Why Learn to Play the Drums? The Benefits of Playing an Instrument

 

Apart from being able to do this-

 

 

 

There are many reasons to begin drumming and especially at a young age. A mountain of research and studies have been carried out on the effects playing an instrument has on the brain. This is regardless of the age you start learning, however, it will have the most impact in the earlier, formative years of a person’s life. In fact, research suggests that is is the most effective before the age of 7At this age we are creating an unfathomable number of neural paths that connect one part of the brain to another so that concepts and ideas can be called upon within a split second. Rhythm, patterns, timing, spatial positionings all learnt from playing an instrument will spread throughout other areas and skills.

It is common knowledge that babies and young kids are sponges waiting to absorb any information thrown at them. These first 7 years will heavily shape their brain structure. There is a wealth of information that suggests learning an instrument as a child will help improve things such as their memory, reflexes, coordination and even their ability to learn another language. As Gottfried Schlaug, MD, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, an expert on brain imaging and its plasticity, says “Playing a musical instrument is a multisensory and motor experience that creates emotions and motions’.

There are arguments suggesting that the talent for music is innate and that some people just ‘aren’t musical’. Many research articles believe that this is not the case. One study shows that the areas and functions of the brain that develops in musician are a result of extensive practice, not genetics. Another study shows that learning an instrument, especially at a young age, increases the brain’s plasticity, which is the measure of how easy it is for a brain to mold and adapt. In fact, this study shows that within a year of children aged 5-7 learning to play an instrument, their increase in the fine motor skills was double that of those that didn’t play an instrument!

 

How Music Affects the Brain

 

It is not only going to help your kid growing up but help them in later life too! A number of studies have shown that playing an instrument increases long-term memory and help reduce and prevent cognitive decline which makes perfect sense – have you ever tried to remember a classical piece?! It is not only in terms of reflexes or memory that it changes their brains, it also has a more profound impact that often gets overlooked – the habits and discipline that it instills at such a young age. In the award-winning and critically acclaimed book – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he discusses nearly everything we do is a result of habit and how good habits early on can shape our brains in such a way that it will permeate throughout our entire lives. He quotes from a study saying:

‘That’s why signing kids up for piano lessons is so important. It has nothing to do with creating a good musician….when you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour…you start building self-regulatory strength.’ Duhigg goes on to say that learning to regulate impulses is formed by habit and playing an instrument helps with the self-mastery of impulses. He states that we do not have a limitless amount of willpower. So by training our brain, which is just a muscle after all, we increase our capacity for willpower and discipline. This will then trickle into the rest of a child’s life when they have to, say study for an exam or do some homework.

 

So Why the Drums?

 

All of these skills will be picked up regardless of what instrument your child learns, but why drums? Again, apart from being able to do this…

 

Drums are actually said to have more of an impact than other instruments are here are some reasons why:

Mental focus, attention and discipline

Out of all the instruments the drums are relied upon to keep the rhythm and timing, sloppiness throws the whole band off. So when playing a 4/4 to a metronome at 150bpm for 4 minutes, you need a bucket-load of the above.

Burning excess energy 

you might have a particularly energetic kid, which is great, no one wants a lifeless child. Some may call it attention deficit but this is too easy a term to throw around. Some just need an outlet and there is none better than drumming. Your whole body is moving, constantly. It is a real high-energy instrument.

Learning to listen

It may seem quite contradictory to what you think of when you think of someone hammering away at the drums. However, in bands, classical or otherwise, the drummer needs to listen to the band and which way they are progressing and adjust themselves to fit. Often underlooked, drummers are the spine and as you know without a spine you aren’t going very far.

 

Culturally 

No other instrument is as omnipresent as the drums or percussion in general. Drums stretch back further than we can imagine and have been the heartbeat of life from the earliest humans. You can see this is the range of instruments we have reviewed from the African djembe to the Cuban bongos. The Indian dhol and even the classic drum set. Drums have spread throughout the world and are so influential in culture. By playing the drums your kid will ultimately be exposed to this whole world.

Fun!

Finally and most importantly, drums are fun. There are no two ways about it, give a stick a drum set and some sticks and watch their face light up. Unlike any other instrument, they can dive in head first and have a go.

 

I’ll leave you with this great video highlighting the 10 best things about being a drummer: