La-Ti-Dovakhin – Level Up with the Power of Music – Guest Post


You know the feeling: The first few notes of your favorite video game theme come on, and you’re whisked away from wherever you were to the fantasy realm of choice, or to the countless memories from childhood to even earlier today as you saved princesses, solved puzzles, and experienced any number of fantastic stories and worlds. Music is one of the ways that we can easily celebrate our favorite game or movie at any time. Enjoyed passively, it can be a stirring trip down memory lane, or the motivator to get chores done, but enjoyed actively, through the learning of an instrument, it can be one of the most rewarding celebrations of nerddom, and a wonderful journey in itself.

Nothing more sad than a group of blocks, that just want to be free...
Oh crap, it’s the “Thomas was Alone” soundtrack again…

The impact it can have on your brain and way of life is concrete. It builds good habits, builds your self esteem, and instills in you a constant drive to better yourself by learning to play a wider and wider range of music. It is also a full-brain workout, utilizing every part of your brain, which keeps you mentally limber as you traverse the years, leveling up in life.


As paintings are to 2D space, and sculptures are to 3D, music is a painting of the experience of time itself. Any experience in your life, when painted with the brush of a memorable piece of music, can be encapsulated in your mind, ready to spring to the forefront at moments notice, sensory inputs and muscle memory transcribed in the notes like ink upon the tapestry. Listening to music improves our creativity, memory, and mood. The effects only grow when we decide to take it to the next level. Painting time with our own hands.

It's like fingerpainting, but less goopy.
Pictured: a very talented musician.

It’s true, we live in an age where learning to make high quality music can be achieved relatively easily. A few weeks of learning the programs Logic, ProTools, or even less costly programs can allow one to pump out catchy tunes. So why learn an instrument?

Well…why do we still enjoy plays? Why are live shows often more enjoyable than the recording?

Video game analogies aside for a second, the bond between you and your audience is a unique feeling. Strong, invisible, and mysterious, like dark matter holding up the universe. With the instrument as your brush, you paint the lives of not only those around you, but even more so, your own. With a steady hand, and worked precision, what may have been a blank slate of uncertainty adapts colors and depth, becoming something you are proud to put on display for the world to see. Along with the joy that people find with the improving of any technical skill, like cosplay or woodwork, makes learning an instrument one of the most fulfilling single, or multiplayer experiences available.

OK, game on.


Like any habit, the more you repeat a task, the more likely you are to keep doing it. Learning an instrument takes time, but in most cases, it’s the repeated setting apart of time that is more important than the actual duration. Playing an instrument for 15 minutes a day is far more useful than getting out a couple hours once a week. As soon as you start getting into routine, a surprising thing happens: You end up using the rest of your time more wisely. Parkinson’s law[1] states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion, and as you fill time with something that is both productive and fun, like an instrument, instead of idly browsing your phone, you will feel the drive to complete the things in your life you need to do. You may find yourself starting other habits, such as keeping your place tidy, or keeping in contact with friends, and before you know it, your quest log starts filling up, and so does your experience bar.

As you continue learning your instrument with structure and purpose, every goal you reach comes with an regular boost of self esteem. The feeling of work and effort passed, gaining more technical skill feels better than any level up in any video game ever, with the exception of maybe Dark Souls. Dexterity and mental stamina boosts manifest themselves in little ways throughout your day, such as improved memory and focus, and with it you feel more confident and competent. More and more doors may become unlocked to you as you move around the world, your skill shining beyond words. Of course, you may choose to keep your skill to yourself, and that’s perfectly swell, a secret smile that you yourself only know. You’ll stand straighter, and act surer.

This man is breaking into a house. He must have pirated music.
This man pirates music.

Each song becomes a new level, every phrase an obstacle or an enemy, culminating in a boss at the end. But as you make your way through, tackling each measure and key change, you may look back and be surprised at the “Undertale-ean” twist to see that the enemies have become your friends. The rhythms and notes that gave you such grief, to the point of deconstructing the very wiring of your brain, just so you can reassemble the pieces, only made you stronger. When you finally arrive at the boss, it is not defeated, but met, becoming a new companion to back you up as you make your way to the next level.


It is never too late to start, and despite what you may have previously thought, you didn’t have to be an early adopter, or even know how to carry a tune. You can choose to specialize in one class, or dabble in a little bit of everything. There is infinite replayability, and if you decide to try out the multiplayer, the effects on your life are compounded as you sync up with people in ways that come only behind piloting a Jaeger, or teaming up with a friend in Dance Dance Revolution.

For further information on the multitude of effects of music listening, please check out this article. For further information about the effects of music playing, I recommend this video by Ted-Ed, and if you’re thoroughly convinced you’re beyond hope, this article on Tone-deafness and this NPR article on “Never too Late to Learn”, should only continue to convince you otherwise. For the structure for proper practicing, Noa Kageyama of Bulletproof Musician, has a great article about the use of time in practice.

As for a starting instrument? My personal recommendation is the ocarina, or, love it and hate it, the Ukulele.

Legend of Lilo: The Ukulele of Ohana
Legend of Lilo: The Ukulele of Ohana

This post was written by Phillip Stucker of

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