Music and Memory

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“Use It or Lose It

It’s no secret… As we age, our brains have difficulty retrieving memories. Scientists have discovered that we lose memory function in the exact same way that we lose muscle. In other words, “Use it or lose it.”

For years, activities like crossword puzzles, physical exercise, and painting have been prescribed to give the our brains a workout, but these activities only exercise isolated parts of the brain.

After all, you can’t expect to go into the gym, do a few arm curls and walk out with the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger!!

 You need a consistent, full-body workout Baby! 

And guess what neuroscientists recently discovered?!

Learning to play a musical instrument is the brain’s equivalent to a “full-body  workout.”

When scientists monitor the brains activity with FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Topography) scanners, the brain lights up like a fireworks display in practically every part of the brain.

So what does this mean??

People who learn to play an instrument have enhanced memory function: that is creating, storing and retrieving memories.

Wait a second… Strumming the chords to your favorite song can help you remember the name of your daughter’s husband’s former roommate??? Well that’s pretty extreme, but you can bet that next time you go to the grocery store, you won’t forget the milk. 😉

This discovery has had some pretty amazing effects in the laboratory. A study showed that seniors who frequently played a musical instrument were less likely to develop dementia than those who rarely played.*

In a different 6 month study, participants aged 60-85 were allocated to a group that took music lessons and a group that didn’t. You guessed it, the group that took lessons showed improvements on tests of working memory, perceptual speed, and motor skills, while the control group did not.**

Imagine yourself strumming a few chords with your morning cup of coffee or playing sing-along songs at the next family camping trip, all the while experiencing the benefits of a sharp mind and a strengthened memory.

So why isn’t everyone signing up for guitar lessons to reverse the problem that plagues us all??

Here are the most common barriers:

  1. I have no musical experience, I’m afraid I would just embarrass myself. 😳

It is so sad to me that this barrier can keep people from starting their musical journey. I truly enjoy teaching beginners and see it as an honor to introduce someone to the art form. The key cornerstones of my teaching style are  structure, patience, and encouragement.

  1. I’m just not sure I have the extra time to practice. ⌚

When people have this concern, it is usually because they are unaware of the myriad of practice strategies that are proven to work! I have students that practice less than 5 minutes a day and see improvement every week. Like so many things, practice is all about quality, not quantity.


Just by showing up to a weekly lesson, you will receive 50 high quality practice sessions a year.

  1. Wait, can’t I just learn to play online, for free??

This is perhaps the worst culprit of all. It is true that there are a lot of great resources online, BUT you are missing out on the key components that make learning an instrument beneficial for you! In the studies mentioned above, the subjects got the benefit when they had these three things in place:

  • Professional Feedback
  • Consistency
  • Structure

I have met so many students that have been attempting to teach themselves online, and the story is always the same. They have put in months (sometimes years) of work but have developed bad habits that keep them from playing the music that interested them in the first place. Without the accountability and structure from attending lessons, the guitar ultimately ends up collecting dust in the garage.

Michael’s Testimonial

“Before I started lessons with Jake, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time to dedicate myself to the guitar. Having studied music before, I know it takes regular practice and a fair bit of struggle to learn a new instrument. After all, if it was easy, everybody would do it!

Even when things get difficult, Jake is extremely patient and creates a positive learning environment. He teaches you HOW to practice efficiently so you can bypass the frustration and see quick results. I cannot tell you how satisfying it is when the song finally “clicks” and I am able to play the music that has inspired me for years!

I have a background in biology, and I love knowing that the guitar activates both hemispheres of my brain. My hands are learning separate but interrelated tasks. This strengthens the corpus callosum and creates better communication between the left and right sides of the brain. In addition to the physical benefits, understanding music theory is an intellectual challenge that keeps my mind stimulated and agile.

The most rewarding part of playing the guitar is the creative aspect that takes the physical and intellectual skills to the next level. I experience this after I have memorized a great song or when I am playing the blues.

I would highly recommend Jake as a guitar teacher due to his patience, structured approach, and unique ability to guide you through the difficulties of learning a new instrument!”

– Michael H., Student

Book a FREE Trial Lesson!!

I am so confident that you will enjoy your guitar lessons at Farr Guitar Studio, that I am going to give you a FREE trial lesson. That’s right, no strings attached, just a no-risk way to begin your musical journey! All you have to do is sign up for a free trial or call (806)781-2646.

Don’t Wait! Click here to book your FREE TRIAL!!!

Jake Farr is a guitar instructor and songwriting mentor to hundreds of musicians across the country. His students regularly perform, jam, and attend exclusive concerts together at his studio in South Austin. Since he began teaching in 2006, Jake has taught in universities, private studios, public schools and art centers.

In addition to his teaching, Jake is a singer/songwriter and a recording artist. Although he teaches all styles of guitar, Jake primarily writes Folk and Indie Rock music.

Outside of his artistic endeavors, Jake enjoys indie movies, Indian cuisine, and traveling with his wife/muse, Emily.




*Joe Verghese et al., “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly,”
N Engl J Med (June 19, 2003): 348:2508-2516.

**Catherine Y. Wan and Gottfried Schlaug, “Music Making as a Tool for Promoting Brain Plasticity across the Life Span,” Neuroscientist (October 2010): 16(5): 566-577.