The Life-Saving Effects of Music Making

A pastor playing a Yamaha Clavinova.

Barry Bitman, MD, the president and CEO of the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute is currently leading some of the most extensive research to date on the health benefits of playing music. His research team has found that music can lead to reduced stress and a stronger immune system. Recreational music-making modulates natural killer cell activity in the body, a marker of immune response and has been shown to reverse stress at the DNA level according to the Medical Science Monitor. Recreational music-making is defined, by Yamaha, by music-based activities that unite people of all ages and music experience. According to Dr. Bittman, only 7.6% of adults in the U.S. play a musical instrument, and it is his wish that playing instruments be encouraged among adults and in health care settings. Recreational music-making provides exercise, social support, spirituality, intellectual stimulation, and unites the body, mind and spirit. This could especially be beneficial for seniors, as playing an instrument has also been found to “improve mood, lower blood pressure, and affect the course of many diseases including cancer and heart disease.”

Dr. Bittman began his career as a mainstream neurologist but has taken on a more collaborative and holistic approach to helping people. In the early 1990s, he studied laughter's effects on the immune system and since then has focused on ways people can take a more active role in their health and well-being. Dr. Bittman's first study into music and wellness was in 2001 when he identified drumming's positive effects on natural killer cell activity.

The goal is not to teach music but rather to enable non-music players to play music without much prior experience. Yamaha's Clavinova is a digital piano that samples sounds from actual instruments allowing users to recreate full orchestras complete with flutes, trumpets, and saxophones. In a study observing the usage of the Clavinova, researchers found a positive impact on attentiveness, active participation, socialization, positive mood, contentment, and meaningful self-expression in 550 seniors living in long-term care centres. Even with stressed students, the Clavinova demonstrated reduced burnout, improved mood states, and decreased attrition in 75 first-year nursing students. In this case, each acute care hospital saved a projected #322,000 for a combined $1.5 billion annually for the health-care industry.

Currently, the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute is evaluating the impact of recreational music on cardiovascular disease such as cancer and heart disease while analyzing the entire human genome. Dr. Bittman also hopes to learn more about the role of music as an effective stress reducer for people facing life-threatening illnesses. He believes that everyone is innately musical and that we should all realize our capacity for making music at some point in our lives.


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1 Responses to “The Life-Saving Effects of Music Making”

  1. msbrizard says:

    Interesting to think about and fascinating that Yamaha has taken up such research. Years ago in a different country we designed workshops in the fields of music, writing, acting and such and brought it to those in hospitals, shelters day centers and the like. It is cool to see that this subject has been continued and furthered by a company well established in the industry.On a parallel note it has beena tuning fork that has been used medically to discover certain types of deafness. It is always nice to see the arts and sciences interrelate in benevolence on the subject of health.


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