The Benefits of Playing Music: An Essay on Why You Need to Play Guitar
by Marc-Andre Seguin of JazzGuitarLessons.net
I have always been fascinated by the description that most musicians make of their first encounter with their instrument.
Remarkably, in that initial experience — picking it up for the very first time, struggling with those first rudimentary melodies, arduously trying to figure out the first few chords – a lot more comes into play than we can ever imagine.
Deciding to play an instrument involves a big commitment and constitutes a long term investment: hours of dedication and practice, relentless search for improvement and never ending hunger for inspiration
In this sense, and reflecting on the reasons – possibly most of them unspoken or implicit – I considered when I chose the guitar to begin my musical journey and as one of my greatest passions, is that I came up with this list:
The guitar is an instrument that will fit well in any music genre. Whether it is rock, blues, funk, jazz or classical music, guitar players will always play an important role in any ensemble. There are endless possibilities of exploring different styles, each one with its own particularities and vocabulary.
Even though playing music with other people is definitely a rewarding and enlightening experience, it is true that a guitar can sound great by itself, and does not need a full band behind to back it up.
You may choose to play in a crowded bar; prefer to perform in a quiet, more private venue; or rather be more inclined to entertain your loved one with a couple of ballads. You can be certain that with the guitar you will always deliver an exciting and enjoyable musical experience.
3. Learning curve
Learning to play some instruments can be a somewhat discouraging enterprise. On the contrary, playing the guitar allows you to master a bunch of tunes with just a small number of chords.
This proves to be a gratifying experience and, in a matter of weeks, you begin to see improvement: your technique starts getting better, you are able to play more difficult songs and add complexity to your vocabulary. From there on, it is just a matter of how far you are willing to go.
4. Integrated musical concept
Since the guitar is an instrument that involves melody, harmony and rhythm, it allows you to acquire early on a more holistic approach to music.
As time goes by, you learn to play with all three of these concepts in mind, and the possibilities that consequently arise are endless. A deep understanding of rhythm can boost your melodic lines, and likewise, harmonic and melodic awareness is essential in order to make music sound aesthetically pleasing.
5. Sound, sonority and customizable tone.
The guitar is tuned in fourths and therefore boasts a sonority of its own, as well as a very particular timbre; when strumming its strings, the notes forming a chord are separated by a few milliseconds, contributing to its peculiar sound. Unlike most instruments, the tuning can be changed in a matter of seconds and this greatly enhances -or simplifies- our playing.
Moreover, a guitar’s tone is extremely customizable, and you are encouraged to tweak it as much as you like! Get a new mic, another amp, add some effect pedals, or simply change the string gauge, and you will dramatically alter the sound quality, and be able to develop your signature tone.
Some guitar players argue that tone is the hands, while gear freaks will state that getting the fancier compressor money can buy will take your playing to the level. Although there may be a grain of truth to both point of views, it is you who will ultimately decide your own opinion.
6. Sound articulation and expression
In a guitar, you manipulate strings directly and that can provide even more character to your playing. Bends, vibrato, hammer-ons and pull-offs are just a few of the techniques you are encouraged to master in order to add that special flavor to your solos.
7. Take it anywhere
A guitar is portable (which is not something that should be dismissed!). This implies that, unlike other instruments, you can take it with you wherever you are going (and play virtually whenever you want) without having to worry too much about logistics.
You can get an entry-level guitar for just about a hundred bucks and get started without having to spend a colossal amount of cash!
8. Cognitive benefit
There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence stating that taking up activities such as learning a new instrument enhances cognitive skills (particularly regarding attention span and memory).
Undertaking these kinds of activities is beneficial both for young people, and older adults, since it prevents cognitive impairment. Furthermore, the visuomotor coordination that playing guitar demands, will boost your coordination for everyday life.
9. Stress relief
The guitar requires you to remain a 100% engaged, and this may mean that for half an hour every day (or whichever amount of time you decide you want to practice) you are allowed to turn your cell phone off, close facebook, and focus solely on playing.
Therefore, a guitar can be a great way to escape from your daily routine and may actually help you reduce your stress levels.
10. Meet new people
Learning to play guitar allows you to get in touch with people that share your interests. May it be in a jam session, at a bar, or even online, meeting people that is as passionate about music as your are is an added bonus, and will always give you something to talk about.
Music, as a means of expression, is a universal language, capable of bringing people together, and enables us to convey emotions, and communicate our feelings without the need for words.
I remember picking up the guitar for the first time; even though at that time I didn’t realize exactly why, I knew my entire world had tilted a little on its axis.
Since then, guitar has been one of my dearest companions, and I feel lucky for having had the possibility of discovering this enormous source of enjoyment. I can only wish the same to you.
About the Author
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar.
He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.