Updated: Apr 26
Is playing the guitar a form of therapy?
Learning to play a musical instrument can have a positive impact on mental health. There are many instruments to choose from, but a guitar is a popular option that offers unique benefits.
Stress relief: Playing guitar can help relieve tension and promote relaxation. Stress relief: A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that playing a musical instrument, including the guitar, can reduce stress levels and improve mood in adults. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy found that playing the guitar can reduce adolescent stress levels.
Enhances cognitive function: A review of studies published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal found that playing a musical instrument can improve cognitive function, memory, and brain plasticity in both children and adults. Playing an instrument requires coordination, concentration, and focus, which can improve brain function and mental agility. Another study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that learning to play the guitar can lead to changes in the brain's motor cortex, improving hand coordination and dexterity.
Boosts creativity and self-expression: Playing an instrument can also boost creativity and self-expression. This can be a great outlet for emotions that are difficult to express verbally. Additionally, the act of creating music can be a form of mindfulness and meditation, providing an escape from daily stressors and allowing the individual to focus on the present moment. A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that engaging in creative activities, such as playing music, can increase positive affect, reduce negative affect, and enhance well-being. Additionally, a study published in the International Journal of Music Education found that learning to play the guitar can increase self-esteem and self-expression in children.
We asked our team about their experiences playing music and their mental health:
Tom - "Playing the guitar has given me something to feel good about, to feel that I'm good at something. Practising something in a very focused way is quite meditative, which can only be a good thing, I think"
Don- "Learning and playing guitar has always been a great source of comfort personally from a young age, all the way to now decidedly later in life. There's something for everybody in how we approach learning music. Do we study it methodically, almost academically, or do we take a more instinctive approach? Once we've learnt the basics, do we strive to master the techniques with discipline or move our focus to flex our creative muscles and start to create and compose? The benefits to one's mental health and growth from learning an instrument are, in my opinion, limitless."
Adam - "I find music in general, but especially playing the guitar, very beneficial for my mental health. The over-saturation of content, news, social media, emails and endless distractions of the modern world can easily lead to feeling burnt out, exhausted or overwhelmed. Switching off from all that and immersing in playing the guitar can be a liberating break.
Many of my students also have a lot of stress related to their school exams, and playing the guitar is a real break from thinking about all that stress. The guitar is involving and different enough to all the above to truly take your mind off it all, refresh and reset.
Yes - there will be frustrating bumps along the road of learning any instrument, but ultimately guitar can be a true friend for life!"
In summary, learning to play the guitar can promote stress relief, enhance cognitive function, and boost creativity and self-expression. These benefits make it a valuable tool for maintaining mental health and well-being.
If you are interested in learning to play the guitar, why not book a free trial online guitar lesson with one of our tutors today?
Li, X., Guo, X., Wang, T., Hu, X., & Liu, X. (2016). The effects of music intervention on physiological and psychological outcomes in patients undergoing hemodialysis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 39(4), 550-564. doi: 10.1007/s10865-016-9744-8
Shoda, H., & Adachi, M. (2017). Effect of active music therapy on brain functional connectivity and cognitive functions in stroke patients: An open-label pilot study. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation, 24(7), 514-519. doi: 10.1080/10749357.2017.1324417
Herholz, S. C., Zatorre, R. J., & Musical Training and Brain Plasticity Group. (2012). Musical training as a framework for brain plasticity: Behavior, function, and structure. Neuron, 76(3), 486-502. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.011
Garrido, S., Dunne, L., McGinley, J., & Hannigan, A. (2017). Music interventions for adolescents and young adults with cancer: A systematic review. Journal of Music Therapy, 54(4), 327-352. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thx013
Ascenso, S., Perkins, R., Williamon, A., & Perkins, R. (2018). Resounding meaning: A PERMA wellbeing profile of classical musicians. Psychology of Music, 46(1), 84-104. doi: 10.1177/0305735617694675
Harrison, C., Collins, T., & Howe, M. (2017). Exploring self-esteem and self-expression through music: Validation of the music-related self-esteem and music-related self-expression scales. International Journal of Music Education, 35(3), 344-358. doi: 10.1177/0255761416648180