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Music is way too fun to leave to the pros

MAYBE some music teacher told you that you were tone-deaf, and you never sang in public again.

Perhaps you were such a great musician in your youth that your inner perfectionist shudders at the thought of the sounds you might make today. Or maybe you have always wanted to learn an instrument but fear that it is too late.

To all the adults out there who are not making music regularly, you are missing out on one of life's great pleasures, said Amy Nathan, author of Making Time for Making Music. For many adult musicians, playing music is like a mini-vacation, she said.

"Once you start playing, a calmness comes over you. You're not writing the shopping list, or thinking about the problem at the office. It's a totally engrossing experience," she added. "You can't worry about other things when you're doing music."

Ms Nathan would know. In the course of writing her book, which came out in May, she interviewed more than 350 amateur adult musicians, from occasional choristers to seriously dedicated violinists, and they pretty much all said that playing music is a deeply meaningful and rewarding part of their lives.

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"People get so many different things out of it - a sense of community, professional contacts - but most of all, they just enjoy the experience," she said.

If that hasn't convinced you to play music, do it for your brain: Research shows that musicians - including adults who just started playing - score better than non-musicians on tests of executive function, an all-purpose cognitive ability that includes problem-solving and planning. Plus, emerging research suggests that playing music could actually delay the onset of dementia, Ms Nathan noted.

So what stops people from playing music? In her book, Ms Nathan covers every possible hang-up and logistical problem. Worried about bothering the neighbours? Try no-noise instruments or gadgets, like a trumpet mute that connects to headphones.

Concerned about the cost of lessons? Teach yourself through YouTube videos or consider low-cost group lessons with other adults.

Mr Nathan tipped us off to one more secret: Amateurs may not be the best musicians around, but they are having the most fun. "You can play whatever you want, entirely on your own terms," she said. WP

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