Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
MrF1
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by MrF1 » Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:35 pm

I just happened to have spent most of my career in the health/fitness industry and I'm an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist. All that and three dollars might buy you a coffee somewhere, but I digress...

I'm sure all of us love playing guitar and music in general - the relaxation benefits alone are worth our ongoing endeavors. My guess is that most of the health benefits are cognitive in nature - development of neural pathways, memorization brain functions, and musical problem solving. Like any repetitive motion activity, you must be careful and vary your practice and playing as much as possible. Lots of breaks..get up and walk around. I know that Kenny Hill was making a guitar for the standing position a few years ago. Prolonged sitting can be hazardous to our health.

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Peter Frary
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by Peter Frary » Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:11 pm

zupfgeiger wrote:
Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:06 pm
I could only name the health benefits of making music in general, particularly at an older age. It's the best remedy against senil dementia one can imagine. But guitar playing? I only know some health risks like back trouble from sitting in an awkward position for hours and hours.
If sitting in an "awkward position for hours and hours" is a concern, stand up and wear a strap. It takes some getting used to but I often do it. I even walk around while playing. Of course I spent years as a strolling musician in fine dinning restaurants. Also, as I've gotten older I've found 3 or 4 short daily practice sessions are more effective in terms of learning than a single long session but also easier on the body.

The only obvious health benefit for me is music tends to empty out my mind and thereby reduce stress. I'm also less idle and fully occupied so I stay off the bottle most of the time.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by AndreiKrylov » Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:46 pm

Hi Kavor,

I did not say that "the major factor in inducing health problems is guitar " this is twisting my words...but I pointed to certain particular health problems which is coming out from ergonomically bad "standard" sitting position and another ergonomically bad tendency of playing high tension strings and having high action and loud sound - all these problematic approaches are "standard" and promoted by "academia"nowadays and completely ignored by all kind of "standard" or new age medical practitioners, who (basically all of them who are touching guitar playing subject), instead of offering to guitarists rational, practical ways to avoid those possible injuries and problems are talking about "PROPER" classical guitar sitting position etc. ...
Certainly playing music instrument could be beneficial to the player, but could be not beneficial at all... or else...

I know quite a few who developed different physical problems just by sitting for hours daily... quite a few who developed carpal tunnel... (very likely because of playing "hard instruments" with hard tension strings and high action etc. , I know few who developed different psychological problems, like perfectionism, depression etc.
And this subject is more complicated than simple - guitar playing is good for you or guitar playing is not good for you...
It depends from many other factors, physical, mental, lifestyle choices.
And what kind of guitar playing we are talking about?
to touch strings for few minutes a day and imagine or remember something?
To play a lot of scales?
To perform concerts?
To play mono melody on one string?
To play Chaconne by Bach?
To do something light and simple will certainly will be nice as to come outside and look at the beautiful skies and trees etc.
To do something serious and complicated? - it will be not so easy and will demand a lot of time, effort, will, concentration... it will involve overcoming yourself, patience and support of your family etc.
Is conquering high mountain like Montblanc could be beneficial for ones mental and physical health? - sure!
For anyone? - no way! some folks will die doing it...some will develop different mental and physical problems just because they could attempting this but... not able to do...
Serious guitar playing is not so far from this comparison...
Therefore you probably have to give definition to thing which you mean by guitar playing first.
Then maybe this subject will be more clear.
Now it seems to broad.
And if it is just a way to make fun for yourself? Just touching string and doing something simple and easy for awhile - then sure, - it is beneficial! the same as watching nice movie, having nice conversation, maybe eating nice food...
But probably even just walking in a mountains and breathing fresh air, and seeing beauty and magic of nature will be much more beneficial for one's health...
rather than sitting and playing guitar in dusty room filled with toxic plastics, poisonous metals, devices emitting electromagnetic and other fields and learning by heart (meaningless in all other aspects of one's life) technical exercises and scales.
Or even one will play something nice and meaningful - while it maybe? better than just drinking etc. but maybe in a way that one will change something really bad for health to something just mildly bad... or neutral for one's health
One who want health and activities with health benefits probably should look on all lifestyle and life choices made and possible to make. And if choices he made and making are bad- than guitar is another placebo.

For me? Guitar is a tool. Like brush for painter. It is a possibility to read, to hear through use of my own hands ideas and passions which were expressed by great composers/writers of the past.
I work with it. It is my tool. My knife, my hammer, continuation of my mind and imagination. If I can't play it? - not good, but, OK - then I'll play keyboards...flute...
If I can't play it?
I'll write poems.
But ... benefits for my health? No. Sorry. None.
Back pain for years? (until many years ago I started to play with strap).
Social disconnection? - because I need to spend endless hours and days just learning this craft alone... No sorry. No benefits for my physical health.
But it is greatly beneficial for me as a tool which let me to express myself on international language understood by almost anyone who love music!
And it was a nice way to make living in my life, rather than to do a hard labour or to sit in office for long time.
But is it easy way to make living?
No.
Physical Health beneficial? not much.
Will save from Alzheimer?
- ????
It is just something we may love to do.
Therefore I am for playing guitar in any age!
Sure.
But not because doctor say so: it is healthy for you!
Just because one like it - guitar, music etc.
If one like it - then one should play it.
It will be nice time to spend part of ones life! :)
By the way - it is just my private opinion.
In no way I am insisting that someone have to share it.
You see it different! Great! Good for you!
and please ignore my opinion.

kavor wrote:
Sat Sep 02, 2017 6:36 pm
AndreiKrylov wrote:
Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:08 pm
kavor wrote:
Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:37 pm
Well, I don't know any instrument that is played while running and most are played in sitting position. The question could be asked: are you more inclined to do sports after 3 hours of playing guitar or after 3 hours watching TV? Or, can you remember more stuff after memorizing long tract of classical music or do you like lose capacity to remember other stuff?

I was trying to cram a lot of stuff into my head recently for a meeting and I just thought, would I be better of with or without playing music?
Health benefits of playing classical guitar (in "standard" position)? :) -

1. Backpain and different related problems.
2. Carpal tunnel and other hand' fingers problems...
3. perfectionism (mental problem)
4. if it is your job - then also other problems - not really reliable way to make living, junk food and bad sleep in travel, constant worry about your health which could affect your performance etc.

But... it is a great hobby... and great instrument for lonely artists to express themselves!
Serious Creative Art could be really beneficial - just look at life of Vincent Van Gogh and many other artists...

Seriously ... there are no health benefits.
But it could be a great joy to do it! and ... sometimes despair too...

and also I think that "role of the memory" is really overvalued in some ways ...
- hard drive have lot more memory nowadays than any of us.
How could we use things... how could we operate and discern and construct different subjects and ideas is much more important than the knowledge/memory of certain amount of facts and events. If our brains could be trained in a old age - then challenging books, videos, audio etc.especially in science and philosophy could make our brains work much more efficient than playing same exercises, scales etc. again and again... what our brains learn because of it? - just mechanical activities related to our hands... do we really train our brains or our bodies this way?
and if we are training certain parts of our bodies, and harming other parts (back for example) is it really so beneficial?

I did it all my life because I love it (sound), I love to use to create my own soundworlds and to express myself and because I made living doing it all my life.
Yes it was beneficial for me because I did (created etc) a lot but for my physical health?
My father never ever played guitar...but in all ways he was much healthier than me in my age :)

playing different instruments?
I play guitar for 50 years or more,
I played piano ...I play flute...
I had to play accordion (to pass exams in Music college)
I played domras, balalaikas, different folk instruments etc.
But ... I feel cold about them...I just love guitar, lute, flute (wooden).
Was it beneficial to play all of them? For my health???
Well... in some way it was just a waste of my timе...

Regarding Alzheimer?
I am not a doctor, but I think the main culprit is a culture and lifestyle...
Modern civilization is equal for majority to sedentary life...indulging in eating of junkfood... poisoned environment inside and outside of our houses...endless hours spent in traffic jams while breathing exhaust of other cars, unknown effect of many ways of artificial electromagnetic and other radiation which emitted through our bodies etc. etc.
Will playing of classical guitar overcome effects of all those (and many more) things? unlikely...
But ...placebo could also make (temporary) positive effect on someone who
believes in it... :)
Hello,
If you think the major factor in inducing health problems is guitar and also that guitar doesn't have any health benefits, to prove yourself otherwise try to live without it. If that is not an option listen to experiences of people who have abandoned playing music for one reason or the other after playing for a long time. In my opinion, music gives structure in our lives that makes us strong. I think you are so used to it that you no longer recognize its effects. If you think otherwise, stop playing for a few days, see how it goes eh? :)

On the subject of placebo effect, it is truly difficult to test this out because we have this variable of 'believing in it' How do you establish that person has belief in something? First person testimony? While that may be valid in the paradigm of some sort of social sciences, I think its really tenuous to establish anything like this. But you can talk about it at parties etc, its cool ;)

Kavor
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

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Allister Slingenberg
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by Allister Slingenberg » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:22 am

Heard about vibration therapy as an alternative healing ritual while I was in Morocco. People I was speaking to seemed to think the vibrations of the guitar against your chest and heart may have health benefits. Wasn't there a segovia quote about this?

kavor
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by kavor » Wed Sep 06, 2017 1:41 pm

AndreiKrylov wrote:
Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:46 pm
Hi Kavor,

I did not say that "the major factor in inducing health problems is guitar " this is twisting my words...but I pointed to certain particular health problems which is coming out from ergonomically bad "standard" sitting position and another ergonomically bad tendency of playing high tension strings and having high action and loud sound - all these problematic approaches are "standard" and promoted by "academia"nowadays and completely ignored by all kind of "standard" or new age medical practitioners, who (basically all of them who are touching guitar playing subject), instead of offering to guitarists rational, practical ways to avoid those possible injuries and problems are talking about "PROPER" classical guitar sitting position etc. ...
Certainly playing music instrument could be beneficial to the player, but could be not beneficial at all... or else...

I know quite a few who developed different physical problems just by sitting for hours daily... quite a few who developed carpal tunnel... (very likely because of playing "hard instruments" with hard tension strings and high action etc. , I know few who developed different psychological problems, like perfectionism, depression etc.
And this subject is more complicated than simple - guitar playing is good for you or guitar playing is not good for you...
It depends from many other factors, physical, mental, lifestyle choices.
And what kind of guitar playing we are talking about?
to touch strings for few minutes a day and imagine or remember something?
To play a lot of scales?
To perform concerts?
To play mono melody on one string?
To play Chaconne by Bach?


Kavor
[/quote]

Hello Andrei,
I get your point. I will not ignore your opinion. I appreciate your perspective. I do see people playing expertly classical guitar but not taking care of themselves. Overweight and unhealthy. That is true of other professions as well, not just classical guitar. I think the problem is that modern society demands this one dimensional characters because we believe that they are responsible for progress of their field. You see tennis and basketball players who don't know a lot (in many cases can't utter a coherent sentence) and we are in awe of them. So, it seems absurd to ask what are benefits of playing tennis on classical guitar playing just like asking what are health benefits of classical guitar playing. There seem to be none.

I went to David Russell concert. He played a piece by musician whose name I don't remember. He dug this forgotten piece from somewhere. David said this guy was lawyer, merchant...and classical guitar composer. It seemed that in the past these characters who wrote classical music were were multi-dimensional. How has it become that now you can't do anything but guitar? Isn't there time in the day for one hour exercise?

Don't you think this isolation from other activities actually harms you even more than harming your health instead of benefit you? Until I started dabbling in classical, I was studying jazz. In jazz as well, people are so inured in their instrument that they forget about anything else. I went to this event organized for the sake of one of these disastrous areas in the world. Different musicians came to express their concern, sorrow, empathy...however jazz people came and I swear to you, they were jamming! Its like they haven't thought about the disaster at all! I thought music and art should be about reflecting about life, death, love, hate, etc. But today, people are so concentrated on modes, scales, moves, virtuosity that they forget what's its all about.

Ok, the topic is about 'health benefits of classical guitar.' However, if guitar makes you isolated from activities than the guitar is harm to your health. I don't think it should be that way. I wonder what is a benefit to you or anyone if you can play some difficult piece and than have a stroke or carpal tunnel and not be able to play. Its strange that we consider progress in any field dependent on relentless pursuing of perfection.

I think there are a lot of benefits to playing, and people have mentioned those, however, of course if you go to extreme and just play all day, not only your health will suffer but your ability to connect with people. So I say, if you are playing all that much to harm your health, don't play that much! Go, do some sports, find a girlfriend, let her break your heart, then reflect on it with guitar. You will not have Alzheimer's you will be much more effective as musician :) My five cents.

Kavor

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by AndreiKrylov » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:17 pm

Hi Kavor,
I think that we more agree on things rather than disagree :)
The only difference for me that
I love it and that is why I am doing it ! not because of certain benefits...
there are many more things which could be much more beneficial...
Therefore I am not denying that this is true and possible in some cases depending what exactly going on and how one approach this subject.
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

StevSmar
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by StevSmar » Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:43 am

It's an interesting question but I think it's too broad.

Physically I'm not sure if there are health benefits. It makes my hands, arms and back ache- but most things seem to do that now... However I've also read recently that exercise is good for arthritis, so perhaps it's helping rather than harming.

Mentally I don't think there are significant health benefits. Yes it does help me forget about the day.

But I would suspect that any physiological benefits or harms would be obtained by similar activities (Physical- like making guitars, working on the cottage, walking. Psychologically: my interest in airplanes or science etc, socializing)
Regards,

Steven from Winnipeg

kavor
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by kavor » Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:24 pm

Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:25 pm
As some have said, keeping the manual dexterity / fine motor control in good shape is certainly a health benefit. The overwhelming benefit is helping with the aging brain. As the article stated, active is better than passive. And in the studies I've read, continual learning is critical to the beneficial effects. For example, if you practice calculus nightly, that's better than nothing, but not as good as learning new pieces.

Now, is guitar better than flute ? I've seen no studies to say it is. And if you take a bit of critical thinking related to the brain structures involved, there seems to be lots of overlap regardless of instrument type.

So the temporal and frontal lobes are involved in memory. The frontal lobe also handles expression/interpretation, and future planning like preparing for a difficult passage while actually playing a previous part. The precentral gyrus controls motor functions, while the postcentral gyrus handles tactile feedback from fingers, and proprioceptors so you know where your body parts are in 3D space. The cerebellum handles motor memory. The brain stem handles meter. The occipital lobe handles all visuals, while the temporal lobes (again) handle auditory input/feedback, i.e., ear training. The thalamus is the switchboard of all this interconnected communication. And learning new pieces keeps the hippocampus functioning well. Then if you sing and play at the same time!?!?!! Did I leave out any brain parts ?

With that many brain parts involved, the brain is getting fully exercised. The difference between guitar and flute may be like benching 400lbs versus light weights. But I have no peer-reviewed empirical data for that. :D

For me though, I gain a lot due to the relaxation it brings me. Enhanced social connections too.
I think this response is very important. I think most health benefits are not recognized or taken for granted. We uniquely utilize a lot of parts of your brain while playing music. Most people take these effects for granted. The negative effects of prolonged sitting and playing influence ppl too much. I think that is a problem of going to extreme. That is true for everything. If you say body building or sport is good for your health and then overdo it and destroy your body, the sports are not to blame. Its incorrect performance, lack of balance and acting stupidly, quite frankly, to blame.

To stave off those negative effects, one hour of exercise per day is more than enough. Running, push-ups, lower back exercises...makes body stronger. When I don't exercise and just play guitar, I am in pain, my body is literally melting in the chair. Its frustrating. But this is the effect of overdoing the guitar which is harmful.

Kavor

William Gregg
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by William Gregg » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:57 am

12 string virtuoso, Leo Kottke, suffered performance related tendon damage that nearly ended his career. Classical guitar lessons refined his technique to the point he was able to resume performing on the 12 string. Here's a short article and interview with him from 1987:

http://www.guitarmusic.org/kottke/gfm871.html

At my age I have arthritis in both hands, and I am convinced that classical technique is what enables me to continue teaching and performing.

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dta721
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by dta721 » Sun Sep 17, 2017 6:12 pm

Here's another article on health benefits of learning to play a musical instrument:
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2 ... instrument

As for me, I find re-learning CG a way to stay focus, also therapeutic to treat depression! :idea: :)

Martin Bickerton
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by Martin Bickerton » Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:45 pm

I understand that there are many studies lording music as beneficial for the brain, linking everything from improved memory to spacial reasoning to mood improvements. Physically, i'm not sure weather the micromorts gained by musculoskeletal strain and by sitting in one position for a long time outweigh the benefits. I suppose a healthy(er) mind = a healthy(er) body. I imagine a musician is more likely to go concerts and enjoy other social and intellectual benefits from playing music.
When it comes to the CG specific benefits... I'm not sure whether we can point to a specific benefit. The only thing I can think of is that there are lots of opportunities to go to guitar nights (I don't know of any flute player's nights around my location), and therefore socialize and improve health that way. That and lugging a harp/tuba/double bass round is probably quite bad for your health, especially if you have to go on the London Underground!

Gwynedd
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Re: Health benefits of playing classical guitar

Post by Gwynedd » Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:56 am

I started classical guitar not only because I love it but because I was facing a stressful change at work. (It was worse than I imagined too!) The relaxation of playing the instrument and marking my progression has been a good distraction from the annoyances. And I met a bunch of fantastic people--nothing like friends to keep you cheerful.

I also noticed that my arthritis in my hands seems minimal and a fellow classmate noticed the same thing. The movements seem to limber me up.

Finally, my memory, which is already pretty good, has gotten quite sharp. I was having trouble memorizing piano music, but I can generally play a guitar piece by memory after a few repetitions. And sightreading has gotten fast, too.

All in all, the music keeps me cheerful, the hand motions are good for joints and the music and learning is good for the brain. Not to mention the beautiful repertoire is great for the soul.

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