The guitar is one of the most popular musical instruments in the world (it's my main instrument, too). There are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play guitar and practicing/playing regularly.
Whether you're interested in taking the first steps in becoming a guitarist or you're already proficient with the instrument, I hope to inspire you to continue on your musical journey as you read this article. There is so much to gain from learning a musical instrument like the guitar, and I've selected what I believe to be the top 11 best reasons.
The top 11 benefits of learning and playing guitar are:
- Improves Coordination/Dexterity
- Improves Discipline & Concentration
- Builds Confidence
- Provides A Creative Outlet
- Enhances The Understanding Of Music
- Introduces A New Language
- Improves Memory
- Building Relationships
- Accompaniment (For Yourself And Others)
- Guitar Is Popular, Easy To Find & Easy To Transport
- Therapeutic Benefits
- Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
- Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above to understand better how learning and playing the guitar can improve our lives.
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Learning & Playing Guitar Improves Coordination/Dexterity
Whether you're strumming a simple 1-4-5 G, C, D chord progression to a tempo or skip-string sweep picking, playing guitar requires coordination between your hands. In learning the guitar, we develop the ability to make our hands do what we want them to do when we want them to do it, together in synchronization. Ultimately, the improvement of such dexterity allows us to play the guitar correctly.
Guitars have their own unique varieties of strings setups, tuning and fingerings. However, the improvement of coordination will inevitably help with other instruments. This is particularly true of stringed instruments but also applies to percussion instruments (rhythm and timing-wise) and even woodwind and brass instruments (fingering-wise).
Learning & Playing Guitar Improves Discipline & Concentration
To become proficient at any musical instrument takes time, dedication and a willingness to get better. In other words, learning and playing guitar takes discipline and concentration.
These skills (discipline and concentration) can be learned and developed with conscious practice. Learning how to play the guitar, from the mechanics to the in-depth theory, is a fun way to not only learn music and guitar in and of themselves but also to develop discipline and concentration.
Learning the basics of guitar presents a fairly steep learning curve, which requires work to overcome. Mastering the instrument demands unwavering dedication to the craft.
Learning & Playing Guitar Builds Confidence
Not only do we build the confidence of learning guitar and being able to play the music we want, but also from the fact that we are capable of learning what we want to learn in a more general sense.
The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defined self-confidence as the “confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities”. Playing the guitar gives us immediate auditory feedback. If the guitar sounds how we're trying to make it sound, we build self-confidence!
Furthermore, we can get to a point where we're in a position to play with and/or for other musicians and audiences. In doing so, playing guitar can help us overcome shyness and stage fright. Developing the confidence to perform in front of friends, family, strangers and even virtually/online will pay dividends through many other areas of your life. Learning the guitar gives you the opportunity to engage in such performances.
Learning & Playing Guitar Provides A Creative Outlet
Though creativity is a skill and a process that everyone has in some capacity, there is a certain obviousness to creativity in the arts (source). Learning to play the guitar gives us a creative outlet to write our own music and also to perform the music of others in our own fashion.
Musical creativity may come naturally to us, and we can choose the guitar as an instrument to bring such creativity to the world.
Additionally, there are studies that suggest learning musical instruments like the guitar creates connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. Learning guitar can increase the size of the corpora callosa, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). With new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to create innovative and unique musical ideas.
Learning & Playing Guitar Enhances The Understanding Of Music
Guitars are commonplace in musical genres spanning from metal to jazz, classical to country, singer-songwriter to pop. It's an amazingly versatile instrument, especially considering the general standard types of electric, acoustic and classical guitars.
As our musical horizons broaden, we may find interest in new genres of music. Knowing the fundamentals of guitar playing, we can learn new styles of music more quickly and effectively.
By playing new guitar styles, we can better understand the music (compared to only listening) and further develop our musicality, in addition to our guitar-playing chops!
For example, I started learning guitar by learning simple punk rock songs before eventually “graduating” into metal. By the time I got out of audio engineering school, my interest in jazz had grown tremendously. Having learned many technical skills from metal, I was more easily able to understand and play through jazz standards.
There will always be new musical territory to explore, and the guitar is one of the best “tour guides” to get into new ideas, concepts and genres.
Learning & Playing Guitar Introduces A New Language
Whether you're learning by ear, via tablature, or with written sheet music, learning the guitar is akin to learning another language. After all, the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind” (source).
Making music with the guitar can prompt certain emotions in the listener and even tell a sort of story with or without vocal (or other) accompaniment.
By learning the guitar and, therefore, a certain dialect of the “musical language,” we can expand our understanding of music and the world.
I mentioned tablature and written notation, which are literal written languages. However, song arrangement, harmonic movement, rhythm, lead/melodic lines, and the general feel and emotion of the guitar piece are all part of the language in their own right.
By learning how to play the guitar, you're effectively learning another language!
Furthermore, studies show that learning a musical instrument like the guitar helps strengthen the same parts of the brain responsible for language processing (source). Learning guitar not only introduces the language of music but also enhances our brain's ability to learn other languages.
Learning & Playing Guitar Improves Memory
Our memory can be improved by putting our brain to work (source), and learning guitar is certainly a brain workout. In particular, learning a musical instrument like the guitar will stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in emotions and memories (source).
Consider all the factors of learning and playing guitar that involve memory:
- Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
- The notes of the fretboard (dependent on tuning, which can vary)
- Chord shapes (dependent on tuning, which can vary)
- Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)
While learning and playing the guitar, we stimulate the hippocampus, which activates neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. Neurogenesis is linked to improved learning and memory (source).
Learning & Playing Guitar Helps Build Relationships
Music brings people together. It's fairly self-evident, then, that learning such a popular instrument as the guitar would give us more opportunities to build relationships with others.
Let's begin by considering the teacher-student relationship. If you choose to go down the path of hiring a guitar teacher to help you learn, you'll build a relationship with that teacher by default. This is true of in-person lessons and one-on-one online lessons.
Once you've learned how to play sufficiently, you can, yourself, become a teacher and build relationships with your own students.
They say birds of a feather flock together, and learning the guitar will make it easier for you to make connections with other musicians. It's pretty amazing to think how many close friends I met through music (it's over 50%). Perhaps our friendships wouldn't have become so strong if it weren't for the jams, performances and overall love for music.
Whether you start a band or not, becoming proficient at the guitar will get you noticed by other musicians.
Speaking of getting noticed, if you've developed the skill and confidence to play live, you'll certainly meet venue owners, music fans and other musicians. Music excels as a social art, and it makes it much easier to meet new people and develop deeper connections.
To push this point further, I met my lovely fiancée through playing music, particularly as a guitarist!
Learning & Playing Guitar Allows For Accompaniment (For Yourself And Others)
Guitars are beautiful polyphonic instruments, capable of melody, harmony and rhythm. They sound great by themselves and when accompanying other instruments.
If you're a singer, learning the guitar will allow you to accompany your vocals better. The piano is another excellent instrument for accompanying vocals, though it's not nearly as easy to transport as guitar (which we'll discuss in our next point).
If you're friends with singers, learning the guitar will allow you to accompany them, too.
Even if you're not a singer and those around you aren't necessarily either, it's still a fun time getting together to sing along to some of the group's favourite songs.
Though not necessarily “accompaniment,” it's worth noting that learning the guitar can land you a spot in a band. As discussed earlier, the wide variety of genres fully accepting guitar is vast. Therefore, learning and playing the guitar should give you ample opportunity to start and/or join a band.
Since guitars are polyphonic (can play multiple notes at once), we can even accompany ourselves. In jazz, this is often referred to as “comping,” where a single musician, in this case, a guitarist, can play the bass line, chord changes and lead lines/solos simultaneously.
Guitar Is Popular, Easy To Find & Easy To Transport
We touched on the guitar's relative ease of transportation in the previous section. Combine this with the popularity and often-affordable prices, and you'll commonly find guitars around the world.
There's a decent chance you'll find a guitar or two in your friends' homes, even if they aren't guitarists themselves. Guitars are also often stored at coffee shops and other venues. Furthermore, music stores will certainly have guitars available if you're out travelling.
Learning how to play the guitar will give you the opportunity to play in these situations, thanks in large part to the prevalence of the instrument. You'll be able to play more regularly even if you don't have your own guitar with you. Compare that to say, the oboe, which is an unlikely instrument to find laying around for your musical benefit.
Furthermore, the guitar is fairly easy to transport. For example, I travelled through Australia for a few months and would regularly stop in music stores to play the guitar or pick up the instrument if the hostel had one. We decided to rent a room in a house without a guitar, so I came up with some money to buy a short-scale acoustic. Carrying the guitar from destination to destination from there on out wasn't a huge issue.
Learning & Playing Guitar Has Therapeutic Benefits
Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)
Music, in general, is also being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:
- Promote Wellness
- Manage Stress
- Alleviate Pain
- Express Feelings
- Enhance Memory
- Improve Communication
- Promote Physical Rehabilitation
I can personally attest that I feel better on days when I listen to and play guitar. This is true whether I'm playing along to songs, writing music, learning new material, or performing live.
Learning & Playing Guitar Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
As the first of two bonus tips, let's talk about money. To include another quote, Paul Van Der Merwe stated, “Money makes the world go round” (source).
Once you've become a capable guitarist, there are many different avenues to monetize your skills. Of the numerous options, I've personally made money with the following:
- Performing original music live (clubs, dinner parties, churches, coffee shops and even busking)
- Performing covers live
- Record streaming royalties from original music
- Teaching guitar lessons
- Recording as a session guitarist
- Composing for stock music libraries
There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize guitar-playing skills. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the guitar.
Learning & Playing Guitar Bonus Tip 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
Learning and playing guitar isn't only about the technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the instruments themselves. Leaning the guitar gives us a great opportunity to learn about the physics of sound, stringed instruments and even electricity.
Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of guitars teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:
- How to change strings
- The effects of humidity on metal (strings) and wood
- Corrosion (strings)
- Tension (truss rod, strings, tuning pegs)
- Electronics (pickups, jacks, volume/tone controls – with electric guitars and electro-acoustic guitars)
- How materials and guitar shapes can produce differences in tone and volume