Letter to the editor: the Benefits of playing guitar

The excitement of a college journey is often filled with wonder, newness and uncertainty. The first time? Nah … you’ve been here a while. You know the complicated splendor of what is called a ‘semester.’ Though you pull onto campus, set up the dorm, visit the Rot, go to Convo and settle into new classes like a professional, you still ponder, “Will I do well this semester? Will I make the grade?” 

Thankfully, research over the last 30 years has much to say about this! According to the College Board, studies imply that learning or playing a guitar could increase academic and test scores by 10 to 12% above those who do not!

Ever think your Taylor or Martin guitar could have something to do with a GPA? That’s just the beginning! In a side- by-side study, the National Association of Music Education found that “studies in stringed instruments achieve greater knowledge in reading, citizenship, writing, and mathematics” because music increases aptitude through “increased spatial development.” A study from Walden University shows that “math and reading are improved by learning rhythms and decoding notes and symbols.” Correlations between math and music are long understood; counting rhythm and strumming the guitar are not just actions to irritate your roommate at 2 a.m. It turns out the frets, shapes and fingerings of the guitar provide an all-encompassing experience by creating meaning through music, the order of timing, playing in rhythm and the memory it takes to switch between chord shapes, all while defining
song form. 

This correlates with academics. This same order of cognition can be reproduced on exams, and often with higher averages. According to the News-Herald of Southgate, Michigan, one student achieved a perfect score on college entrance exams. In an interview, the student placed strong emphasis on playing bass guitar and Beatles songs. This could be more evidence that playing guitar equals better grades. 

Playing guitar has also been shown to relax the mind. Recently, according to an article by South African news outlet News24, a college-age student obtained eight distinctions on 2018 Independent Examinations Board exams and attributes this success to getting “home from a long day, picking up a guitar and just playing; get off the stresses of the day.” Studies show the sound of music can increase morale and relieve stress. Typically, students do poorly on exams when they’re tired, “cranky,” or just stressed out. It is possible that spending time each day on guitar can relieve daily pressure, relaxing the mind to be more focused and stable. Playing guitar is also an exercise in memory. Memory is vital and is linked to recalling information on exams. Consequently, according to Pacific Standard magazine, data shows students who participate in music “typically have higher test scores than those who do not” by 31 points on some exams. 

Okay, maybe your GPA is sky-high, and scholarships are bountiful. Ever considered the social interaction of playing a guitar? Certainly you’re aware of numerous guitarists on Liberty’s illustrious campus. Acoustic-led worship, songwriters composing atop Liberty Mountain and School of Music students cramming for guitar juries all share a community of friends. Many believe the guitar is a vehicle for conversation, which is paramount in healthy relationships. Often, people are interested in the guitar, its sound and how it is played. This builds community. Particularly, in a 2014 Men’s Health issue, “women associate musical ability with intelligence, commitment, and hard work.” 

Could this make friendships more attainable in college? Think of the social atmosphere at LU on any given day. What better way to pursue new friendships than with a simple six-string?  And these friendships are typically lasting because these new friends now share something quite universal with you: music. In a 2016 study, those who played stringed instruments in an ensemble were more interdependent with the group. “Interestingly, musicians, and especially ensemble instrumentalists, are experts in a form of social interaction characterized by real-time non-verbal communication,” according to  and article by Royal Society Publishing. Anyone who plays the guitar knows that sound, feel and rhythm alone communicate. It’s rare you need words when playing guitar; people just naturally listen and follow along. Sometimes someone will simply ask a question about the guitar. Either way, this is a great conversation starter. 

Playing guitar may increase mental functioning, which is important for academic study and reasoning. Researchers at the University of St. Andrews claim musical activity can strengthen your mind. “Dr. Jentzsch, a pianist, says, ‘Musical activity cannot only immensely enrich our lives, but the associated benefits for our physical and mental functioning could be even more far-reaching than proposed in our previous research.’” The same study also shows correlation between playing a musical instrument and mental and physical well-being. It seems playing guitar could be very enriching mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually if we consider the worship of our Creator. 

The guitar is a beautiful sound to hear on any college campus. From a graceful strum to a popular guitar line, whether it’s a Chris Tomlin, Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran tune, most people recognize songs and melodies played on the guitar. Even if you’re just walking by the Jerry Falwell Library, you can often you can recognize a tune. Does it make you smile? Give you a solace for a split-second in a bustling new semester? 

Every fall there are thousands of students who decide to pick up the guitar. The easy access, the simplicity of open chords, even the “common knowledge” of the guitar such as G, C, D, Am and Em chords cause many people to stumble upon a new discovery of academic success, all while pursuing the excitement of new relationships.  

That’s what the guitar brings. It is a fascinating journey of joy and newness. It seems, even at the most basic level, the guitar is inviting. Most are surprised at how easy it is to start playing worship songs. 

 Learning to play the guitar can be helpful practically, academically, mentally and socially. I guarantee if you pick up a guitar and commit to a little bit of practice, you may embark on a fresh journey of music, academics and a new social status.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *