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In this episode, you will learn about the perks of playing music, and what happens in our brains when we do so!
Learn Flute Podcast 103
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The Perks of Playing Music – Based on real Science!
The perks of playing music you love is now backed by real science studies. Yep! Choosing and learning to play the tunes of your favorite list on your flute helps you succeed even more in your efforts as a music-learner.
Let’s find out even more about how and why we should continue to pack our musical notebook full of favorites.
On your marks, get set, go!
You’ve always been attracted to music, and there’s probably certain genres or styles that you especially love, even if you’re not sure exactly why. Music makes us feel good, and it’s fun to find out that some new scientific studies have pinpointed why.
A team of researchers along with the leading cognitive psychologist at Lyon University have determined that listening to the music you love makes your brain release more dopamine which is a critical neurotransmitter for us humans in emotional and cognitive functioning.
It’s nice to know that what we’ve always felt is getting some scientific attention. Woohoo!
I think we’ve already spent some time talking about dopamine here at Learn Flute Online and on this podcast, but we can never say too many things about finding and surrounding ourselves with things that make us feel good and enhance our lives.
Now, more than ever it’s crucial to our daily success, our motivation, and our mood, that we recognize and understand what keeps our psyche in good shape.
Lifting our spirits
We’ve had an extremely trying year. All of us. I can say that with full confidence. I think if it wasn’t the recent pandemic that started showing us a teetery edge, then it was wildfires, draughts, financial strains, volcanoes, and even earthquakes.
These things aren’t exactly uncommon for us – of course, they’ve been around ever since the beginning of time, but how we learn to adapt, cope, and live through is the point.
So, can we really just put on a pretty song and all of our troubles are washed away? Well, I wish… I would say that the answer is definitely possible, though.
This past year has shown some people more than ever that what we put in front of ourselves and focus on determines the direction our psyche goes.
For example, fatigue, high stress, and disrupted sleep is a consequence of reading and watching, or dwelling on fearful news.
We have a hormone in our body that is called “cortisol” – when cortisol levels are high in our body we feel really stressed. It’s shown that popping in our earbuds and listening to some well played, and favorite music reduces levels of cortisol. Nice to know!
A Real Life Example
I have an example of this from my own life: When I take a flight somewhere, I always have a moment when I remember that I’m going to be hurling my body up towards space and hanging thirty five thousand feet above the earth for several hours. Since I don’t love heights, I have a little trick I play on myself that always works. I have a playlist on my phone that I listen to during take-off and for as much of the flight as I want… It’s full of really strong vocals, and especially from artists who are re-covering old favorites I’ve known for years in a new, modern way.
It really does it for me, folks. I focus on what’s happening in the music, and usually I zonk right out within minutes of flight take-off. I allow myself to be taken away with the music.
Also, it really helps to have superior earphones. If you’re due for an upgrade yourself I’ll tell you that I absolutely advocate the noise-cancelling ones like Bose (the brand Bose) or even the newest apple air pods. I still take my princess leia style Bose earphones on long flights because first of all, they still have a earphones chord that goes into the jack so I can watch the movies as well on the flight, and second of all they work really well. I feel the pressure in my ears stays even and I honestly forget about the entire outside world while I’m wearing them.
Back to the Perks of Playing Music…
Okay, so what does all of this have to do with learning to ‘play’ your favorite tunes and melodies on your flute?
Well, like runners who already know that music enhances running performance, musicians know that getting creative with familiar and loved songs intensifies desire to play well.
When we play the flute, there are no lyrics being sung – we get to focus on the melody only, the structure of the music and all of the ins and outs of it. I’ve always had a high appreciation for those who composed the works I’m learning. I am usually in awe of their knowledge and creativity also. It just floors me sometimes at how good this music is and how they even came up with it. I can’t wait to meet certain composers in the next life.
Noticing the small details of a piece is a really good way to internalize the skills you’re working on as a musician as well. When we can hear a familiar melody that we’ve perhaps been attracted to for a really long time, we don’t mind hearing it over and over and over again. This is a skill musicians get really good at especially. Repetition is our friend, and if we need to spend an hour or two learning a small phrase in a verse or chorus from our teen-years… We don’t mind at all because sometimes, we have a memory associated with it as well.
I honestly cannot hear “Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson from the 1984 Footloose soundtrack without having a flood of emotions and feelings come into my whole body. I know I’m not the only one, right?
I can actually smell that song.
I can see the colors and feel the sway, I also remember the boys I danced with to it.
I remember the haircuts of the day.. The bangs, the white guess brand jeans, the school cafeteria with the chairs and tables cleared out for the dance.
I remember boom boxes and summer nights on the beach.
I just can’t help it when I hear that song.
What about you?
Think about it for a minute, and let’s think about a song (or two) from yesteryear that triggers memories and emotions for you.
I have quite a list because music has always done something for me.
I never fail to get armfulls of goosebumps when the jets fly overhead in the Henry Mancini version of the Stars and Stripes Forever – We had that one on vinyl and I loved how the brass sections came in on different speakers in our orange-carpeted basement room.
I also can still feel the smooth cold steel of my baton with its worn out rubber ends – I marched and marched with that baton when I was a kid. Where are the batons nowadays anyways? What a cool skill! I want that to come back in style again.
Anyway, I think you get the idea here. I’m going to give you a challenge for the week. Get a piece of paper and tape it to your fridge, or the mirror in your bathroom.You can also open a blank note on your phone -whatever is the most convenient.
Keep this in mind this week and start jogging your memory of music that has a memory for you. Write it down. There’s no right or wrong here – write them all down. You might have dozens and dozens of them.
I smell a floor heater and burned rubber when I hear the song “Another bites the dust”… because I heard it every morning on the bus headed to school for a long time, it was so popular – and it stuck with me. We used to sing “doo doo doo, another rides the bus”. Have fun with this assignment, you can do it! And it will really enhance and make some fun for you.
Now, let’s start picking pieces from your list after that, and start learning and even possibly rearrange, and do different things with them during your flute practice. We can use those pieces to find new scales, and new finger patterns and things for you to practice.
Of course, here at Learn Flute Online I take you through sequential learning modules so that you can be your best musician and have the proper skills to be able to play and do whatever you want with your music.
So, Let’s Do It.
There are major benefits to both practicing and playing familiar and well- un-familiar tunes. Let’s think about it for a minute:
There’s something that happens unconsciously when we go to play a melody we’ve known for years. Whether our skills on our instrument is super or not.. We just sort of intuitively know what to do and where to go, how to place our fingers, and also the little nuances of the rhythm and phrasing that we don’t naturally do when learning something we’ve never heard before.
That’s an important skill – it’ll aid when trying to play by ear, or by memory especially.
And, the stronger your flute skills are, the easier it will be for you to pick up and just play melodies of your youth.
I can’t wait for you to add this into your monthly routine of flute practice. Yep- I want you to pick out some pieces you’ve known how to sing for years, especially.
Look forward to improving your musicianship by enjoying what’s natural for you.
Also, I have mini-courses that are genre specific for you here at Learn Flute Online that you can add to your membership and enjoy even more music and fun.
Folk Rock, Gospel Hymns, Irish, Celtic Holiday, Christmas, those are just some examples of what I have here for you here.
I’ll keep creating as long as you good flutists continue enjoying here.
And if you haven’t had a chance to come into the members area here at Learn Flute Online yet, in either the Gold Level or the Intermediate and Advanced Levels- well, watch for your next opportunity because we are having a great time!
Music connects us also. Have you noticed that it has always been a powerful way to unite people? One example is at large sporting events. Thousands of people sing along in unison- smiling and waving their arms in a unified sway. Another example is a parent and their young child singing lullabies or nursery rhymes together – this can create a bond like no other. I’ve experienced it myself.
Like I mentioned before, our mental well-being is tied to our physical well-being, so if we can improve these for ourselves by tuning out negative news and instead tuning in to music that helps us feel a positive message and also an educational challenge for ourselves, why not?
Lowering anxiety and lessening symptoms of depression are just two positivities of music’s effects on the body.
I know I get energized when I take on the challenge of a new piece of music… of course, at first it’s kind of slow going – but I’ve been around the block enough times to know that when I relax, break it down, study the form, key, tempo, and phrases of a new pieces… then repeat over and over- I arrive on the other side with something that is an tool of happiness in my life. Pretty cool – and you can do it too… even in the simplest form, music helps your body, mind, and overall health.
Well, that does it for today folks. It’s been a pleasure to have you join me in another fun musical subject where we can find out how to enhance our lives whilst on a journey learning an instrument like the flute.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this subject today, and as usual – I’d love to hear from you and see you inside a lesson at Learn Flute Online where you can join hundreds and hundreds of fine people (we actually use the term of endearment “flutie friends” here) inside our community where we cheer eachother on and find out that we are more alike than different for sure… even though we’re from all over the globe.
I can’t wait to have another fun discussion with you in the next episode here on the Learn Flute podcast. I’m Rebecca Fuller, your instructor, signing off today.
Thank you for Tuning In!
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the perks of playing music. Join us for the next episode!