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If you’re looking to take up a new hobby, you can find yourself flooded in choices. Even if you’ve narrowed it down and decided you want to learn a musical skill, which instrument is right for you?
In this guide, we explore 15 amazing reasons for playing guitar. You might even be surprised at some of the benefits of this popular and versatile instrument. If you’re undecided on whether this instrument is for you, our guide will help you make up your mind.
There Are Loads of Resources for Beginners
Guitar is one of the most mainstream instruments there is. According to the Music Industry Census, over 2.6 million guitars were sold last year and that’s not even accounting for a huge second hand market.
Because of the prevalence of guitars, there are loads of resources for those who want to take up the hobby. Free lessons via YouTube channels, books, DVD’s, courses etc. it’s not hard to find the right information to get you started on the journey. Of course, you can still go down the traditional route of working with a guitar teacher, too.
Being able to teach yourself from the comfort of your own home is a big plus point for a lot of people. It means you don’t have to book yourself into a class, and it’s often cheaper. You can even use apps that can tell you whether or not you’re hitting the right notes! GuitarTuna is a great example for beginners. It’s a tuner first, but also allows you to learn a few chords and melodies to get you started.
There Are Always New Songs (and Styles) to Learn
Since the guitar was invented around the 16th century, there have been hundreds of methods and styles of playing.
A lot of people start with the same rough style of guitar playing. You might start out with a simple melody or learning the first few chords to put together a song. Eventually, you can progress, branch out, and pick the styles you enjoy. Once you’ve mastered one, what’s to stop you from learning the next?
You might start off learning simple AC/DC songs, but find you want to progress to playing folk songs in unusual tunings, learning jazz guitar styles, or even going into the weird and wonderful world of microtonal guitars.
Though most of us start from the same foundations, it’s really up to you what songs and styles of music you want to learn in the future. If you just want to be able to play chords as an accompaniment, that’s fine, but if you want to be able to modify your guitar or even play guitars with more than 6 strings, that’s an option, too! It’s all about finding your niche.
This ties in closely with learning materials. It helps to know that no matter which style you choose to specialize in, you’ll find it simple enough to find some information online to help you with your guitar playing.
It’s Easier to Progress to Other Instruments
We all know that one person who seems to be able to pick up any instrument and play it instantly. Sadly, it’s not as simple as learning to play the guitar and suddenly finding you are a virtuoso on any instrument. However, it’s an ideal starting point, allowing you to progress to other musical instruments, with or without strings.
The fact that many guitarists switch between electric guitar and acoustic guitar has a strong impact on your ability to keep evolving into new instruments. If you’ve learned how to play on an electric guitar, you’ll have to then build up your finger strength when playing an acoustic guitar. You will also have to get used to different types of strings. Classical guitars tend to have nylon strings, whereas standard acoustic guitars have steel.
All of this puts you in good stead for learning new instruments.
The knowledge you pick up about tabs, frets, music theory, and even your cognitive skills that are boosted by playing guitar, can make it easier when the time comes to progress to another instrument.
Bass guitar and ukulele are natural progressions for someone who has learned how to play the guitar, as well as other stringed instruments like mandolins. It’s really up to you, though. Even if you opt for an instrument played in a totally different way, like piano, your guitar knowledge and new understanding of music will help.
Guitar is Good for Your Mental Health
There are some obvious benefits to your mental health when playing music, and some that are not so obvious. For example, taking time out of your day to do something that is a distraction, and almost meditative, is bound to have a good impact on how you’re feeling.
The feelings of accomplishment that come with learning how to play the guitar are also a boost to your sense of self-worth and agency.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that people who play music for over 100 minutes per day on average have a significant drop in blood pressure and a lower heart rate compared to a control group. This tells us that guitar is reducing stress levels in these people.
There have also been many studies relating to listening to music. Naturally, you’re going to be listening to whatever you are playing, so these benefits can be taken onboard when you are learning guitar.
This is not just a new age theory, either. Significant medical journals and publications are recognizing the benefits and the link between music and mental health. According to Harvard Health, “a 2006 study of 60 adults with chronic pain found that music was able to reduce pain, depression, and disability.”
Ask a guitarist what they want to do after a stressful day at work or to switch off, and there’s every chance they will respond with “play my guitar”.
You Can Express Yourself
The importance of expressing your feelings, and of being creative, should not be understated.
Guitar gives people an outlet for expression.
Whether you’re learning other peoples’ songs or you are starting to write your own, the guitar gives you a brilliant way to express emotion.
Expression becomes far greater the more skill you learn on the guitar. You might end up being one of those incredible musicians who has the ability to improvise and solo in a way that leaves people feeling truly moved. Ultimately, though, it’s about how playing guitar makes you feel, and the expression is vital to the human psyche and mental health.
Playing Guitar is a Great Way to Meet People
Learning how to play the guitar is a fantastic way to meet others. You might have an image in your head of sitting alone for hours learning how to play difficult songs, and this is likely to be a part of the journey. However, once you’ve gained even a small amount of knowledge, you can use the guitar as a way to mix with others.
Beginner guitarists can meet others who are in a similar position, by taking music classes or even having 1-to-1 tuition and lessons.
As you advance, playing the guitar can become a huge part of your social life.
You might start to play with others, either in a formal band setting or just “jamming”. There are always musicians out there looking to riff off of one another and practice their skills in a social environment. Even if you’re entirely self-taught, you can still meet up with other musical people to create and learn songs together. Depending on where you live, you might find that there are lots of opportunities to get involved with music in the local community.
Eventually, you might have the confidence to gig and play shows. This is yet another chance to meet others. Let’s face it, it feels good being the person who has wowed the audience with their guitar skills.
Even if you live in quite a remote area or don’t want to meet people in person, there are online communities where you can mix and fulfill social needs. Trust me, guitarists are always happy to talk about techniques, their setup, and what they’re working on. In the modern age, you can even collaborate with guitarists on the other side of the world, if you want to!
You Can Improve Your Hand-Eye Coordination
This is virtually inevitable when you start to learn how to play the guitar. It’s quite a visual art, especially when you are first starting out. You need to learn where you are on the frets, and which fingers to press down on which fret. Both your right and left hands will be doing different things, especially when it comes to fingerpicking.
All of this means that your hands have quite the challenge to deal with, and your brain is likely to adapt. This means that even though you might feel like you’re totally lost to start with, eventually, your reactions will get better. This is a transferable skill, so you may also find you are better at other hobbies in your life. For instance, if you are an artistic person who draws or paints.
One fascinating study about musicians and their motor control over their hands shows that playing music can give your hand-eye coordination a boost, provided you practice regularly.
Your Brain Might Get Better at Multitasking
This is a similar benefit to improving your hand-eye coordination. It is one of the ways that playing guitar provides a workout for both your mind and for your brain.
Playing an instrument has been compared to learning a second language when it comes to improving your ability to multitask. However, recent scientific studies have shown that learning to play the guitar could be even better than a second language.
The video below, by Ted Ed, shows more about how music is a unique workout for your brain.
Neuroscientists are starting to understand more about our brains and scanning the parts of your brain that fire when you are playing an instrument. To cut a long story short, playing a musical instrument relies on using loads of different parts of your brain, to combine logic, visual, motor skills, and more.
This is transferable. By “working out” all of these parts of your brain, you’re improving your ability to multitask. There aren’t many activities that can let you use both the left and right hand sides of your brain so intensely. This might make musicians better at problem-solving and strategizing, as well as thinking quickly when presented with a challenge.
To put it simply; musical instruments can be one of the greatest opportunities to improve your brain function in virtually every way imaginable.
You Don’t Have to Learn How to Read Music
When a lot of people talk about learning musical instruments, this is the elephant in the room: Reading music.
The prospect of having to learn how to read music is scary for a lot of people. If you never took music lessons in school, and you don’t have any prior musical knowledge, this might be the main challenge that puts you off learning.
Luckily, guitar is one of the instruments for which learning how to read music is not essential. It’s helpful, of course, but guitar has a different method that many beginners opt for; tablature.
Tablature is notation based on the strings and finger positions. It acts as a diagram of what you should be doing to play the correct notes. It’s much more simple than reading music.
Tablature or “tabs” have their downsides. You really need to have an idea of what the music sounds like before you get started. It’s much harder to give an accurate depiction of rhythm and timing using tabs than when it comes to reading music.
If you think about the origin of sheet music, it comes from a time when we didn’t necessarily have access to recordings. More data had to be communicated using notation. Now, you might just watch a YouTube tutorial instead of having to read the sheet music.
There are many popular, successful guitarists who don’t have a clue when it comes to sheet music. If you want to join an orchestra, or become a concert pianist, you need to be able to read music. If you want to play some guitar chords and perform in a local club, you really don’t have to!
Guitar Might Open Up Career Opportunities
For many people, this is the dream when they start to learn how to play the guitar. A career made from playing your favorite instrument might not be unrealistic.
It’s not everyone’s goal, and you might be perfectly happy just learning how to play as a hobby, or for singing around a campfire. However, for some people, the idea of making money from their guitar is thrilling.
We’re not saying that it is likely that you’ll be headlining Glastonbury festival or releasing best-selling albums. It’s much more likely that you can find work in one of the following scenarios:
- Teaching other people how to play the guitar.
- Playing in a covers or wedding band.
- Writing music for singers.
- Providing music therapy or group courses.
- Running a guitar-based YouTube channel.
- Maintaining or repairing guitars.
These are just some of the options. If you find that you become fanatical about playing the guitar then there is every chance you are likely to keep growing your skills, and even go on to study music. The music industry isn’t easy, but plenty of people make their living out of it. Who knows? You might even be the next big thing.
You Will Understand and Appreciate Music Differently
This could be considered a “bonus” benefit of playing guitar. Once you get to the point where you can play guitar to a decent standard, it is almost inevitable that you will have a totally different understanding of the music you love and listen to.
The more you learn about how difficult a solo is, or how complex the writing and composition of a piece of music is, the more you’ll appreciate and understand what’s gone into making that song.
You might also find a new respect for certain styles of playing or compositional tools, that sound totally different to you once you’ve got a more “educated” musical ear. This doesn’t mean becoming a musical snob, it just means that the knowledge of music structure and the skill required may give you a fresh perspective over the music you know and love.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn a skill because it is impressive. One of the top reasons why people start to learn how to play the guitar is to impress others. Friends, family, even potential partners!
We’d like to think that the majority of people who start playing guitar for this reason go on to find a bit more meaning than just impressing others, but let’s face it, playing guitar well is impressive.
The video below is one of about one million examples of just how impressive guitar playing can be!
Do you dream of being able to stun audiences with incredible solos or have a YouTube video that goes viral? You’ll probably find that guitar becomes way more than a party trick for you. Even if it is something you occasionally do to show off your skills, that’s fine, too!
Learn About Music Theory (If You Want To)
A lot of people who start music lessons have ambitions far beyond just being able to play the guitar. Maybe you want to be able to compose or produce music. Maybe you want to join a band or even play classical music.
The guitar is as good a platform as any when it comes to learning about music theory. Once you’ve got to grips with chords and melodies, it makes sense to try and learn a little of the theory that goes into writing and playing music. Eventually, you might even be able to improvise.
Some aspects of theory are absolutely essential when you start to play more complex songs. You’ll need to develop an understanding of all of the basic aspects of theory. Rhythm, melody, and harmony all play crucial roles.
Like so many other aspects of playing the guitar, you have a choice when it comes to learning about music theory. If you want to, you can go all out and learn how every aspect of theory works. Alternatively, you can quite happily get by playing some very basic songs, only knowing the very fundamentals of music theory. There is definitely a happy medium to be struck.
Guitar Can Improve Your Memory
Yet another benefit the guitar has on your brain – it can improve your memory.
When you consider all that you are having to remember while you play the guitar, it’s pretty easy to see how it has such a profound impact on your recall, and how quickly information is available to you in other areas of your life.
When you’re playing a complex piece of music, you need to remember hand positions, what chords come next, the structure of the song, and you might even have to remember to change guitar effects halfway through! Just like the impact it has on multitasking, guitar works the parts of your brain that are required for recall.
Some fascinating studies have also shown that a musical instrument’s impact on memory lasts in later life, and can even stave off some of the effects of ageing. Numerous scientific journals have reported the same thing. According to Dr. Claude Alain, a senior scientist with the Rotman Research Institute, “musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.”
This is a pretty incredible side effect of playing guitar, and for people who are considering starting out a little later in life, it is yet another reason to get yourself some music lessons.
Guitar Helps You to Be Proud of Yourself
Almost anything that you put hours of practice into and eventually become good at is bound to improve your sense of pride. Guitar is no different. Not only will you be able to show people your new skill, you’ll know just how hard it was to achieve.
That’s more important than you might think.
Pride is closely linked to our sense of agency, which means the feeling of control we have over our actions. Feeling like we can have an impact on our future, and are in control of our own destiny, is crucial to mental health and wellbeing.
If you’ve ever heard of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” you will understand why this is so vital. The hierarchy is a widely-accepted theory of the emotional and mental needs of humans, and what we all need to keep us in a calm and positive frame of mind.
There are numerous references to needs that music and guitar can help you to fulfill. Self-esteem, achievement, respect from others, problem solving, and creativity. These all contribute to your sense of self.
Though it can feel farfetched to an absolute beginner guitarist, your instrument can become such a huge part of who you are.
The motivations people have to start out on their journey to learn the guitar tend to vary for everyone. Some people think they’re going to impress girls, others think they’re going to headline music festivals.
The truth is that while these motivations vary, the reasons musicians end up sticking with the guitar and becoming accomplished players are usually pretty similar. The instrument can benefit your mental health and become a big part of your identity.
What’s more, guitar has some serious benefits over other instruments. It’s seen as being cooler than a lot of other instruments. You’re probably going to like the idea of learning how to play songs on guitar rather than learning how to play the flute. Both are great skills, but there’s a certain kudos to playing the guitar that so many of us yearn for.
Whatever your reasons to play guitar, it’s a worthwhile hobby whatever your background is, and something you can get stuck into with relative ease. It might just be time to get started.
To give you the best and most relevant information, we’ve used external sources to substantiate the content in this article. Below, you can find references to all the sources that have been used:
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What is The Sense of Agency and Why Does it Matter?
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