Seven Music Benefits For Students–Does Playing A Musical Instrument Make You Smarter?
In times of economic difficulty, problems arise with music funding on all levels personal and community. Decisions are made with financial welfare in mind and sometimes not enough time and talent is appropriated to find a creative way to retain programs. Throughout the land we hear disconcerting news about music programs getting partially funded, decreased or deleted entirely.
Parents, teachers and school board members need only to be reminded about the ways music benefits students. Most would devote more time to develop creative solutions in favor of retaining music programs for students.
There are several immediate benefits for students engaged in a good music study program. First, the most immediate benefit of music study is the improvement of short term memory. Is it possible that more intelligent people are just drawn to music rather than developing in this way as a result of music study? There are a number of researchers in the music field who have dedicated themselves in this area of music and have published several studies. The findings indicate that practicing a musical instrument can utilize almost every area of the brain all at once. Practicing on a daily basis involves the auditory, visual and motor cortices. Studies revealed that daily practice on a musical instrument particularly before the age of 7, will make physical changes in structure and function of the brain. Researchers already have revealed that practicing strengthens the Corpus Callosum, the area connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
In general, more music training equaled larger enhancements of neural functioning
Nina Krauss and her staff at Northwestern University have researched people and music for a number of years. They have performed randomized studies with groups of subjects who were tested and found to be very near the same cognitive functioning and neural processing at the beginning of the study. Key in these studies is the length of time, being two years. Students in the studies who studied music for that length of time showed the most change in brain areas compared to their classmates who did not study music. In general, more music training equaled larger enhancements of neural functioning. In research, the team at Northwestern University were able to show music training improves the differentiation of speech by measuring neural responses to contrastive speech sounds before and after music training.
Sixth, playing music in a group with others fosters collaboration in a team environment
Secondly, some of the benefits of music study relate and connect directly to other disciplines, such as rhythm with its mathematical subdivisions of the beat, tone or timbre and how the sound vibrations are produced on various instruments. Third, physical improvements include motor skills, timing and coordination. Fourth, music students become more self-disciplined and generally exhibit more patience. Fifth, since several instruments can require a dedication to consistent practice over a period of time before much noticeable progress is achieved, students can learn a little about delayed gratification. Sixth, playing music in a group with others fosters collaboration in a team environment as they patiently listen attentively while their fellow classmates play while anticipating their own turn. Seventh, playing music in a group also requires respect, communication and peer interaction.
Finally, the music class environment can be a great place for music students to learn about music and instruments from new and diverse cultures, and how to take constructive criticism and use it to make improvements leading to positive change.
Does learning a new instrument as a complete beginner for an older healthy adult have much value or effect?
Since the Obama administration instituted The BRAIN Initiative, with an investment of 4.5 Billion in funding, researchers will study the brain over the next several years. Many researchers will uncover great, new information and understanding of physical structure and function of the brain. Perhaps some of this research will give us more insight in how to enhance learning. Does choosing one instrument versus another have more value, benefits, for example playing the piano instead of singing or playing a clarinet? Students study and practice pieces, scales and studies specifically written for the instrument every day. Students practice sight-reading and perform music with others as a part of an ensemble during private study. Students in the classroom participate in listening, playing rhythm instruments, following charts, moving and singing to music. What activities create the most significant change? Does learning a new instrument as a complete beginner for an older healthy adult have much value or effect? In time, researchers will probably have answers to most of these questions from studying the history and researching existing programs such as “El Sistema” in Caracas, Venezuela and “Harmony Project” for school-aged children living in the gang reduction zones in Los Angeles, CA. These music programs and programs like these will lead us to more information and in depth understanding in how to help a multitude of people.