But there are lots of benefits to being a musician too. A recent story in the Pacific Standard talks about Another Brain Benefit of Music Lessons.
Yes, absolutely. Learning to play music is quite a demanding discipline and one that seems almost immune to the worst recent trends in education that seem to priorize indoctrination over traditional skills like memorization. One of the things that music students have to learn to do is play from memory and this is something that demands a high level of focus and concentration. You have to really look very closely at the score and repeat it over and over again. And you have to keep doing this day after day until you have it perfectly from memory. Where else in our educational system do we do anything even vaguely similar?The term “cognitive inhibition” doesn’t sound particularly attractive, but it describes a vitally important mental process. It refers to our capability to tune out irrelevant information and focus our attention on the matter at hand.Obviously, this ability to concentrate is more important than ever, in a world where we are constantly beckoned by a wide range of distractions. So how can you help your child develop it?New research suggests one answer is music lessons.
So making music hones the ability to focus and ignore distractions, which can pay enormous dividends in educational settings, and throughout one’s life. School boards and administrators: Does cutting music programs still seem like such a great way to balance the budget?I was chatting with a friend the other day and I mentioned that in my many years in the music business I had encountered very few really nasty people. Sociopaths, it seems, are rare among musicians. I proposed a theory as to why this might be the case. Every musician, I explained, at some point in their career, usually very early on and recurring regularly, finds themselves completely alone in a practice studio containing just four things.
- A chair
- A music stand
- a musical instrument
- and a piece of music by J. S. Bach
and you, of course.
What you have to do is learn how to play the piece by Bach on your instrument. As every musician discovers, this is quite difficult. In order to do it you have to adopt a very strict discipline. If you do a sloppy job, as well you might at first, your teacher will quickly inform you of that at your next lesson. So, back to the practice studio, this time taking it a good deal more slowly and paying more attention to the tuning, the rhythm, the tone-color and so on. Once you get those down you can try and get a grasp of the phrasing and interpretation. At first you think, wow, this will take weeks! But as time goes on you realize that it will actually take years. Finally you realize that playing Bach is the challenge of a lifetime and you will never really master this piece. (Ok, yes, a few, a very few, do.) Learning to play Bach is one of the best antidotes to unentitled arrogance that I know of.
I think that anyone with sociopathic tendencies will not be able to handle this kind of challenge. Here is a page that lists the characteristics of a sociopathic mind.
- Glibness and charm? Alone in the studio, who you gonna charm?
- Manipulative and cunning? Again, alone in the studio. And music students trying to pass off poor preparation on their music teacher don't get very far
- Grandiose sense of self. This is the one that really gets hit. Bach trims us all down to size!
- Pathological lying. To whom? To Bach?
- Lack of remorse, shame or guilt. The only person you could possibly victimize is yourself, alone in the studio.
- Shallow emotions. I suspect that playing music is a great way to get past shallow emotions.
Sure, musicians can have many faults. But these are not them. The only really nasty person I met in my whole career was, wait for it, a record company executive.
Now let's listen to that piece by Bach, the first movement of the Sonata No. II in A minor for solo violin. This is the Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti who has mastered the piece: