Study Hacks: Instrumental to Success

This semester, instead of cramming, try jamming. According to recent research on improving grades, there may be a way to boost your GPA without studying harder. Sounds too good to be true?

Well, the November issue of Chicago Parent just came out, and it contained some fascinating information on the link between learning to play an instrument and improved school performance.

In the article, writer Hillary Bird describes how music helps to develop the structure and function of the brain, and fosters greater academic achievement.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. You don’t want to become a band geek just to get an A. Lucky for you, you don’t have to.

In order to get decent results, you simply need to play an instrument for one hour every week. That’s only 10-20 minutes a day depending on how many days a week you play. If you want to get even better results, play for 30 minutes a day.

This can be any instrument, including cheap ones like the harmonica, the recorder, or the ukulele.

For the majority of us college students who aren’t exactly the next Mozart or Beethoven, it’s easy to put off learning an instrument because we may think, “well I’ve already missed my chance,” or “I’ll never be as good as those other people.” I’m guilty of believing this too, during my freshman year of college.

During first semester I was enrolled in a class called Ukulele U where you learn how to play the ukulele, a stringed instrument similar to a small guitar.

A lot of people in my class already knew how to play the ukulele really well, and I felt insecure about being a complete beginner. At first, I refused to practice because I was so embarrassed about messing up. I would pretend to strum along in class, but I wouldn’t actually make any noise.

As the semester progressed I had to start playing in order to make a good grade, and I actually ended up falling in love with music and the ukulele.

My roommate would have to ask me to put it away because I would play for hours into the night. When I played ukulele, I felt more relaxed and less stressed. The nights that I practiced I slept better, and I woke up feeling more rested.

It may not seem like much, but these small changes made an impact on my grade. From the time that I started playing ukulele, my grades in classes went up an average of one whole point, because I was more relaxed and rested during my tests and quizzes. I checked it out, and this is supported by science.

One study by Simon Landry from the University of Montreal shows that playing an instrument regularly is proven to improve long term memory, help you stay more mentally alert, and reduce stress.

So trust me on this one, you haven’t missed the window of opportunity to fall in love with an instrument, or to get benefits for your brain.

It’s not just me who’s getting these benefits either, many local musicians agreed that playing an instrument has made them more successful in life, and given them valuable skills.

“Playing music translates to more things both academically and in the real world than a sport would… it develops teamwork and the ability to juggle complicated tasks,” said Jared Johnson, a college student and a bassist in the Maryville College Community Orchestra.

Another local musician, Janice Veal, who plays flute in the Community Orchestra and MC3 Band, highly recommended playing an instrument, and suggested playing in a group.

“Being in an ensemble is what makes it fun. Being a part of a group is really important,” said Veal.

Veal also said that music can be a pick-me-up on days when she’s sad.

“[Music] just speaks to me, like if I’m feeling down and I go practice it just lifts my spirits and I feel better…. It provides fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment, camaraderie, and, for me, a way to worship God,” said Veal.

So, whether it be plucking out some notes on a ukulele for 10 minutes a day, or playing in one of the musical ensembles on campus, you should really consider playing an instrument.

What are you waiting for? Higher grades, less stress, and a better brain are all within your grasp, all you have to do is get playing.

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