22 Nov Music-Making and Your Brain
I was gratified to learn that my music-making effort “is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout” (Brain Pickings). This is because both left and right sides of the brain are called into play. Listening to music lights up the brain, but not as much as when you make the music.
Left and right brain
The left brain is the logic side, the analyzer. Whether your music-making is with voice or another instrument, it’s the left brain that deals with the technical details. It’s also about your determination, effort, evaluation, criticism, and objectivity. It’s the voice inside your head that issues instructions about how to play.
The right brain, on the other hand, is the synthesizer. It’s about insight, living in the present, effortless playing, determination, and control by the goals you’ve set. It’s the feel, creativity, touch, and tempo. It’s also body language, metaphor, and imagery.
Music-making draws on both sides of the brain, but not necessarily in balance as we learn. I know from experience that I sort of wobble from one side to the other – good focus sometimes on technique but not much emotion, or really immersed in the music, but technique sort of forgotten at the side of the road.
And then the magic happens, when both left and right brain seem to work well together, and it feel so good as the music flows out easily and wonderfully.
Hurrah for amateurs!
Even if it’s 40 years since you played, your brain still carries remnants of the benefits of making music: more parts – and bigger parts – of the brain are developed. As well, making music will help your brain be biologically younger, and improve your working memory.
It’s never too late to start making music, and you don’t need talent. I love the idea of the Second Chances Community Band program in Nova Scotia. So many people either missed out on music lessons as a child, or want to pick it up again in later years. Often you can rent instruments from music stores, to give you time to decide whether you want to purchase your own. Maybe you’d like to join a choir if voice is your first choice of instrument.
To make faster progress, set small and attainable goals, such as playing a piece from memory, or increasing the speed a little bit each day. And it’s much better to practice for a short period every day, rather than a long period once or twice a week.
Even singing in the shower is really good for your brain! Your left brain knows how to use your vocal cords and make words, and your right brain makes you feel so alive as you pour out the music.
I urge you to start making music in whatever way appeals to you.
For more information, check out Inside a Musician’s Aging Brain by Jim Walsh, and the Artful Aging e-book.
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