Written by Belinda Huang
The author Hans Christian Andersen wrote: “Where words fail, music speaks.” Music is an artistic and cultural experience that creates, records, and shares beauty all around the world. The shared language of music has the power to build connections between people of different ages, ethnicities, and interests. Whether or not your child pursues music professionally, there are many benefits to learning a musical instrument, especially in the early years of a child’s development.
1. Higher IQ and cognition
Musicians have been shown to have a higher IQ and cognitive skills than non-musicians. Brain scans show that musicians’ brains have stronger right and left brain connections, stronger neuron connections, and more grey matter; this leads to better memory, better attention span, and better learning capacity. What does this mean? Children who learn to play a musical instrument generally do better at school and on tests, because they are able to learn quickly and remember what they learn.
2. Ability to listen and empathize
To play music, you have to listen to yourself, your breathing, and your sound. You have to listen to other people and understand how your music fits in. The ability to listen carefully and openly is critical to both playing and listening to music. Music is part of all cultures, and it can be a pathway for children to learn about different parts of the world. The excitement and joy of discovering music helps children make the leap to learning empathy for other peoples and cultures.
3. Improved language skills
Playing and listening to music also improve children’s ability to learn languages. They can listen for small differences between sounds and words, which leads to stronger speech and reading — skills that are vital for academic success. The idea that music and languages use many of the same parts of the brain is supported by scientific research. A 2009 study shows that students who learned music for three years around second and third grade had stronger reading, vocabulary, and storytelling skills than children who didn’t.
4. Better focus and discipline
To be a musician, you need to practice. Every day, even when it is hard or boring. This kind of practice is essential in teaching children that they can achieve their goals with hard work. Children learn to motivate themselves and see the reward in the day to day improvement, or the larger goals of joining the school orchestra or band. The ability to self-discipline for music practice translates into schoolwork– children who learn to manage their time, focus their attention, and work hard to see musical improvement often do better in their studies too.
5. Improved maths ability
While music is creative, it also requires precision and mathematical skills. Students learn how to divide time, count rhythms and beats, and measure distances between notes. In this 2015 study, there is a link between learning rhythm and learning numbers and early mathematical concepts. Young children who learn a musical instrument pick up basic math skills more quickly, and building on these early gains leads to higher math achievement overall in school.
6. Opportunity for creative expression
Lastly, music is an art that thrives on creativity, beauty, and learning. Studies into creativity show that the creativity needed to be a good musician uses parts of the brain active during dreaming and meditation. Music allows us to experience our inner selves while awake. The experience of playing music can be transcendent. Giving your child the opportunity to connect with their emotions and express themselves through the medium of music helps them grow into well-rounded individuals.
Music is not the only activity that children can participate in to gain these benefits. Sports can show children how to collaborate, communicate, and work hard. But if your child shows interest in music, it can be an enjoyable way to bring creativity, beauty, empathy, and learning to your child’s life.