7 Reasons Why Everyone Should Learn To Play An Instrument

Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis

I’m sure it will please my mother greatly to hear me say this: she was right in making me learn an instrument. It’s not because my mother is shallow, it’s just that I imagine it pleases all mothers everywhere when their children finally admit that they had more perspective on life than an 11 year-old who thought those pants that turned into shorts were the greatest thing since we put a man on the moon.

You see, when I was a kid, my mother forced me to take piano lessons. The use of the word “forced” here is not an exercise in hyperbole, she really did have to make me do it. Aside from the obvious motivation of wanting to reinforce an Asian stereotype (that’s a joke, Mom) she wanted me to learn music. I wanted to learn a cool instrument like the electric guitar or the drums, but instead I found myself sitting at the piano every day pounding out ridiculously repetitive songs and memorizing pneumonic devices like “All Cows Eat Grass.” Full disclosure, I don’t remember what that pertains to, just that it was important. And that you could also say “All Cars Eat Gas” but that one made less sense to me.

In what has come to be known as The Great Instrument Trade Agreement of 2000, I convinced my mom to let me stop taking piano in favor of guitar. I believe it was covered on CNN. In retrospect, it was one of the more important moments of my life as it led to a whole musical career I never dreamt possible, including a brief period during which I was actually paid to play music. Because of that job, I’ve made life long friends and had some wholly unforgettable experiences.

When I eventually have children they will learn to play the piano or the guitar… or both. At the same time. And while they will probably hate me for it, I hope one day they’ll understand. And then they’ll write about it in their “video blogs” or whatever this will look like in the future. And I’ll get to say one of my favorite things ever, “I told you so.”

It’s been close to two full decades since I first started taking piano lessons; and it’s taken me all that time to fully appreciate it. Beyond learning the basics of music, it will fulfill your life in ways that are typically reserved for independent films and drug addiction. How, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked.

1. You’ll make friends.

Some of my closest friends on this planet earth are musicians with whom I have had the pleasure of performing for many years now. I know many of us think musicians are typically either A) awkward, nerdy boys with thick-rimmed glasses and bad acne or B) extremely pretty but completely impossible to understand girls (aren’t they all?) or C) Some weird combination of A and B. Turns out they are mostly just normal people, so how about you stop being prejudice? Seriously though, if not for music I wouldn’t have met some of the very best human beings I know.

2. You won’t look like an idiot when making small talk at parties.

There’s something about playing music that makes you appreciate it more than your “Music Appreciation 101” class in college ever could. Which is silly because “appreciation” is in the name of the class. Subsequently, you’ll have more to offer than “Um, Miley Cyrus… whatever she is,” when someone asks you what kind of music you like.

3. It will help you get laid.

Okay, I’ve only done this once. But it totally worked. I have been told by multiple sources that the “musician” thing totally plays well in the manners of all things love. That might be the creepiest sentence I’ve ever written. Did I mention I’m bad at flirting?

4. If you choose the guitar (and you totally should) you get to look down on people who play “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” for the rest of your life.

Because you’re better than them. Better, I say!

5. The guitar is a hit at parties.

If things are starting to hit a lull, bust out the guitar and rock on, dear reader! Everyone will love you. To be fair, some people will hate you, but those people suck and you don’t need their friendship anyway.

5a. The 5 Worst Acoustic Guitar Party Songs Ever

  1. Your Body Is a Wonderland – John Mayer. You might think this song would help you get girls. It will not. It will, however, help you be perceived as a gigantic tool.
  2. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty. Don’t get me wrong, I like this song. I like it so much that I really only want to hear Tom Petty sing it. No one has ever done a good cover of this and better people than you and me have tried.
  3. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day. This is not a high school prom, nor are you underscoring one of those videos they show at wedding receptions that end with the bride and groom’s baby pictures side-by-side. No one likes this song anymore. No. One.
  4. Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s. If you still think this song is good, then I hate your face.
  5. Iris – The Goo Goo Dolls. This song gained popularity because it was in a Nic Cage movie. Do I need to go on?

6. With piano, you’ll learn the basics of music.

Piano is the marijuana of musical instruments in that it’s a gateway drug. Piano teaches the basics of reading music, feeling tempo, and that there are more dynamics than “loud” and “louder.” And if you do it too much, you’ll likely end up unemployed and living in your parents’ basement. (I tried to work a “strung out” joke in there, but I couldn’t get the wording. This will have to suffice.)

7. It’s something you can do all by yourself that doesn’t involve a TV, game system, laptop, or iPad.

I’m just as addicted to technology as the next guy, but occasionally I like to pull out the guitar and play music for no one but myself. It’s good for you and allows you flex that other side of your brain that isn’t getting used at work all day while you punch numbers into a spreadsheet or whatever.

Yes, my children will be forced to learn the play an instrument. Unless I marry a professional soccer player or something, they will be blessed with my (lack of) hand-eye coordination and affinity for “things I can do whilst drinking beer” and thus their sports wheelhouse is likely to be confined to running and golf. Fortunately, they will also get a strong hairline and some level of musical ability. Thanks to Glee and Pitch Perfect, music nerds are cool now so you’re welcome, future kids. TC mark

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