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Am I'm Too Old To Master A New Instrument?

People have the common misconception that children learn faster than adults, simply because our learning abilities seem to gradually decline as we age. But is it true?

Why Kids Learn A Lot Faster

Children seem to learn at a faster rate, because of rapid neural formation and better brain elasticity. This, coupled with the fact that they are constantly immersed in a learning environment on a day-to-day basis keeps their cognitive abilities in tip top condition. Cognitive skill development involves the progressive building of learning skills, such as attention, memory and thinking.

As we age and our brain develops, it reinforces neural pathways that are used regularly. This means whatever we habitually engage with in our day-to-day lives becomes in a literal sense, 'wired' into us! This is great news, as it helps us to accomplish tasks that we do on a regular basis a lot faster. However on the flip-side, it also makes learning new things more challenging. These neural shortcuts we develop to increase efficiency eventually comes back to bite us, as we fall back on old thinking patterns and habits when learning new things, thus complicating the way we perceive and accept new information.

Another factor that makes learning different for children, is that they tend not to feel as many emotional inhibitions as adults do when it comes to learning. Children tend not to worry too much about being judged for making mistakes, or appearing foolish. A child's learning process is also more relaxed, natural, and playful. This type of relaxed atmosphere, childlike lightheartedness, and exploration is something we try to encourage in our adult classes, to get older students to feel at ease with making mistakes, and expressing creativity.

When was the last time you had to learn something new?

Rebuilding Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity can be re-cultivated through vigorous learning. By challenging yourself to learn new skills, strengthening your memory, and improving coordination, you can sharpen your cognitive skills. Staying physically fit also helps.

And contrary to popular belief, adults can speed up their pace of learning to match or surpass children's. It's just that older students learn differently, drawing upon real life experiences, to receive, understand, and process information. Just like children, their learning abilities are dependant on how much they engage in activities that challenge, and mentally stimulate them.

The Power of Music

Neurological research has shown that playing music lights up many parts of the brain, including centres for memory, and emotions in the limbic system.

Reading sheet music, counting rhythms, keeping time, coordinating physical movements, and trying to sound musical all at the same time, gives your brain a holistic workout, as it forces you to focus and multi-task.

Playing music also increases levels of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, effectively elevating your mood and reducing stress levels. Good vibes aside, you can also expect a good workout when you play certain instruments! It turns out that rock drummers are as fit as long distance runners, as drumming burns more calories in an hour than cycling, weight-lifting and hiking!

So instead of watching Netflix, we suggest picking up an instrument and learning to play music. Start with the music you love, and recognise. And don't forget to find inspiration to motivate you, and keep going.

At The Music Shed, we teach students of ages and levels, with our oldest student being in his mid-70s. We encourage everyone to be lifelong learners, and to express themselves musically.

After all music makes the world a better place!



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