Somewhere in the world, there is a child picking up a saxophone for the first time and learning to play. Perhaps he or she falls in love with the sound of the instrument, the feel of the keys and the mouthpiece perched between their lips, and longs daily to feel the weight of the horn slung around their neck as they belt out their scales, hoping one day to play some jazz, blues, or even rock music.
Maybe after years of devotion, practice, passion, and grit, they evolve into the next coming of Charlie “Bird” Parker. Perhaps instead they simply lead a full and fruitful life, forever loving to play music for its sake while their path takes them in a more conventional direction.
One thing we know for certain is that music lessons help propel kids further in many aspects one might not assume are remotely connected to learning to play music. Music lessons…
1. Build Confidence
Struggling through those first lessons is a challenge unto itself. Not hitting the notes, playing scales improperly, or striking keys, chords, and strings disastrously can test the mettle of even the most patient among us. Finding the grit to continue and improve is not just a key to playing an instrument well, it’s a key to one of the life’s cornerstones for success: confidence.
When a child manages to get’ something and then can repeat successful results their spirits are buoyed with confidence. The crinkled brow and frustration-induced tightened grip gives way to smiles, relaxation, and having fun. Study after study shows that children who participate in music and the arts boost their self-esteem and confidence by helping them not only appreciate praise and enjoy improvement but to accept the criticism and feedback necessary to make progress.
2. Bolster Brain Power
It is well-noted that Albert Einstein was not only a revolutionary physicist, but a master violinist who began playing at six and was performing Mozart’s sonatas before reaching high school. Before he turned 30, he revolutionized the way humanity viewed space and time, forever distinguishing himself as the benchmark in human intellect.
Scientists posit that his devotion to playing music afforded him connectivity between the two hemispheres of his brain – the source of creativity and logic – which allowed his brilliance to flourish.
Studies are continuously being published that document the benefits that music lessons have on the development of a child’s brain, including:
- improving memory and literacy
- blood flow
- connectivity between different parts of the brain
- continued brain plasticity throughout life
Furthermore, the statistics draw a concrete line between learning to play music and scholastic achievement.
3. Boost Social Skills
Introducing music lessons to children can yield profound effects on their social development. Research has revealed improved social cohesion among classmates as well easier adjustment and positive attitudes in children. The effects were more pronounced in children who were initially the most lacking in social skills.
In groups, learning music fosters greater trust and cooperation; individually, music lessons alleviate boredom, loneliness, and tension by distracting children from their problems. Playing music acts as a mood regulator while at the same time fosters a sense of community and belonging.
4. Cultivate Patience and Discipline
Perhaps never before in history has a lack of patience and discipline been more conspicuous than in the age of smartphones, social media, and constant interconnectedness. Most kids are already naturally afflicted with the desire for instant gratification. Now, with literally the entire world at their fingertips, that desire has grown beyond an annoyance into a beast.
Fortunately, there is no shortcut to playing a musical instrument. It takes lots of time and effort to become competent. The process itself teaches patience and discipline with or without the child realizing it, much like Mr. Miyagi teaching karate to Daniel by getting him to wax a small fleet of cars and paint a fence.
5. Encourage Creative Self-Expression
Perhaps an obvious benefit, the study of music helps children to find their creativity and allows them an avenue to express it outwardly. The direction creativity takes is limited only by the desire and devotion of the student. For those that will eventually aspire to pursue a path in arts and music, lessons are the essential first step in their journey. Music becomes an avenue to finding their agency and voice no matter their path through life.
However, learning to play music is also a vital tool in helping children with developmental disorders and mental health issues unlock their potential. Music therapy has been shown to effect significant change in children with autism-spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, attachment disorders, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, Rett Syndrome, and Williams Syndrome.
Many children afflicted with these maladies may have great difficulty expressing themselves in a meaningful way, not to mention participating in activities with others. Besides the obvious learning taking place, they are enabled to participate with others and express themselves.
6. Improve Memory
Learning music requires students to remember an impressive amount of information, whether it be where certain notes are located on their instrument, how chords are constructed, or the timing required to play their favorite music. Music requires the brain to expand its capacity for memory of all kinds.
In other words, as a child’s memory grows to accommodate the music, they’re learning, and this expansion applies to other content and inputs they may be experiencing. That may include class text, lectures, and speeches. It seems reasonable to conclude that the ability to learn music is of tremendous help in learning new languages and even math.
Here’s my infographic that sums up the benefits of music lessons:
The List Goes On
The information presented here is by no means exhaustive. The benefits music lessons have for children are the subject of much well-documented study – the results of which are ironic considering that society seems to be cutting funding for music and the arts in school curricula.
However, experts the world over trumpet the advantages afforded students who take up music lessons, and there is no doubt that the earlier they start, the more profound the improvements.
Scientists suggest that starting lessons before the age of seven is ideal, however taking up an instrument at any age will provide noticeable benefits. Providing music lessons for your children – or for yourself! – will produce happy, healthy, well-rounded people who excel in life. And one never knows, we might just find another Charlie Parker one day.
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