Many band teachers will be happy to recount all of the ways that playing an instrument will make you smarter, but are they really true? Of course! Many studies have been done that show music education expediting learning in other subjects and boosting abilities that are sure to be used in everyday life (Brown 2).
One of these studies was published by the Psychology of Music journal. It found that playing an instrument can improve reading and comprehension skills because of the music making process. In order to play a song, notes have to be read, the name of the note must be recognized, converted into the finger position or slide, and comprehend how much air is needed for a particular section (Matthews 2). Because math is used in every measure of music, playing an instrument can greatly benefit anyone’s math skills. Division, fractions, counting and pattern recognition are all math skills needed to play an instrument, and which can be improved by learning to play scales, reading time signatures, and counting beats and rhythms (Kwan 1). Music education can be especially beneficial in young children because it helps one learn to distinguish different sounds, pitches and frequencies, which plays an integral part in improving linguistic performance for everyday listening tasks and when learning a foreign language (Wilcox 2).
Another study done by the University of Toronto in Mississauga found that the average IQ of six year olds went up three points after they took music lessons for nine months, versus no increase in IQ in the control group of children who had no music lessons (Brown 2). Not only did music education improve IQ, the University of Kansas has proven that playing an instrument improves standardized test scores. Christopher Johnson, a professor at the Uni. f Kansas, said this was because standardized test require a similar focus and concentration that goes along with playing an instrument. Their study showed that students who participated in music education scored around 20 percent higher in math and English test than those who did not.
A study by Boston College suggest that the root of the improvement academic areas due to music education was due to the stimulation and development of the brain that developed and changed networks of neurons in the brain involved with making music (Brown 3). Not only does music education benefit people academically but physically too! Some of the skills that you gain when learning a musical instrument will reap immediate benefits, such as using each finger on both hands to do something different and using you mouth to breath and play all at the same time increases fine motor control and coordination (Cole 3). Percussion, in particular, is very beneficial in increasing these areas as it requires constant movement of hands, arms, feet; you name it. Other instruments, such as saxophone, flute, violin, and a variety of others, help to develop ambidexterity and may help children become used to trying things that may at first seem uncomfortable (Kwan 1). Besides improving coordination, playing a musical instrument has other serious benefits towards one’s health.
According to Suzanne Hanser from Berklee College of Music Education in Boston, researchers have shown that playing an instrument may lower blood pressure, reduce stress, decrease heart rate, lessen anxiety and depression, and enhance the body’s immunological response (Cicetti 2). Music education has also been proven to help decrease the effects of aging on the body’s ability to hear. A study done by Nina Kraus at Northwestern University in Illinois has tested 44 individuals ages 55-76 by measuring electrical activity in the brain related to hearing the syllable “da”, and she found that individuals who had three or more years of music education responded the most quickly (Cole 5). Her study is important because it shows that although hearing declines with age, music education can slow down the process immensely (Dye 2). Besides academic and physical benefits, there are also many mental benefits related to the brain and aging that go along with learning a musical instrument.
Some simple mental benefits of learning an instrument include the ability to focus on the task on hand and the future at the same time, the ability to bring together different ideas into one product, problem solving, creativity, discipline, focus, and concentration (Lipman 1). One very important skill learned is the power of perseverance. Because musicians can’t play every piece of music perfectly the first time through, music education benefits people by teaching them that you need to keep practicing in order to become good at something (Matthews 1). As more is being researched about diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimers, and more people are being properly diagnosed there has been an increase in people trying to keep the brain as healthy as the body.
John Carpente, founder and director of the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in New York, said he believes that music is one of the most engaging and emotionally powerful stimuli and believes it helps people emerge from self inflicted isolation that comes with the Alzheimers disease (Cicetti 2). “Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging. Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive decline as we get older,” said Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, a researcher at the Uni. of Kansas Medical Center. So next time when a music educator or any music student tries to convince you that all the people that don’t play a musical instrument are worse off, take their words into consideration and pick up an instrument. It’s never too late to learn an instrument, and the academic, physical and mental benefits you gain will be well worth it.
Cicetti, Fred. “Follow on Facebook. ” LiveScience. com.
TechMedia Network, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. .
Dye, Lee. “Playing Music Protects Memory, Hearing, Brain Processing. ” ABC News. ABC News Network, 1 Feb.
2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. . Lewis Brown, Laura.
“The Benefits of Music Education. ” PBS Parents. PBS, n. d. Web. 20 Mar.