The Chinese philosopher Confucius said long ago that “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains. Playing a musical instrument has many benefits and can bring pleasure to those around them.
More qualitative benefits than only listening to music. Passively listening to Mozart, or indeed any other music you enjoy, does not make you smarter. The so-called “Mozart effect” is now a debunked myth: just listening to certain types of music does not improve intelligence, like you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports. It’s important to engage with the music in order to reap the benefits and see changes in your learning. Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.
Moreover, people with little or no musical training, who represent the vast majority of the listening audience, perceive music in a totally different way than the actual musicians who play or create the music. Each person who hears music is influenced by his or her own individual personality, knowledge, and life experiences that have molded their minds.
This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity.
Extract from the video:
When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout
Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brains functions, allowing us to apply that strengh to other activities.
The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it is that the latter requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision, in which the left hemisphere is more involved, with the novel and creative content that the right excels in.