Is It True That Studying Music Can Help A Person (fill in the blank)?

Let’s face it, there’s research out there proving almost anything you can think of.  But the ability of music in general, and learning to play piano specifically, to help people in a variety of ways has been studied and researched and proven time and again for decades.  Over the next several posts, I would like to make my readers familiar with just a few ways music does indeed help students.

This week we will look at the claim that music study makes you smarter.  You may have heard of The Mozart Effect, which is the title of a book by Don Campbell based on studies showing the physiological, psychological, emotional, and academic changes that have occurred in animals and humans when listening to specific kinds of music, usually a certain Mozart sonata in controlled study situations.  In these studies, researchers were looking for measurable differences in performance with the music verses without the music.  They were able to confirm improvements in accuracy, efficiency, and comprehension with the music.  As far back as 1996, a study was conducted on students taking the SAT exams by the group that creates, issues, and oversees the tests.  This study compared scores of students who sang or played a musical instrument to scores of students who did not, with a clear result: the students who studied music scored on average 51 points higher in the verbal part of the test, and on average 39 points higher in the math portion.

There are varying theories of how this happens and why, and as more studies are done and more sophisticated testing methods employed, we should have even more evidence in the near future.   In a 2014 Psychology Today article, author Christopher Bergland boils down the research to three main “Brain Benefits of Musical Training:

  1. Musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight.
  2. Beginning training before the age of seven has been shown to have the greatest impact. The age at which musical training begins affects brain anatomy as an adult.
  3. Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance on working memory and more extensive connectivity within the brain.”

To put it simply, musical training changes the way the brain functions, for the better!  Musical training as a young child can reap benefits far into adulthood and open windows of opportunity academically and socially.  We’ll discuss the social benefits of music education next week.

Please let us know if you have questions or comments!  I look forward to hearing from you!

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