Music’s effect on happiness

By TerraPoole

By Jayme Hagen and Terra Poole

April 26, 2010

Ralph Pretz displays his guitar Tuesday, April 13, 2010 in his Grandin, St. Albert home where he teaches music lessons. He thinks music is an important contributor to happiness. Photo by Jayme Hagen

EDMONTON—In today’s society, a high level of importance is put on the career you choose.  A person must make money doing something but it might not necessarily be what you love.

Often times people will stop doing what they love as their careers get more stressful or they start families.

A recent study of Americans concluded that “Across America, 45 per cent of workers say they are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs,” and “Only 20 per cent feel very passionate about their jobs.

Making happiness

Ralph Pretz of St. Albert, on the other hand, has found a way to create a career out of what he loves: music.

Pretz has been playing guitar for 37 years and has been teaching guitar lessons for 30 years.

He sells life insurance by day, eight a.m. to four p.m., Monday to Friday and teaches guitar lessons by night from five p.m. to 10 p.m.

“Teaching has always been enjoyable, for me to see people progress and learn,” said Pretz.

Though the long hours may be stressful for some, it is something Pretz has a special gift for.

“I have an enormous amount of patience,” said Pretz. “It just worked out for me.”

Pretz remains active with his guitar playing not only by teaching lessons, but is currently playing with five different groups.

External Links
Music and Religion
A Link Between Music and Memory
Isolated Cultures and Western Music

Music and happiness

Pretz believes there is a correlation between music and human well-being.

“Music keeps you happy,” said Pretz.

Pretz thinks that there needs to be a balance between art and academia. The organization side (left side) of the brain benefits from having the artful side (right side) stimulated, said Pretz.

He is not alone in this thinking.

Many studies have be done trying to find a correlation between music and happiness.

According to a recent study, ”Happy music, usually featuring a fast tempo and written in a major key, can cause a person to breathe faster, a physical sign of happiness….Similarly, sad music, which tends to be in the minor keys and very slow, causes a slowing of the pulse and a rise in blood pressure.”

Though it is difficult to find a direct correlation between happiness and anything, Pretz says he can’t imagine a life without music and if he wasn’t being paid for it, he’d still have to find a way to play.

“[Music] would have to be somewhere in there,” said Pretz. “I’m too attatched to it.”

Regrets and happiness

Pretz said he had some regrets about not touring with a band when he was younger. Pretz said that touring with a band would have meant relocating to Vancouver or Toronto. Decisions and sacrifices had to be made, said Pretz, something he was unwilling to do.

Some of these sacrifices included:

  • living out of a suitcase
  • not having a family
  • having to be single
  • putting strains on family relations

However, he also said he didn’t have regrets because he is able to incorporate his music into his everyday life, something Pretz feels is really important for happiness.

Happiness at home

Pretz is still able to compose and write music from his own home, something he has been doing for years.

“I have musical fragments that go back decades,” said Pretz. “Cassette tapes, recorders… some finished, some unfinished.”

He said he has some sitting on shelves that he has long forgotten about and some he still uses with his bands. He believes writing is an important part of being happy. To Pretz, it’s not about the fame, it’s just the music that makes him happy.

Pretz’s wife, Crystal Hanson, has also made a career out of music by teaching singing lessons most afternoons. Music is an everyday part of their home.

“It’s full of music, everyday,” said Pretz.

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