How Playing A Musical Instrument Benefits Creative Thinking

How Playing A Musical Instrument Benefits Creative Thinking

Music and Learning

How Playing A Musical Instrument Benefits Creative Thinking


As part of our current series of blogs on music and learning, this week we’re looking at how learning to play a musical instrument can benefit creative thinking. 


What do Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein and Charles Dickens all have in common? Well it turns out that these three highly creative minds all played musical instruments.


Spielberg plays the Clarinet, Einstein played the Violin and Dickens played the Accordion. But is it just a coincidence or an indication of the positive effect music has on the mind? It turns out that studies are suggesting that music does indeed help to boost creativity and creative thinking, especially in young people.


According to Dr. Michael Thaut, who is one of the leading research authorities on using music to change the brain – ‘the arts are the cognitive base for thinking in abstraction.’ In other words, learning to play a musical instrument helps the mind to think about things in a different way.


This of course has practical applications for problem solving 2 in the classroom, but it’s also got boundless possibilities for children to look at things in a more creative manner, than those who may not be learning to play a musical instrument.

We learned last week [link to last week’s blog] that playing a musical instrument, engaged both sides of the brain, akin to a full body work out for the mind. This high level engagement of the brain allows for benefits to IQ, but it also allows the person playing the instrument the power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously, by thinking of the notes they are currently playing and the others still to come.


All of this gives our brain an opportunity to practice abstract and creative thought on a regular basis. Indeed, Vanderbilt University psychologists have found that professionally trained musicians more effectively use a creative technique called divergent thinking and also use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person.


3 One of the most creative minds in the modern computer era, is Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. And yes you guessed it, he plays a musical instrument too! Paul says music “reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.” He began playing the violin at age 7 and switched to the guitar as a teenager. According to the NY Times, even in the early days of Microsoft, he would pick up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. The music was the emotional analogue to his day job, with each channelling a different type of creative impulse.

In both, he says, “something is pushing you to look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way.” Have you noticed any creative benefits for you or your child since learning to play a musical instrument? Then comment below

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