“Fireworks in your brain”*

musical noteThis is the first and probably the last time I’ll ever quote Marilyn Manson, but since my topic is music, this one fits right in. “Music is the strongest form of magic.”

I’ve written about the positive effects of listening to music, based on other people’s studies. These include improving mood, reducing stress and enhancing immunity.

I started looking into the topic again, after attending a musical event in February called “Wintergrass,” in which I listened to nineteen bands or soloists playing bluegrass, folk, jazz and country music over the course of four days. An exhilarating experience, though hard on the behind.

Following this, a friend sent a TED-ED Original animated lesson called “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain.”*

The lesson begins by saying that when people are doing math or reading, certain parts of their brains light up.  But when people listen to music, multiple parts of the brain light up, or, as the narrator says,  “Fireworks go off in their brains.” The activity in the brain gets more vigorous for musicians as they play music, and becomes “the brain equivalent of a full-body workout.” Sounds like magic to me.

Researchers believe that early music training has lasting effects on the adult brain. But if you don’t play an instrument at an early age, is it too late to learn when you’re older and is there a reason to learn?  It may not make a difference in your brain health, but I guarantee it’s fun, especially if you play with others. In the past, a friend who played recorder, one who played the flute, and I — on the piano — got together regularly to play as a trio. Since then my husband and I joined a ukulele band.

I can testify that the ukulele is a relatively easy way to begin. Besides, it’s become the “hot” instrument now. You can play simple songs knowing three chords, more difficult ones with about six. Simply playing songs with the chords will only be entertaining for you.  If you want to share your music with others, you’re going to have to sing. My husband says that the more he studies and plays, the more he appreciates what he’s listening to.

If picking up an instrument sounds like too much work, you can still benefit by becoming a regular listener. That can be magic too.

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About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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