Medical Mysteries of Music

Published on March 4th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Want a Smarter Kid? Get Them Music Lessons

[Some advice from freelance writer, Jess Walter. – AC]

The relationship between cognitive abilities and playing a musical instrument are well known. Here’s a guest post by Jess Walter on why getting your kid to take music lessons is one of the most loving things you can do.

Raise Your Kid’s Intelligence by Learning an Instrument 

A study by the Coalition For Music Education In Canada found that people believe that music education brings benefits to them in a number of ways. Of all the answers received, building confidence, self-discipline and nourishing creativity and innovation were the biggest benefits that an education in music brings them. As well as building students’ confidence in themselves, it’s possible that musical education can also help improve to children’s intelligence. So just how important can learning an instrument be for a rapidly developing child?

How Playing Music Makes the Brain Stronger

When scientists began studying brains, they would ask subjects to take part in activities. It was found that listening to music caused “fireworks” to show up on the brain scans, as the mind lit up when the subjects listened to music. However, these fireworks became more like a jubilee when the subjects played music, instead of simply listening to it.

A TED-Ed YouTube video says that listening to music engages the brain, but playing music is the equivalent of a full-body workout. Neuroscientists saw multiple areas of the brain light up as an instrument was played, all simultaneously processing the different information, from focusing on the notes that needed to be played, to pressing the key or string, to then engaging the bow or pick. Nearly every area of the brain is engaged at once when playing a musical instrument, especially the motor, auditory and visual cortices. With practice, these skills can then be used in other activities, becoming especially useful in the classroom as well as further down the line in their careers.

Choosing the Right Instrument for Your Child

Your child will only be able to be successful if they’re playing an instrument they like. For example, let’s take the guitar. Most people think you can simply pick one up and start playing, but this isn’t true, especially for kids. You need to take a few things into account, most notably the size, the action and the strings, to make sure you pick the right guitar for your kid.

The right size for a child, depending on their age, will usually be a small or medium sized guitar. If it’s too big, or too small, it can be uncomfortable for your child to play. The action of the guitar is the space between the frets and the strings, and if it’s too high your child will struggle to push the strings down. If it’s too low, then the sound of the guitar will be off. The strings make a difference too, as you don’t want strings that are too light or heavy, as they could cut your child’s fingertips. Finally, listening to your child’s opinion is necessary, as they’re more likely to stick with their learning if they’ve got to pick their own instrument.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker.

In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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