Why Learning Music Is Important

Jun 28, 2022
Christopher Maloney, music educator and founder of Practice Warriors ponders why learning music is important on stage among guitars, bass guitars, violins, drums and a piano.

Oh boy!  There is a mountain and a half of research out there in Internet Land that can tell you how learning music helps with memory, cognition, motor skills, attention spans and all sorts for delicious brain food that will make us smarter human beings.  Music teachers use this as a persuasive marketing tool to enlist young, grade school students.  Doctors use this research to persuade aging patients to keep mentally agile. There are papers and books and websites written by people much smarter than me that scientifically backup these claims of benefits to learning music.  

…so I’m not going to talk about ANY of that stuff!

Not because I’m not qualified to demonstrate the scientific answers to why learning music is important.  I mean, I’m totally NOT qualified in the slightest to discuss such learned topics, and I don’t mind that at all.  Let sharper heads discuss such things.  I want to debate that, while all the aforementioned benefits of learning music are true and well documented and totally awesome sauce, I don’t think any of those are the best reasons to learn music.  I also don’t believe they’re the best reasons for why learning music is important.  They’re great side-benefits for sure, but not the be-all/end-all reason why learning music is important.

Why do I think learning music is important?  Because it brings you joy.  It makes you happy.  It can bring consistency in a brutally inconsistent world.  It makes you feel better about your life.  That’s why learning music is truly important. 

Okay well, that’s more than one answer, so let’s put that all into one simple sentence.  Learning music is important because it makes your life better.  BAM!  Mic drop!  I’ll be here all week!

Look, walk up to little Johnny and tell him he should practice because it’ll increase his math score, and you’ll hear a Wilhelm Scream, find a broken instrument and see a cloud of smoke where Johnny used to be.  He’ll be hiding under the bed sobbing to himself, sucking his thumb and wondering why someone would be so cruel as to torture him by making him learn how to play an instrument.  

Okay, now hop in that time machine and go back a few seconds and tell little Johnny that he should practice because playing music is FUN; that it’ll make him feel good about himself; that he’ll be able to play with his friends; that, when the other humans his age put him down or pick on him or bully him, his instrument will always be there as a friend.  What happened?  Did he disappear?  Did he give you crap about practicing?  I’m thinking there was a totally different reaction.  Thanks to H.G. Wells and his nifty Time Machine!

Heck, we’ll do all KINDS of things to have fun.  Crazy things.  Dangerous things.  Stupid things.  Regardless of our age, our baby souls are craving joy so much.  Music gives the exact kind of love and happiness that our souls desire, and without the hazards of bunging jumping, skydiving or dating the boss’s sister.  Except for the occasional cracked lips or calloused fingers, music is pretty much the safest way to bring a deep sense of joy into our lives.  Who needs to jump out of a perfectly good airplane if you can shred some Coltrane on the sax or rip off some Hendrix riffs on the guitar…can I get an amen, people???

Music is transcendent.  Music is universal.  Music knows no borders, holds no prejudice, speaks all languages, and brings people together in a way very little does in this wild, mixed-up world we live in.  Try convincing me that learning music is important for any other reason.  You can’t, because living a life of joy and happiness is the ultimate reason for existing in the first place. You can’t, because when someone is truly happy and joyous, they spread that joy to everyone they meet.  You can’t, because I’m really, really stubborn and I don’t tolerate dissent, but that’s more my issue than yours!  I digress.

In all my years of touring and meeting music fans, I’ve met hundreds of people who used to play music for fun.  With all these people I’ve met, I never met one person who was happy that they quit music.  To a person, every single one of these people were saddened that they stopped playing.  Their faces would drop, their voices were falter, they wouldn’t make eye contact and I could see regret in their hearts as they would tell me about how they used to play but gave it up. I would tell each and every person the same exact thing: “If it brought you so much joy, you owe it to yourself to start again.” 

Yes, practicing music and the learning process in general can be challenging.  That’s why, when things get tough during practicing, you always keep sight of why you are doing this in the first place.  Not to increase your IQ or Bridge playing, but to bring great joy into your life.  The more you play, the better you get.  The better you get, the more joy you can experience.  

Have you ever been to a live musical performance?  Have you ever taken a look at the faces of the performers?  Do YOU look that happy at work?  Have you looked out into the eyes of the people watching the show?  Don’t they seem enthralled?  Enchanted?  Joyous?  Okay, how about just peaceful?  

This, my friend, is the power of music, and THIS is why learning music is important.  Every single human being on this planet can experience this type of deep, soul-nourishing happiness and spread it throughout their world.  This is why we should expose children to music.  This is why teens should be encouraged to start bands and jam with their friends.  This is why adults need be courageous enough to start playing or dust off an old horn and get back in the game.  It’s because of what music gives you.  It gives you the greatest joy, the greatest sense of community, the greatest sense of accomplishment and the greatest sense of connecting to something greater than yourself.  

THIS is why learning music is important!

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