Why playing an instrument can boost your mood

Pianist Yulia Chaplina on why playing an instrument can be a vital boost for you mind during this hard time

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Play to escape reality 

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Playing an instrument requires our consciousness to stop worrying and focus on the score and finger coordination. As a result, after only 15 minutes of intense note reading or finger exercises, your head has more space.  If you always wanted to learn how to play the flute but haven’t had the time, now is the best time to try it. Even if you don’t have yet an instrument you could start with theory and note learning which will help you later. Plus, there are lots of music teachers offering online lessons.

Sight-reading is the ultimate workout for your brain

Have you ever encountered a piece you always wanted to play but were discouraged by learning the notes? I have it with Ravel’s scores. Now is the time to immerse yourself in sight-reading, which is the perfect activity for a proper brain workout. Amateurs should expect being properly tired after 20 minutes, professionals after 40-60 minutes.

You’ll get all the benefits of this physical exercise for the brain and your mood will be improved. Afterwards, you can get away with eating an extra biscuit with your tea, because our brains consume most of our daily calories.

Boost your positive emotions: share your music with relatives or friends

Nothing is more rewarding than a virtual musical gift. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Record yourself on your phone and share it with your loved ones.

Leave the device running and then edit it afterwards to get the best version. Fortunately, any device lets you edit the videos without needing any special software.

Socialise online: play and learn together

On video conferencing software like Zoom or Skype, you could schedule multiple players to form a chamber group or a choir. If you have children who know how to play an instrument, they could teach their parents or grandparents. That way, all three generations are kept busy! There are lots of virtual orchestras and choirs you can join online. Find a list of some of the best here.

Some helpful tips!

Practise your scales while watching TV

When I was young, I hated practising scales. My mum allowed me to read while I ‘practised scales’ on the lid of the piano. Removing the sound sometimes makes scales and arpeggios more bearable. With the silent pianos available now, this is even easier.

The same technique works for string instruments: violinist Maxim Vengerov once told me that when he needs to get his fingers moving, he’ll turn on the TV and practise his left-hand passages.

Experiment with different styles of repertoire

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As a classical pianist, playing classical music doesn’t really relax me. If you’re struggling to concentrate and are making lots of mistakes, play something you’ve always wanted to try, which, in my case is jazz and Russian Soviet songs. Your brain will be fully engaged with the newness of the project, and you’re less likely to fall back into the trap of negative thoughts.