In 2001 a much touted experiment suggested that listening to 10 minutes of Mozart improved performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks. There was much acclaim about the research but the acclaim was mostly media exaggeration and even the researchers admitted it was overblown. However the real significance was the connection made between listening to music and the enhancement of other brain skills.
Since then there has been a flood of research on what does musical training do – besides make musicians? Of course I’m happy to make musicians and bring music into people’s lives and less concerned about its ancillary effects. But despite my lack of interest of learning music for anything other than learning music’s sake, since that ground-breaking study, there is much new research that show the benefits of musical training for young people. And parents should know this. Here are a few examples:
SOME RESEARCH ON THE VALUE OF MUSIC TRAINING:
“Music Lessons Enhance IQ” (Schellenberg, 2004): This study found that children who received a musical training for three years experienced an increase in IQ scores compared to those who did not receive music lessons. The effect was more pronounced for children who actively participated in music lessons [meaning: “practiced”]
“The Relation Between Music and Intelligence: A Meta-Analysis” (Pietschnig et al., 2010): This meta-analysis examined multiple studies and found a small positive correlation between music training and intelligence, including IQ. The effect was strongest for verbal and mathematical abilities.
“Musical Training and Executive Functions in Childhood: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” (Mehr et al., 2013): This review indicated that children who received musical training had enhanced performance in executive functions, such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control(!). These enhancements are closely related to a real ability to function well in the worlds, including IQ. This is a real payoff and a significant analysis of many studies (thus: “meta-study”)!
“Long-Term Music Training Enhances Verbal Memory and Learning in Children” (Ho et al., 2003): This study demonstrated that children who received music training for more than one year performed better in verbal memory and learning tasks compared to those without musical training. Verbal memory is strongly associated with cognitive abilities and IQ. The average retention rate of our Childbloom students is 2-3 years.
There are also studies showing that 2-handed instruments like violin, piano and guitar even protect against dementia in older adults:
“Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study” (Balbag et al., 2014): This population-based twin study found that playing a musical instrument, including two-handed instruments, was associated with a lower risk of dementia and cognitive impairment in older adults. The cognitive demands of playing a two-handed instrument may contribute to this protective effect.
So, besides the beauty that music can bring into the lives of our children, training in music can enhance them throughout their lifetime!
Kevin Taylor is Founder of the Childbloom Guitar Program