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Education

The Benefits of Music Education

A boy getting a piano lessonWhether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.

More Than Just Music
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.

Language Development
“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.”

Increased IQ
A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.

The Brain Works Harder
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.

Spatial-Temporal Skills
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.

Improved Test Scores
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.”

Being Musical
Music can improve your child’ abilities in learning and other nonmusic 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 have 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.”

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  • jewjd

    hi

  • Dandre Geddes

    hey this is so true

  • http://www.facebook.com/hannah.m.weber Hannah Weber

    this is a great article. very informative.

    • Zack Wheeler

      really though

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  • dvi4@cdc.gov

    This article states “Recent Studies” and makes vague allusions to causality. I challenge the authors and web managers of this page and PBS — to Do Better! Don’t just reference vague studies. That’s not supporting your hypothesis — a skill we are supposed to demand as parents and teach our children!
    I challenge this author of this page & PBS to provide research studies that show — actual empirical evidence that music helps the brain. Not Correlational Evidence either. Causal Evidence. I.E. Not just that we played kids music -=- and they developed! Yippie! But that doesn’t show exactly what part Music played in that.
    For example — Pythagorus said “Music is math made audible”. Prove it. It’s not hard. You can show qualitatively how giving a child 4 bars of music, is in effect helping them acquire the concept of a number line and integers. Or harmonics helps children acquire integrated reasoning. ** But you have to show clearly — that music had that effect! Come on PBS! You can do better than … “Research Shows”

    • MusicMom

      Cereb Cortex. 2012 Dec 12. [Epub ahead of print]

      Twelve Months of Active Musical Training in 8- to 10-Year-Old Children Enhances the Preattentive Processing of Syllabic Duration and Voice Onset Time.

      Chobert J, François C, Velay JL, Besson M.

      Source

      Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives, CNRS – Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille Cedex 3, France.

      Abstract

      Musical training has been shown to positively influence linguistic abilities. To follow the developmental dynamics of this transfer effect at the preattentive level, we conducted a longitudinal study over 2 school years with nonmusician children randomly assigned to music or to painting training. We recorded the mismatch negativity (MMN), a cortical correlate of preattentive mismatch detection, to syllables that differed in vowel frequency, vowel duration, and voice onset time (VOT), using a test-training-retest procedure and 3 times of testing: before training, after 6 months and after 12 months of training. While no between-group differences were found before training, enhanced preattentive processing of syllabic duration and VOT, as reflected by greater MMN amplitude, but not of frequency, was found after 12 months of training in the music group only. These results demonstrate neuroplasticity in the child brain and suggest that active musical training rather than innate predispositions for music yielded the improvements in musically trained children. These results also highlight the influence of musical training for duration perception in speech and for the development of phonological representations in normally developing children. They support the importance of music-based training programs for children’s education and open new remediation strategies for children with language-based learning impairments.

      • Kim

        It is obvious that the point if the article is not to focus solely on the scientific evidence of benefit that music education has on the brain, though that makes a good argument as well. I appreciate that this author suggests that music stands on its own two feet and is part of the human condition. Music is in our culture and our surroundings in numerous ways. When we don’t become musical beings, even to the mildest degree, we alienate ourselves from much of the cultural ritual and tradition that defines our nation’s fabric. Can you sing the national anthem? Can you sing along in church? Can you join in music-making at the holidays? Can you discriminate between quality, sophisticated, artful music and mediocre fluff that is made only to make a quick buck? Do you understand the ways in which music was/is used in cultural identification and participation? I could go on and cite hundreds of sources from the ethnomusicological and psychological standpoint but the point is that music is a part of life and should not be left out of the human experience. If and when it is, it will truly redefine us as a people who care more about numbers, data, competition, success and failure instead of beauty, community, tradition and historical identity. The arts tell a story and allow us to keep doing the same. I don’t need scientific data to prove that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.r.goggin Dawn R Goggin

      If you need evidence just ask a teacher of ANY subject which of her students have had musical training. It is so obvious in every aspect–behavior, concentration, awareness, listening skills, memory, etc. And to Brad up there, I suppose you think sports are a more worthy area of spending? Again, ask a teacher! (Former teacher)

    • Beetzart

      So go publish something about it, guy.

    • http://www.harmonymusic.in Upendra Laxmeshwar

      Every single thing on this, cannot be proved.. Can you prove there is God ? Or there is no God ? Can you prove Love ? In the same way, the benefits of learning music need not be proved. They are there for you to see and observe…..over time.

    • Sarah

      The science is well documented. Try a Google search and you’ll find plenty of such evidence. I like people citing their ideas too, but this one – music enabling brains to learn better – has been a truism many have known and studied. It’s up to you to know the way to research and learn. It is nice to have the road paved, but when it’s not, when it’s only pointed to, you need to be able to build it yourself.

    • Brenda

      I recommend looking into the research done by Canadian Laurel Trainor. She is collecting empirical data. http://www.psychology.mcmaster.ca/ljt/

  • Brad

    For 99% of students involved in music enrichment programs (Band, Chorus, Orchestra), creating music will be nothing more than a recreational activity. For this reason it is absurd that most public school systems spend incredible amounts of money on these programs. I agree there are individual benefits to music education and participation, however this should not come at the burden of tax payers.

    • AngryDoc

      Good thing that nobody ever wasted any school funds teaching you critical thinking.

    • http://www.facebook.com/heidi.katherine Heidi Katherine

      By your reasoning we should also cut all sports programs…And all math classes above basic math. Oh, and science classes beyond basic life science. And who really needs to learn more than one language… all Foreign Language classes should be cut. Yep, absurd.

      • Priscilla

        Great point! =)

    • Malia

      Yeah, seriously Brad, I don’t recall using Trigonometry with Discrete Math and Pre-Calc, should we stop teaching that in school as well? Actually, I guess I did use Trigonometry once – recreationally – when I was painting a landscape. Here is the truth. Say we only retain 10% of what we are taught in high school. That 10% hangs out in the back of our minds and works together to hopefully give us an ounce or two of critical thinking skills and common sense. You can’t have common sense with out some sort of basic foundation of common knowledge. Music plays a part of that – arguably as much as algebra II, which as I mentioned, I have only used recreationally. People with out those essential building blocks might get by ok – but my guess is that those are going to be the kind of people in the news who thought it would be fun to try “surfing” on top of their car on the highway, or didn’t know they were pregnant until they were giving birth, or put kool-aide in the gas tank to see if it would work.

    • Sue D’Nem

      Musical skills are critical life skills that one will engage in throughout life. If one does not learn these skills in school, one can live, but it is a life diminished. Similarly one can live a life without basic reading or basic math skills, but, again, it is a life diminished.

      As a music teacher, I expect my student to be life long music makers because, throughout their lives they will have times when engaging in music is expected and/or required of them. No, I do not expect them all to go on to become professional musicians, but I expect them to sing, move rhythmically, and respond to the expressive qualities in music. These are LIFE skills. Where else do you expect children to learn life skills than at school?

      I feel sorry for you that you have not had experiences in your life that highlight the importance of music in life and in school. But just because you have been denied these experiences does not negate the importance of music. Just because you do not see the value does not make it frivolous.

    • Austin

      Brad, you really fail to realize that 99% of funding for those music programs come from fundraising alone. There’s this thing called fees that go towards helping keep program afloat. I come from a band program where the students were fully functional, in a very structured leadership system, with what they do and the band boosters were there for fund raisers, event planning and other details. Myself, holding business manager (2 years) and brass captain (3 years) I think I have an extremely clear idea of how music programs work. The other 1% of funds come from rare grant that the band program gets enough to cover 1/3 of their usual year cost. Average band program cost $50,000 a year to function. All of which comes from fundraising. If you have anymore questions please do some research and get your crap together. Thank you.

    • Bach

      If band was just for recreation I would have quit a long time ago. But seriously, most of the lessons I learned in band I use to this day. I can’t remember the last time I had to find the square root of x when we have rulers for that. “Assume it is you and it will get fixed,” that is one of my favorite quotes from my middle school band director. Before you offend someones passion, think about how you would feel if someone would bad mouth your desires.

      • foootbALLLER

        You do not no wut u talk about u fool, music us ussless.

        • Band4life

          Ur Dum idiot

        • Caroline

          Yeah, he’s the fool… Nice grammar foootbALLER

    • jackson

      In my opinion, you are absolutely wrong. As a band and choir student, these classes are the sole reasons i wake up in the morning. if these classes werent part of my high school, i would be a much less successful student in general.

  • http://twitter.com/QTEEM7JSE Quality Time

    Spatial Temporal Reason Intelligence Development in young children the ages of 3 to 5 year old depends on the
    instructor skill that is training the pupils. Not everyone has the patience or ability to capture the energy, attention, self-esteem and confidence of a young mind at this age when it comes to teaching the piano lessons.

    However, for those individuals that has the skills to do so, will have great success in increasing the Spatial Temporal
    Reason intelligence in this young age group. The results speak for themselves.

    At QTEEM, our 4 and 5 years old piano pupils defiantly have a higher understanding of math and temporal reasoning with enhanced hands, mind and eyes coordination. Spatial Temporal Reason Intelligence Development through the Piano aids students in developing their large and small motor skills than their peers without piano training. 



    At-large, you will find a greater % of pupils involved in music enrichment activities such as: (Band, Chorus, Orchestra), that creating music will be nothing more than a recreational
    activity, are also the ones you find that are into the STEM programs at their schools.

    For this reason we need to support and fund our public school systems. Just think where we would be as a nation without music enrichment programs in our public schools. Public schools sport programs are not producing a high % of future STEM professionals from the system. It’s all how you look at the picture, if Spatial Temporal Reason Intelligence Development worth your tax dollars.

  • pescif

    why are we still wasting time with this bullshit? marginal benefits that can’t be replicated will not save public school arts programs from the ax. why not sack up and talk about the reality that the arts improve our society, and the need for our children to experience it, so as to perpetuate the societal benefits? and how about learning self expression? working in a team? listening skills? nonverbal communication? the self discipline and self confidence that comes with motivated practice? and, btw, apologizing for it at the end of the article doesn’t count.

    • samay

      The “marginal benefits” as you called them are the only things that really matter to schools when it comes to keeping a Music education program. These benefits can very much be replicated if music teachers and the school truly recognize and follow the Standards of Music Education. True Music education and the arts improve our society, but they can do way more then just teach students valuable life lessons like working as a team, that could otherwise be taught in any other curriculum.

    • Priscilla

      Great comment :) thank you for posting!

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  • jessica

    hi
    awesome baby

  • Guest

    This was really good article……..

  • Syed Basharat

    i think there should be arts and music classes in all schools and colleges,many students show less interest in their studies due to their long and boring lectures…….

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  • Janet

    This is a SPLENDED article!!

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    asdfghjl;

  • Harley Gant

    I am doing my Junior paper on how music helps child development. This article has helped me a ton! Thank you so much! YOU ROCK.

    • Caroline

      How did you cite this website? I can’t find the date it was posted/published on!

  • Erin

    Where is the citation page?

  • flippy

    please could you tell me when this article was written, as I am quoting it in my english language GCSE and need the date for the bibliography. Thank you

    • Caroline

      Me too! did you ever get it?

  • Lynne

    How about the research being done by Nina Kraus at Northwestern University:

    Here’s a link to a white paper: http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/documents/WhiteSchwoch_etal_JNeuro2013.pdf

    Here’s a link to her lab: http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/

  • EduMusica

    Definitely, music education in early childhood improves the child’s intelligence and various capabilities.

    But maybe even more important – it helps with the development of personality, and helps them to better express themselves.

    We want to help you, so we are preparing some basic training (free!) – you can sign up here: http://www.edumusica.es/ or http://music-education4children.weebly.com/

  • jjcello87

    Speaking of Music ED! These Programs in San Pablo Ca have proven to us that music feeds the brain, body and soul. Please take a look at our page! And help us reach our goal to keep our programs during the summer!
    http://www.crowdrise.com/soundminds/fundraiser/californiasymphony


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