By Shelby Brooks

AS some people have discovered, picking up an instrument they haven’t played in years can have a positive influence on mood and emotions during self-isolation.

Peter Wilkinson of North Wonthaggi shared with the Sentinel-Times that he had picked up his acoustic guitar again for the first time in a number of years.

The 72-year-old said boredom from self-isolation led to the rediscovery of his guitar and he has since completed beginner lessons on YouTube.

“It really keeps my brain and memory function active,” he said.

“Music can bring back memories some good, some bad.

“As someone once said, ‘Music can sooth the savage beast’ and it is helping me keep sane during this time of isolation.

“I like to say I play guitar because I like it, not because I’m good at it.”

And Peter isn’t alone in believing that music can help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Music is one of the most powerful influences on human mood and behaviour, according to Australian Catholic University Professor of Music Tim McKenry.

“People are self-medicating with music because they can feel it making a difference,” Professor McKenry said.

“Music helps us process and express emotions which is particularly important at a time when we are experiencing so much change and uncertainty.”

Professor McKenry said the greatest benefits from music were gained by participation – but you don’t have to be an expert musician: just connecting with the rhythm and melody helps.

“When people sing, dance or play together, that creates a sense of well-being and connectedness,” he said.

“At this time of social isolation, we can magnify the connections we are able to have – whether by having family music time or by connecting with neighbours, as Italians have demonstrated so beautifully by singing from their balconies.”

Music also provides intellectual and physical stimulation which is important for those whose usual work, study, interests, and exercise have been curtailed.

“If you use this time to develop your musical skills, it can make these difficult months much more productive and have long-lasting positive impacts,” Professor McKenry said.