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Learning an Instrument as an Adult

Annile Anderson on Jun 28, 2017 11:01:00 AM

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Some of my favorite things to do in the summer include eating barbeque and hanging with family. I love watching my sons while enjoying music I can’t play, and one of my husband’s best friends can strum a ukulele like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve asked him how he learned, and he mentioned how all it takes is a little practice.

It’s amazing what you can learn when you put your mind to it. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to try a new instrument? I never really got the chance growing up, but I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. Whether you are just entering college or well into your golden days, now is as good a time as ever to start learning a musical instrument, and here’s why…

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It’s Easier than You Think

National Public Radio recently published Neurologist, Norman Weinberger’s research information that concludes adults can learn new things at any age. Although it is harder for adults to learn because of viewpoints and preconceptions we have about ourselves, it is possible.

Some of the main keys to learning as an adult include keeping an open mind, having a reason, and setting a goal. Malcolm Knowles, one of the major contributors to andragogic theory, points out five principles that should be considered for adults to learn successfully, including: involvement in instruction, experiential recognition, personalized relevance, and problem solving. Basically, the more involved you are in your learning, the more likely it will be you will retain it.

Keep Your Mind Fresh

Another good reason to try a new instrument is for its preventative benefits. Psychological research has increasingly shown that the more people continuously learn new things, the better their memory stays.

Getting into a new instrument is not only fun, but it helps you exercise parts of your brain you might not use normally. Harvard Medical School published information on how keeping healthy habits and continuously learning decreases the likelihood of suffering diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some of their tips include regularly exercising, trying Mediterranean foods, and participating in new hobbies.

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Increase Life Satisfaction

As you learn a new instrument, you are also giving yourself a little break. Research done by the Portland Chamber Orchestra touches on how music impacts our motor, auditory, sensory, visual, and emotional receptors in the brain. These receptors trigger stimuli to send signals throughout the body that reduce stress and promote wellness.

People who learn to play instruments experience the music they play rather than just listening to it. And if people are learning with others, stronger relationships can be formed through sharing this experience.

The Psychologist Organization posted study information that shows how learning an instrument increases confidence and general motivation. When the Huffpost reviewed a TedTalk on positivity by Martin Seligman, they recapped on his belief that 40% of our happiness in life is up to us personally. This means the more we choose to do things that make us happy, the more likely we are to be satisfied with life in general.

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Several Instruments are Easy to Catch Onto

If you are not sure you want to take the time and energy to learn something complicated, there are numerous instruments that you can quickly learn. A few that can be grasped in just a few months include bongos, kazoos, harmonicas, xylophones, flutes, cymbals, tambourines, triangles, and ukuleles.

By far, the ukulele (pronounced “Yoo Koo Lay Lee”) has been gaining the most popularity as a good instrument to try. This is partially due to its growth in American pop culture, but other reasons put it at the top of the ranks as well.

The ukulele is a small guitar-like instrument that originates from the Pacific Islands. It has four strings that make it simple to play, and the cost of a basic one typically ranges close to $30. So if you want to look cool and play cheap, it’s not difficult to see why this would be a great idea.  

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Technology and Classes Make It Easy

Technology can make learning a new instrument a lot easier than it would have been in the past. There are video tutorials in places like YouTube and plenty of articles around with hints and tips.

There are also classes available to the community. Right now, Continuing Education and Workforce Training is hosting ukulele courses for beginners and practiced musicians. Try a course or learn more by calling (208) 282-3372 or visiting cetrain@isu.edu

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