How Playing Music on the Flute Improves Your Memory

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How Playing Music on the Flute Improves Your Memory

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In this episode, you will learn all about the brain and how playing the flute can improve your memory! 

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Podcast Transcript

Playing any musical instrument can improve your memory, but today we’re going to explore why especially, how playing music on the flute improves your memory! It’s a real thing – let’s get to it!


Ah, you’re here – it’s really great to have you. If you’re kind of new to this podcast, welcome welcome – I’m Rebecca Fuller the instructor and expert at Learn Flute Online in all things musical and especially the instrument, flute. 

I like music. You like music. We all like music, and we’re not exactly sure why- We just know that it stimulates something inside of us and makes us feel good.

Have you ever caught yourself suddenly, and not even consciously, reliving a memory from long ago as it was triggered by a song you heard?

It happens to me all the time.


Boy, I can get taken back to the year 1986 so fast just by hearing the first two or three notes to any song by maybe Journey, Madonna, or Lionel Ritchie. What about you?

When was the last time you caught yourself being swooshed back in time at the tiny hint of a snippet of music you heard?

What year did it take you back to?

What did you see?

What did you hear?

What did you smell?

And what did you feel?


Well, I won’t get too into detail about what happens to me when I hear the first 5 notes of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” – you know the one… dun dun dun dun dunnnnn. Also used in the famous film “Top Gun”. 

I get teleported instantly. I actually can’t help it.


I’m taken back to a crowded and dimly lit gym. I hear the music really loud. I feel the socks under my feet – no shoes allowed in this gym. 

I smell a lot of obsession cologne. And I’m wondering who is going to ask me to dance next. Oh my goodness.. Tell me you understand.


These types of triggers from music are deeply ingrained in our neural connections of our brains.. And they tend to happen especially from experiences from the earlier days of our lives.


This is why music can help people with damaged memories later in life. Alzheimers and dementia are a reality and definitely more prevalent in adults over certain ages. Anywhere from three to a whopping thirty three percent depending on the age.


I teach and play music knowing that the benefits of music will help me throughout my life. I am looking forward to staying spry and cognitively aware for as long as possible. I’m guessing you feel the same way. 


Well, today we’re going to discuss the major benefits of especially how playing music ‘on’ the flute improves your memory.


Our strongest memories are created deep in the brain


Our brain is a magnificent part of our body. 

It’s .. well, it’s responsible for essentially everything our body has done and is doing… and of course all of our memories are there – some deeper, down in, than others.


I’ve always been fascinated with our brains, and how music and the flute are connected to higher brain function. I know that playing the flute helps our neurons learn to fire faster which means quicker thinking and decision making as well as this leading to more brain transactions over our lifetime. Musicians basically exercise their brains thousands of times more often than non-musicians.  


Our brains create links between all five of our senses and what is stimulating them. Then, this is all processed and taken into storage in our long-term, and our short-term like storage bins.


Music, and definitely our favorite music, has a very positive effect on all of our emotions, and this is most likely why some of our most deepest memories are associated with music.


It’s interesting, isn’t it?


There have been studies done where groups of people listened to dozens of songs while a professor-type person tracked their brains via wires and computers – (also called magnetic resonance imaging- you’ve probably seen the pictures of it) as they listened to that music. It turns out these studies were most effective for those who heard music from their youth – from ages about eight to around eighteen years old.


I know that those years were probably the most defining of my life, for sure. It was also back when days seemed to last forever – now my days go by in just a blink. 


What was found in these types of studies was that the neural activity in the brain in the area of the medial pre-frontal cortex (which is the part of the brain that has the job of keeping and also for retrieving memories from long ago) was really a lot stronger, as the songs from the days of youth were being listened to.  


Why the flute especially enhances memory and cognition


Playing any musical instrument regularly does have a very positive effect on your body. Physically, emotionally, and also cognitively. It’s something that scientists and doctors have confirmed for ages. But, let’s take this even further today by noticing that the parts of the brain that gain the most benefit from practicing and playing an instrument are also responsible for our memories- our creativity, and our speech and language.


What they’ve found is that music is the most powerful force that increases the brain to show stimulation during these types of tests.


Okay, that’s cool, but what does this especially have to do with our instrument flute?

Well, the flute is unique in the fact that we hold it to the right side of our body, our right hand is facing outwards, away from us, and our left hand and arm are actually crossing our body to the right side, with our hand facing inward, towards us. 

This causes some extra work and coordination to happen within our right and left hemispheres of our brain.

Okay, now we’re really getting somewhere.


So, because we fluties are working both sides of our brains at the same time, we have a much better chance at some good long term memories. This gets me excited.

Neuroscientists have documented that, for many years, that cross-body movements help our left and right sides of our brains to connect and in turn fire off more quickly, in many or even in all situations.


When is the last time you saw a baby crawl? They’re using right hand with left leg, and then the opposite of the left hand at the same time as the right leg. Picture it: cross, cross, cross. This is cross-lateral body movement. And it’s really good for your brain!


If you are an exerciser, you’ll possibly also be doing some of these types of movements where you are using what is called “opposition”,  or cross-lateral body movements. Like walking, where you swing your arms big: Right arm, with left leg, right? Vigorously swimming with certain types of strokes. The magic results come when we use these opposing sides of our bodies at the same time.


Our body is not only helped physically like with coordination, but with many activities we do inside our brain with thinking like playing music- we have to think about that don’t we. Learning a language, reading, and a huge, big huge benefit is that this helps us with focusing.


I know that when I decided to dedicate the rearing years of my own children to music, sports, and other good activities, I was doing so because I knew they would benefit for the rest of their lives with skills of determination and focus as well as self-esteem in knowing they could figure things out.

My husband and I felt like music, sports, and a farm could really get the job done. Thirty years later, we see that we were right. It was the best decision we could make .. for us. Teaching your kids to enjoy whacking weeds, advancing in an instrument, polishing and performing on their musical instruments and sports, in addition to knowing how to get up after a fall in a game are invaluable life-skills in our minds.


The two parts of our unconscious minds – explicit and implicit.


I’ve studied the brain off and on throughout my years as a professional flute instructor, and mainly because of fascination and the huge fact that it’s needed in my profession. I have taught literally thousands of students now. Many hundreds right here in my studio where I live. I have come across reasons to need this knowledge from working with students with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, and also traumatic brain injuries, just to name a few.


I have had students with epilepsy and even severe stuttering and have found miraculous results by teaching them my step-by-step process of learning to play an instrument.. specifically the flute.


I actually tear up when I think back on the first time a student comes into my studio, and then I fast-forward a few years into their journey. The difference is what I would definitely call a miracle – night and day. I’ve even had non-verbal students learn to talk right here in my studio… right in front of my own eyes! 


I believe in the power of the mind. I believe in the power of music. Our brains are fascinating, and just knowing a few little things about it can make us smarter, and looking forward to our futures even more.


We have two different types of memory functions. One of them is kind of like a room where we consciously place thoughts – like when we’re try to memorize someone’s address or phone number. We put it there on purpose. This is called “explicit memory”. 


And then there is also the opposite, which is implicit memory. It’s the other side of our mind. It’s the part we fill up with unconscious thoughts. The types of memories we have in here are triggered, though, and placed by things we’re not actually trying to actually remember.. Like the smell of oranges as we’re driving on a certain road in California. This particular type of memory has more weight to it, though, if there’s a song on the radio at the same time. It can be triggered, and brought back to life again.  


Research has shown that playing a musical instrument like the flute especially, has major effects in stimulating our memories in both the explicit and implicit functions. This in turn keeps our brains working better, working longer, and working more effortlessly.. Which means it’s more relaxing and more fun as a process.


Ahh, do you enjoy subjects like this? I hope so, and you’ll remember that this podcast and the subjects I bring to it are very important to our learning journey. Seriously, who doesn’t want to be stronger, smarter, faster, and healthier?


Well, you’re in the right place then, because working on what we do here at Learn Flute Online is a big huge deal to our lives. We become more aware, we have better mental and physical health, as well as (like we learned today), have a better chance at making and keeping our memories over longer periods of time.


We work on patterns, intervals, pitches, timbre, texture, rhythms, and a whole host of other skills as we learn to play this instrument flute here, and all of these things are exercising your brain in such a positive way that you cannot deny how awesome it is.

So, again thanks for being here because I like having someone to chat with all about all this mindset of the flute musician stuff. You’re awesome.


Let’s keep ourselves on the right track this year as we continue moving through the modules and participating in our Member’s Only activities that I have set for you to increase your potential. 

Whether you’re in the Gold Level, the Intermediate or Advanced here, it was really fun taking some time to get geeky today, with some brain talk, and especially on how playing music on the flute improves your memory. We’ll see you on t he next episode!


Thank you for Tuning In!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how flute playing can improve your memory.  Join us for the next episode.

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

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