Music is science.
Music is mathematical.
Music is a language.
Music is history.
Music is physical education.
Music develops insight & critical thinking.
Music induces research.
Music is all of those things, but most of all music is art.
It allows a human being to take all these areas of skill and ability modalities and use them to create emotion. That is one thing that science cannot duplicate: humanism, feeling, emotion, call it what you will.
That is Why We Teach Music!
Not because we expect you to major in music;
Not because we expect you to play an instrument or sing all your life;
Not so you can relax, not so you can have fun;
But so you will be...human.
Music can benefit your child in many areas – language, maths, concentration and social skills, just to name a few! So whether or not your child learns a musical instrument, try to expose your child to music as much as possible and enjoy the many benefits!
Studies in neuroscience show that music can enhance brain function in children. Musical activities (such as playing an instrument, singing or just listening to music) stimulate the brain, and this brain workout leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections.
Studies also show that young children who participate in music classes have improved speech development and learn to read more easily. Learning music helps to develop the left side of the brain (related to language and reasoning), assists with sound recognition, and teaches rhythm and rhyme. Songs can also help children remember information (just think of the Alphabet song!).
Music can help with the development of maths skills. By listening to musical beats your child can learn basic fractions, pattern-recognition and problem solving. Children who study music also have improved spatial intelligence and ability to form mental pictures of objects – skills that are important for more advanced mathematics.
Recent studies have shown that people who are musically trained have better working memory skills, helping them to remember things even while their minds are busy with other matters – important aspects of mental arithmetic and reading comprehension. Learning music also requires significant levels of concentration, training children to focus their attention for sustained periods.
Just like playing sports, playing and dancing to music helps children develop their motor skills. Making music involves more than the voice or fingers; you also use ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, all at the same time. This helps the body and the mind work together.
Learning music teaches children to work towards short-term goals, develop routine and practice self-discipline. Setting aside regular time for practice develops commitment and patience. Mastering a new piece of music leads to a sense of pride and achievement, and helps children to learn the value of self-discipline.
Making music with other people (like in a band or choir) improves children’s social and emotional skills. They learn to work together as a team and develop their sense of empathy with others. Researchers have found that when children play music together – from simple rhythms to larger group performances – they are better able to tune into other people’s emotions.
Music can give children a way to express themselves, to unleash their creativity, to be inspired and uplifted, to relax, and to relieve stress and tension. Just think about listening to a beautiful piece of classical music, singing along to a favourite song with friends, or dancing to a great song on the radio – music can make your heart sing!
With all these benefits, try to expose your child to music as much as possible – listen to music together, sing songs, play rhythm games, go to concerts or make your own instruments together. Your local library, community centre or music society may offer music programs for kids. If your child wants to learn a musical instrument, your options may include a school music program, private music teachers, and group music activities such as choirs, recorder groups and bands.
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.
Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.
“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.
“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.
According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.
This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”
Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.
In fact, a study led by Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College, and Gottfried Schlaug, professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, found changes in the brain images of children who underwent 15 months of weekly music instruction and practice. The students in the study who received music instruction had improved sound discrimination and fine motor tasks, and brain imaging showed changes to the networks in the brain associated with those abilities, according to the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research.
Research has also found a causal link between music and spatial intelligence, which means that understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together, like they would do when solving a math problem.
“We have some pretty good data that music instruction does reliably improve spatial-temporal skills in children over time,” explains Pruett, who helped found the Performing Arts Medicine Association. These skills come into play in solving multistep problems one would encounter in architecture, engineering, math, art, gaming, and especially working with computers.
A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts. Johnson compares the concentration that music training requires to the focus needed to perform well on a standardized test.
Aside from test score results, Johnson’s study highlights the positive effects that a quality music education can have on a young child’s success. Luehrisen explains this psychological phenomenon in two sentences: “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music and arts teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”
And it doesn’t end there: along with better performance results on concentration-based tasks, music training can help with basic memory recall. “Formal training in music is also associated with other cognitive strengths such as verbal recall proficiency,” Pruett says. “People who have had formal musical training tend to be pretty good at remembering verbal information stored in memory.”
Music can improve your child’ abilities in learning and other nonmusical tasks, but it’s important to understand that music does not make one smarter. As Pruett explains, the many intrinsic benefits to music education include being disciplined, learning a skill, being part of the music world, managing performance, being part of something you can be proud of, and even struggling with a less than perfect teacher.
“It’s important not to oversell how smart music can make you,” Pruett says. “Music makes your kid interesting and happy, and smart will come later. It enriches his or her appetite for things that bring you pleasure and for the friends you meet.” While parents may hope that enrolling their child in a music program will make her a better student, the primary reasons to provide your child with a musical education should be to help them become more musical, to appreciate all aspects of music, and to respect the process of learning an instrument or learning to sing, which is valuable on its own merit.
“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”
“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.” – George Eliot
Instinctually, intuitively, we know that music makes life better.
For millennia, humans have used music to soothe our souls and comfort pain. Parents worldwide sing lullabies to the young and mark special occasions such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings with song. We rely on music to help us power through workouts and tackle tasks we’d rather ignore, and we manipulate our moods with melodies.
Music is so deeply woven into the fabric of our being, in fact, that it can help us connect with those who have suffered significant cognitive loss. Some nearly non-communicative people with Alzheimer’s disease sing along and engage in conversation when music from their youth is played. Former dancers’ bodies move instinctually to familiar tunes, even though activities of daily living now challenge their coordination.
How does music elicit such a powerful effect on the mind?
Listening to (or making) music increases blood flow to brain regions that generate and control emotions.2 The limbic system, which is involved in processing emotions and controlling memory, “lights” up when our ears perceive music.
The chills you feel when you hear a particularly moving piece of music may be the result of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers sensations of pleasure and well-being. As your brain becomes familiar with a particular song, your body may release dopamine upon hearing just the first few notes of the song. Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to associate food with a ringing bell – and eventually began drooling at the sound of a bell, even when no food was in sight – our bodies actively anticipate pleasure upon hearing familiar notes.
Interestingly, music can affect our mood even if we can’t recognize or replicate the notes and rhythm. Science has documented numerous instances of people who suffered brain injuries and lost their ability to distinguish melodies but retained the ability to recognize the emotion conveyed by music. Researchers noted that these patients had sustained damage to the temporal lobes of the brain, a region involved in comprehending melody; their frontal lobes, which play a role in emotional regulation, were unaffected.
Music is complex; it involves pitch, timbre, rhythm, dynamics and so much more. Decoding music is quite a task for the brain, as it must “integrate the sequentially ordered sounds into a coherent musical perception,” according to an article published in the Journal of Biology.
The mental processes involved in knitting individual sounds together into the overall perception of a song is quite similar to the process the brain goes through in reading, which involves first recognizing individual letters and sounds and then ultimately gleaning meaning from sentences and paragraphs. Working memory is involved in both processes, and scientists believe there’s a great deal of overlap between working memory for musical stimuli and for verbal stimuli.
Emotions, of course, enhance memory. Most adults can still recall every word of the songs they loved in high school – largely because adolescence is a time of heightened emotion. (The fact that most of us played those songs over and over also helps!)
Evidence suggests that listening to music may help brain cells process information more efficiently and may facilitate the brain’s ability to adapt. According to a study published in the scientific journal Brain, adults who suffered a stroke and listened to music daily experienced significantly greater gains in verbal memory and cognition after two months than stroke survivors who listened to audio books and those who didn’t listen to either music or books on a daily basis.
Women listen to music when in labor, and loved ones frequently play music while sitting with family members who are close to death. The pain-relieving tendencies have music has been ascribed to music’s ability to distract; when our minds are focused on a beloved melody, we don’t notice our aching back quite as much. Music also increases overall feelings of well-being (thank you, dopamine!), which may decrease pain perception.
Some scientists suspect that music’s effect on the physical body, though, may be at least partially rooted in the fact that sound waves are ultimately vibrations. Vibroacoustic therapy uses low frequency sound to produce vibrations that are applied directly to the body. At least seven scientific studies have shown improvement in motor function in individuals with cerebral palsy treated with vibroacoustic therapy.
It may take scientists years to fully untangle music’s actions in the brain. Thankfully, we can enjoy music’s benefits without fully understanding the science.
The workout, that the brain gets during mindful practice, makes it more efficient.
Most of us have heard that learning music builds a better brain and indeed, there have been lots of comparative studies over the years, to show that children who have had music lessons from an early age do better in school than peers who don’t do music.
So, how does music build a better brain?
Playing a string instrument is thought to be the most complex activity known to mankind and an ideal vehicle for improving all round ability. The whole brain is activated, co-ordinating the maintenance of good posture, fine motor control and large movements, with right and left hands performing different activities at the same time. Memory, listening ability and kinaesthetic sense are needed, in order to judge and adjust tone, pitch and rhythm. Seeing and interpreting the musical score, evaluating and thinking ahead are all vital. All of this is going on, while the player is involved in the emotional and aesthetic process of telling a story.
As for wind instrumentalists, It is also worth considering that 80 to 90% of the brain’s motor control is devoted to the hands, mouth and throat. By developing fine control in those areas, a child is stimulating the entire brain. Pianists have to cope additionally with reading and performing several melodies at once.
The right hemisphere of the brain is specifically excited, when listening to melodies, or playing by ear, whereas the left hemisphere is stimulated, when reading and understanding musical scores. It is not surprising that those who learn a musical instrument before the age of 7, develop a larger and more efficient corpus callosum (the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain).
Yes, but HOW does music build a better, more efficient brain?
Our brains are composed of Grey Matter, nerve fibres, or Neurones which carry electrical messages and White Matter or Myelin, which is a special insulating fat. Myelin helps electrical impulses to travel fast and stops the electricity from leaking out of the neurones.
Myelin is therefore crucial to learning. EVERY time a nerve is fired, for ANY reason, little fat producing cells, called Oligodendrocytes, wrap themselves round the neurones and leave behind a microscopic layer of fat. With repeated firing, the fat layer round the nerve becomes thicker and thicker, till the little neural pathway has been transformed into a super fast highway.
Warning! Think before you practise!! More myelin is wrapped round EVERY neural circuit EVERY time it fires, even if the firing is causing you to play a wrong note or think a negative thought. Only disease and ageing can cause a well myelinated circuit to break down. It is a sobering fact, that you can’t dismantle a “wrong” myelinated skill; you have to build a “correct” replacement highway, which is miles better than the old one. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of doing. So, when learning any skill, it will save you a lot of time, energy and heartache if you stop and prepare carefully before acting.
It’s not just an accident that Suzuki stated that “Knowledge is not a skill. Knowledge plus 10,000 repetitions is a skill.” So, Music builds a better brain, does it? Not unless the 10,000 repetitions are correct!
There are hundreds of easy strategies that you can use to help your child to learn how to practise in a way that stimulates brain growth. Have a look at https://www.musicinpractice.com/grand-practice-adventure/ and find out how to have a great time achieving those 10,000 correct repetitions together.
Learning an instrument develops the whole person!
Have you ever wondered what your children could get from learning a musical instrument?
They could become very good at playing your instrument, but did you know that that’s just a tiny part of it?
Here’s just a little of what they can gain from instrumental lessons.
1 Aesthetic appreciation: Music lessons help them build a sensitivity to beauty, discover how to create beauty in our lives and develop a lifelong love of music.
2 Better brain and nervous system: Practicing strengthens the neural circuits.
3 Bounce back from disappointments: Learning an instrument can be difficult and frustrating. Music lessons help them have to learn to pick yourself up and start again.
4 Cooperation: They will learn to respect teachers and peers through making music together during their music lessons.
5 Criticism: They will become better at accepting and learning from criticism. Whether you like it or not, one form or another, this is definitely a regular feature of music lessons.
6 Dealing with frustration by learning problem solving skills: This is another ever-present feature of music lessons.
7 Enhanced coordination: Music lessons teach fine motor skills and good hand eye coordination.
8 Focus and concentration and the ability to listen and imitate: Playing a musical instrument is complicated and requires an unusual amount of focus. They will learn strategies to empower them to do several things, with ease, at the same time.
9 Goal setting: Managing a project effectively and developing the ability to meet deadlines are taught, by getting pieces ready for performance.
10 Memory skills: If they are a Suzuki student, you will know what this is all about.
11 Observation: Learning to target and improve on weaknesses is essential if you want to improve your ability.
12 Patience: The ability to stay calmer and more centered certainly helps when you are doing something as complicated as learning an instrument.
13 Perseverance/Endurance: Practice teaches you that you need to keep working if you want to get results from your music lessons.
14 Positive experiences: If you imprint the golden moments of learning and playing music on your mind, you will build a treasure chest of good memories to help you through tough moments.
15 Problem Solving: Music lessons teach how you to break any large problems, encountered in learning, into small achievable steps.
16 Self-evaluation: This is an essential skill which a musician needs to learn.
17 Self-confidence: Playing an instrument will give them poise and a power to present themselves and to capture attention in public:
18 Self-discipline: During music lessons and practice sessions, they will learn how to work, even if they don’t particularly feel like it:
19 Self-expression: You will develop their unique voice.
20 Self-worth: This is linked linked to undertaking and successfully reaching targets.
21 Working together: Because of their music lessons they will be able to make music and work with a peer group who will remain friends for life.
22 Sensitivity to Feeling & Emotions: This is what making music is all about.
23 Values: Music lessons and focused practice will teach them to learn to strive for mastery.
24 Widen horizons: As they continue to grow through music practice, they will learn to recognize possibilities and opportunities develop an “I can do it” mindset.
25 Music creates noble human beings: It was Suzuki’s intention not just to produce able musicians, but to produce noble human beings, fine, mindful, and compassionate young adults who will do much for the planet on which we live. Who wouldn’t want this for their children?
In listing 25 reasons for learning an instrument, I haven’t even mentioned that making music is actually great fun. If you are thinking of music lessons for your children, you will be getting much more than you ever bargained for.