For the love of music and the brain!
We all love songs, rhythms and music and the benefits of being in a musical environment are well documented. The effect of music on young minds is known to be significant and there is scientific evidence that physical, emotional and intellectual development is enhanced by it. Furthermore, there is proof that cognitive and sensory development is strengthened in response to music and musical training - it uses, activates and stimulates the whole brain!
When combined with movement and instrument playing, music creates neurological magic. It actively impacts the critical early years of brain development as children learn and grow. Learning how to play musical instruments requires the ability to process sound, sight and touch at the same time, leading to multi-sensory skills that have a long-lasting positive effect on the brain.
The benefits of learning a musical instrument as a child range from teaching perseverance and patience to building self-esteem and teamwork. Here are a few more reasons why learning to play a musical instrument is to be actively encouraged:
1. It strengthens memory and reading skills
Both musical ability and literacy show increased electrical signals in the brain, demonstrating that music and reading tap into the same brain abilities. Simply put, learning an instrument will help to improve verbal memory and enable more effective reading.
2. It improves mathematical ability
Many studies have shown that by creating neurological connections through playing a musical instrument, children will find it easier to understand mathematical concepts. Music holds parallels to mathematics, such as having to count, understand beats, recognise patterns and rhythms, all of which are measured by numbers. It enhances problem-solving skills and enables children to develop their spatial intelligence.
3. It improves coordination
It has been shown that learning an instrument can increase the speed at which motor skills can be learned. If some children struggle with developing fine motor skills, the process of learning a musical instrument can help the brain to develop them in a different way. By concentrating on reading music and converting the notes into the physical motion of playing, children can significantly improve their hand-eye and body coordination.
4. It strengthens the brain’s executive function
The brain relies on the executive function for a variety of critical tasks such as processing and retaining information, controlling behaviour, focussing, making appropriate choices and more. The improved motor and memory skills gained by learning a musical instrument strengthens the executive function to increase your chances of being happier, performing well at school and living productively in the future.
5. It develops self-discipline and encourages the setting of goals
Learning music teaches children to develop routine and practise self-discipline. Commitment and patience are necessary skills in life and mastering a new piece of music can help children to learn the value of these skills. They can then enjoy a sense of pride and achievement knowing that their regular practising has enabled a satisfying outcome. The teacher will set short and long-term goals; as children grow and reach their goals, their discipline and self-belief will grow which in turn will help the brain to cope better in all other areas of life.
TOP TIP: Be sure to celebrate any goals or milestones reached. This will inspire your child to continue practising!
6. It encourages self-expression, emotional regulation and a sense of empathy
Music can give children a way to express themselves, to unleash their creativity, to be inspired and uplifted, to relax or relieve stress and tension. Music is also a way to express emotions that might otherwise be difficult to verbalise and learning an instrument is a healthy and productive way to convey how you feel. Also, making music in an orchestra, band or choir is shown to improve social and emotional skills where children learn to work as a team and develop their sense of empathy with others. Researchers have found that when children play music together, they are better able to tune into other people’s emotions.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that playing a musical instrument is true exercise for the brain. It strengthens us in so many areas leading to better moods, increased motor and sensory skills, better connections with others, and much more. It is not an easy job to keep children engaged with the discipline of practising but the benefits are huge and worth pursuing. Making music by learning how to play an instrument is truly special and something that we can all enjoy as an individual or in groups. Hopefully our children will want to keep doing so for many years!