The Surprising Benefits of Composing Your Own Music

As students, most musicians at least start to explore the idea of writing their own musical compositions, rather than just play other people’s music all the time. These experiments often end just as quickly as they began because students feel that they aren’t any good at it, or they run into the dreaded “writer’s block” and they give up to early.

But composing and writing your own songs brings with it all sorts of benefits that you just can’t get from playing music written by others. But what is it that draws people to composing their own music? Despite a lot of students giving up too early, the vast majority of amateur composers and songwriters aren’t out to make boat loads of money or to pen a #1 hit that lingers in people’s minds for decades. No, in fact, most people who compose music don’t really even consider themselves “professional” songwriters or composers, even when they get paid to do it. So why bother to write songs if you have no interest in doing it professionally? Well, as it turns out, writing your own music has a number of health, emotional, and social benefits.

Health Benefits

People who practice composing enjoy a number of physical benefits to their health as a direct result. There have been countless studies looking into the supposed health benefits associated with composition, and the findings have been extremely consistent. Many studies continue to check on their participants long after the experiment has concluded, and most have found a lot of evidence of continued health benefits. Over all these studies people have consistently reported similar health benefits, including:

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor’s office
  • Improvement on a number of immune system functions
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved lung function
  • Improved liver function
  • Improved short-term memory
  • Improved sport performance
  • Fewer work days lost to illness
  • Fewer days spent in the hospital overall

These are only a few of the many physical benefits that come from making composing a part of a student’s learning and life. Possibly the most interesting aspect of the health benefits songwriting and composing offer is that the practice of writing music doesn’t actually affect health-related behaviours like exercise, diet, or drug and alcohol use, yet it improves overall health anyway. The scientists who perform these experiments and studies will be the first to admit that they aren’t really sure why expressive musical composition has these kinds of effects on the human body, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them!

Emotional Benefits

For some reason, the science on the long-term, lasting emotional benefits of learning to compose music isn’t as well known, or even as consistent as the physical health benefits.; while some studies do account for emotional benefits, they just aren’t as constant between people. This is probably because everyone approaches the emotional aspect of composing in their own, unique way. That being said, there are a few more common effects composers and songwriters have reported to researchers:

  • Improved mood/affect
  • Better overall psychological well-being
  • Less depressive/anxiety symptoms before exams
  • Fewer post-traumatic intrusions
  • Fewer avoidance symptoms.

The first three on that list are pretty self-explanatory, as having a way to express oneself is important to overall mood and mental well-being, but the last two may require a little extrapolation. Some studies have shown that composing music can be a useful tool when dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These studies have suggested that those who participate in writing music and other expressive writing exercises report fewer stress or anxiety episodes related to their PTSD. Similarly, those who suffer from avoidance symptoms associated with several anxiety disorders report that songwriting helps them to suppress and experience fewer issues.

One kind of scientific study that is often performed is called a “meta-analysis.” This kind of study looks at all the data, information, and findings of the experiments that have come before it to find some common insights. Meta-analyses of studies dedicated to the emotional effects of composing music have shown that, for many people, the effects are significant and can be compared in magnitude to the effects of other, more involved, expensive, and time-consuming psychological interventions.

Social Benefits

In addition to your health and mental well-being, taking up the practice of composing has been shown to improve many aspects of social life as well. Unfortunately, this slice of the benefits of the “writing music” pie is even less studied than the emotional benefits, however, there are a few conclusions we can draw:

  • Quicker re-employment after job loss
  • Higher grade point average for students
  • Altered social and linguistic behaviour

Since these benefits are a bit more abstract that the previous lists, they require a little more explanation. The first comes from a study done way back in 1994. These researchers found that their participants who wrote music in their free time were able to find work again after leaving a previous job much more quickly than those who did not write. Unfortunately, their study wasn’t really equipped to look into why this was the case, leaving us to speculate. It could be because writing music keeps your mind engaged and prevents you from falling into a depressive rut. It could be that writing music keeps your confidence high, which would be something you could carry into an interview. It could be that writing music is a sort of problem-solving exercise for your brain, keeping it primed for the problem of finding a job. The fact is, we don’t know how or why, but it works.

The second benefit on this list is a bit easier to pin down. Composing music keeps a young brain engaged by forcing it to think mathematically when composing melodies and rhythms, but also creatively when searching for something that hasn’t been done before, or unique lyrics to fit the feeling they’re trying to convey. These help keep the brain active between school lessons, and indeed augment and improve upon the lessons learned.

Lastly, some studies have suggested that writing about emotionally charged topics change the very way songwriters interact with others. This could mean writing music might have a profound impact on the way writers use words and emotional themes when communicating with others. This is probably the least studied of all the benefits, but it implies that those with an intimate relationship with music are better at relating with others on an emotional and conversational level.

If you’re interested in learning to compose or write songs, you’re in luck: We’ve got a few programs that can help! Check out our Songwriting lessons, as well as our Theory, Harmony, & History lessons and classes! Get started anytime!