How Learning the Cello Helps My Design Work

Five years ago, I impulsively took up the cello. It’s a complicated instrument and not easy to learn. But I’ve always admired it’s sound so I made the commitment to give it a try and I’m still at it today.

The benefits of learning and playing an instrument are numerous. According to an article in Inc. Magazine on the topic, they include strengthened memory and reading skills, superior multi-sensory skills, increased blood flow to the brain, increased energy, reduced stress and strengthened executive function.

Personally, I believe it’s benefitted my design work in the following ways:

Physical Rest and Reset

I spend hours each day scrutinizing objects on a glowing screen. Stepping away and shifting focus to developing my ear and fine motor skills allows me to rest and recharge my eyes, stretch my wrists and fingers, and shift my posture so I can return to my desk chair physically recharged.

A Brain Break

When facing a challenging project, my mind keeps working at it even when I step away from Creative Suite. Picking up my cello forms a hard stop. Playing a stringed instrument as an amateur requires focus. Multi-tasking means finding the right finger positions on the strings while finding the right position, speed and pressure with the bow. You cannot stew over a complicated layout or brainstorm campaign ideas while trying to play. Or at least I can’t. After focusing on the notes, tempo and dynamics of a piece of music for a while, I can return to a design project reinvigorated and ready to focus. And sometimes with a new approach to a problem that has dogged me.

Persistence & Patience

Learning to read music is like learning a new language. It’s incredibly satisfying to look at a new piece for the first time with no idea what it sounds like and slowly translate the notes into sound – and eventually through practice, a pleasing sound. Playing the cello has increased my patience and persistence. I know I won’t play it perfectly the first time, but if I practice and put the time in, I know it will get better and better. Additionally, developing persistence and patience has directly benefited my troubleshooting ability with technical issues – especially working in complicated WordPress websites and with video editing software. And it’s helped when working on html/CSS.

And finally,

It looks good on zoom calls.

My cello sits behind my desk within range of my camera. It’s something out of the ordinary and sometimes it’s a nice ice-breaker to chat about with clients. I’m shy and rarely play for anyone besides my instructor and my dogs. At first, the shyness extended to talking about it but it’s something I sink time into and I’m proud that I’ve made it my hobby. The time I spend learning the instrument definitely provides benefits beyond the sound it produces.

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