the biggest research sample to date, validating years of monotonous practice, payments in beer and tremendous amounts of spending at Guitar Center. 

For performers who began their training at a young age, the benefits are even greater, and they have stronger structural connections between auditory regions and lobes involved in numerous types of high-level processing than musicians with a later start. “Our results suggest that long-term musical training is associated with robust changes in large-scale brain networks,” the analysis, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, concludes.

The takeaway? If you want a rock-star brain, begin shredding immediately.

Not sure where to start your musical journey? Here are a few tips regarding music for beginners to give you some direction:

  • Choose Music You Like: If you want to play music, you might as well play what you enjoy listening to. Ask yourself, what instruments are involved in that kind of music?
  • Listen to Lots of Music: The more music you listen to, the more motivated you’ll be to keep practicing. And hey, you may just learn something, too.
  • Have Patience: Learning an instrument can be extremely frustrating in the beginning, so don’t expect to surpass Mozart on day one. 

If you’re not all that committed to consistent practice and infinite spending on musical gear, there are also some instruments that are “easier” to get into and cheaper from the get-go:

  • Your Voice: It’s free, portable and you’re already familiar with how it works. If you don’t feel like you’re a great singer, try rapping, beatboxing or whistling instead.
  • Recorder: There’s a reason schools teach recorder to their youngest students: All you need to do is breathe to get a sound out of it, and once you master it, you can easily move on to play the saxophone, clarinet or flute. Plus, you can pick one up for about $10.
  • Bongos: Entry-level bongos range from about $50 to $100, and they’re a great gateway into the world of percussion. Just start smacking, and you’re off.
  • Ukulele: It’s like a guitar, but cheaper, easier to carry around and with fewer strings. With just a few simple chords, you’ll be able to play loads of pop songs.
  • Keyboard: While the potential for keyboards is endless, most of them come with drum tracks you can play along to, as well as all sorts of different sounds, like strings, organs and even weird alien noises. There are great, cheap MIDI controllers you can hook up to GarageBand on your laptop and play a wide library of virtual instruments, too.

While I want to finish up by telling you to find a music teacher to help you on your journey, again, if you’re only in it for the bigger brain, YouTube is an amazing resource for the casual musician. And if you find yourself wanting more structure, there are loads of websites dedicated to providing online music lessons that you can take at your own pace, like LessonFace, Yousician and Soundfly.

Just promise not to perform any villainous deeds with that new genius brain, mmkay? It’s hard enough remembering the chords to Toto’s “Africa.”