Does your child go to music classes? What is your reason for sending them? Time pass? Because they need to be kept busy? So that they’ll learn to perform? Or just because they enjoy it?
Whatever your reasons, learning music is powerful because it improves children’s skills in many areas.
Learning music improves self-esteem. When children learn a skill, they feel capable and confident about themselves. Whether it is learning one short song or playing a complex piece on an instrument, the sense of accomplishment boosts children’s self-esteem. Inevitably, children learning music develop the confidence to perform in front of an audience.
Learning music improves children’s motor skills. Have you noticed how music is almost always combined with movement in the younger classes? Children develop coordination, balance, and motor planning as they respond to music. When children learn instruments, their fine motor skills are enhanced as they manipulate them. They discover that placing different parts of the hand on the tabla or the mridangam or varying the level of pressure on the instruments produces different sounds. String instruments develop the ability to isolate fingers for placement or plucking and for both hands to work simultaneously to produce sound.
Learning music fosters better academic skills. Whether they play instruments or sing, children must retain and recall long sequences of notes. This practice develops the region of the brain that is responsible for remembering and recollecting verbal information. In 2019, A study at the University of British Columbia showed that high school students who actively participated in musical activities were ahead of their peers who did not engage in any music-related activity. A study at the University of Kansas in 2020 (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201130150413.htm) showed a strong connection between music, math, and reading achievement. As children participate in musical activities, they develop math-related skills like spatial awareness, pattern recognition, and counting skills.
Learning music improves children’s language skills. Since learning music involves consistent, repetitive practice, children get simultaneous practice in the related skills. When engaging in musical activities, one must recognize and differentiate between sounds. These skills are also necessary to develop literacy skills, especially in children who are learning to decode. Music education enhances the development of the part of the brain that is active in language development. As a result, young children who attend music classes show greater verbal language skills.
“Learning music comes with cognitive and social benefits.“
Learning music enhances children’s attention skills. When practicing or performing music, one has to use many skills. The student must focus on the note, actively listen to the outcome, and anticipate what comes next. If the performer doesn’t attend to these tasks simultaneously, the performance is affected. As a result, children who learn music, especially from a young age, have better attention skills
Music reinforces executive function skills, particularly working memory. Working memory is the ability to store information for brief periods for immediate use with other mental tasks. For instance, to do the sum 4+2+3, you add 4+2 and then add the answer with 3. You need to remember six only for a few seconds because the final solution is nine. Children with ADHD, LD and other learning needs have trouble with working memory. Children (and adults) who play an instrument or sing have better working memory skills, perhaps because of the level of practice they get to become proficient.
Music is good for overall health. We know that music can lower blood pressure and ease stress. Studies have shown that it is possible to reach Alzheimer’s patients through music because the pathways to remembering music are unaffected by the disease. Music can also help those suffering from chronic illnesses as it has been shown to reduce pain. Music therapy is not just a ‘feel good’ measure. It is an evidence-based standardized approach using musical intervention with clients who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury or those with emotional needs.
If you see your children walking around with their earphones on all day, there is a reason. Music improves the listener’s mood because the brain releases the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. Having the knowledge to perform music gives children a coping tool that they can access anytime they want.
Music teaches children discipline. To be a good musician takes time, practice, and commitment. Even uniquely talented students still need to practice regularly to excel at their art. There are no quick results. Children learn to persevere and work towards their goals.
Music fosters creativity. Once students are thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals of music, they learn to improvise using their knowledge. You can find them writing new songs and setting these to music. The improvisations we hear from our musicians are their creative expressions. If you listen to Indian music, you’re aware that both Carnatic and Hindustani styles emphasise improvisations. For example, the alap or alapana, where the artist explores the raga or melody, is their original interpretation of the raga.
Learning and performing music are social activities. Children learn with a teacher and fellow students. As they develop into artists, they must work together with other musicians. In the process, they learn the importance of teamwork and the ability to support one another during performances. The shared sense of achievement, strong communication skills, and positive interactions contribute to the overall mental well-being of children.
Anyone can pursue music at any age. Yes, young children pick up quickly because their brain is geared toward learning. But adults too can learn music and benefit from it. In fact, learning music as an adult allows our brain to form new neural connections and helps delay aging. And once you know music, you can recall the skill even after a gap.
As you can see, learning music comes with cognitive and social benefits. But children are not going to be looking at music lessons as a way to improve their attention or memory. They will enjoy the pleasure music brings to their life. Don’t you agree that it is a safe extra-curricular activity to keep kids engaged, away from screen time and other unsavory habits? If you have access to music classes nearby, do enroll your child in those. They have a lot to gain from learning music.