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Musical Lessons in Childhood – Lifelong Benefit

By: Donna Chaffins | Date: September 23, 2012 | Categories: Children, Guest Posts, Music, Parenting

Guest Post

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Did you know that taking music lessons while you’re young can actually strengthen your auditory skills to a great extent? That’s right, various studies have shown that learning to play a musical instrument when we are children may lead to various changes in our brain and its effects can be seen throughout our life.

The Research

A recent research done by Northwestern University on college students observed their auditory brain stem responses, which means, recording their brain waves while they react to different sounds. The study showed that students who took musical lessons while they were children had more energetic responses and could identify more complex sounds in terms of pitch and important elements, even if they stopped taking music lessons years ago.

The correlation between auditory skill enhancement and musical lessons is quite puzzling and examples like reading can have unexpected benefits if a student took music lessons during his childhood. Although, this relation may not be like the ‘Mozart effect’, the improvement in performance in terms of discipline and engagement while taking a test is truly amazing. The fact still remains that taking musical training actually enhances the brain’s capability to differentiate different components of sounds like the timbre, pitch and timing.

According to Prof. Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University – “To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,”

The skill to recognize the most subtle sound and differentiate it even in the most noisy or complex background is vital for children as well as adults, to learn written language and understand speech, even if an adult is suffering from hearing loss.

According to Dr. Claude Alain, what we refer to as the ‘cocktail party problem’, it has been seen that musically trained elderly people perform better in recognizing speech against noise, as this involves more of the peripheral  hearing than the brain.

According to a study of those who do keep playing, researchers studied that as musicians get older each day, they go through the same decline  in nerve function of the ear (peripheral hearing decline), just like non-musicians, but musicians have the capability of understanding speech against noisy background. This is known as the central auditory processing skill.

While  studies by University of California and the assistant director of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto Dr. Jane Gitschier are studying this perfect capability to recognize any  tone, as part of genetics or the benefit of childhood training. The fact still remains – anyone who qualifies to have extreme skill in identifying different pitch letters are musically trained in their childhood.

What Does This Research Suggest

Researchers in the area of musical education and flexibility of the mind on brain waves are usually musicians who see the fascination in knowing what the brain is capable of and the effects it brings in combination of practice, application, stimulation and auditory exercise from musical education. However, there is no single concrete way to prove these findings.

An author, doctoral candidate and a trained pianist, Alexandra Parbery-Clark took after her desire to study the brain from her inspiration from teaching students of 4 years at a musical French school. She observed that when these kids learned to attend, they work on their  memory, attention skill and auditory skills which may be termed as scholastic learning, but looking at the records of the mind’s capability to detect sounds, it can be clearly seen that musically qualified intelligence are stronger in their responses.

Do Not Push Too Hard

To conclude in the words of Ms. Parbery-Clark – children should have the freedom of enjoying by learning their music lessons which should not be misunderstood as a strategy to develop cognitive skills. Music is all about enjoying and socializing.

Serge is a blogger and writes for Edictive, a blog based on technology and video production. In his free time he writes reviews for GiftIdeas blog it is like shopping therapy for things like headphones for music.


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33 Responses to Musical Lessons in Childhood – Lifelong Benefit

  1. My kids never played an instrument, I always wanted them to get involved but they never had an interest. Great tips.

  2. Sam says:

    I always wished my parents got me to play a piano or something like that.

  3. Stefanie says:

    My daughter is learning to play the guitar.

  4. Louise says:

    It’s so hard for me to not push. They would never practice if I didn’t push them

  5. Tammy says:

    I loved the music lessons I had as a kid.

  6. bill elliott says:

    Having your children take music lessons if they wish is a joy they will have with them thru out life

  7. Kathleen says:

    My oldest is in band this year and playing the alto sax. I am already starting to see a lot of benefits coming from it.

  8. I played the french horn all through middle and high school and I miss it!

  9. We bought my daughter a guitar a few years ago but she is really stubborn and doesn’t like the lessons. LOL

  10. Kelly says:

    We plan on encouraging our son to play an instrument. Hubs and I may also take lessons at the same time. You’re never to old to learn something new!

  11. Lolo says:

    I always wanted music lessons, but decided to take art classes instead. Same benefits!

  12. My son started a musical instrument at a very young age.

  13. Leilani says:

    I have the girls enrolled in a general music class for toddlers. They’re very into it and enjoy it a lot.

  14. Courtney says:

    my daughter already loves music :)

  15. Colleen says:

    That ones one thing I did not grow up with but then I can’t sing or do music. My talents lie on the art and creativity side. My kids love music and my oldest started learning to play guitar.

  16. Theresa says:

    My kids have been taking piano lessons since they were little.

  17. I can’t wait until the little lady is old enough to take lessons.

  18. My daughter knows how to play the guitar, piano, flute, and drums. Also, she’s in the marching band, which she loves. I’ve noticed that her grades have increased drastically after she started taking lessons.

  19. we have music lessons in school here and I remember wanting to learn the violin when i was younger. Oh how I really love that my kids love music

  20. Kaitlin M says:

    That’s interesting. I used to take piano lesson when I was young.

  21. Dawn Justice says:

    I played clarinet when I was in school :) loved it. My son is 7 and we’ve been trying to encourage him to play drums. He seems to like it but right now he just beats on them. We eventually plan on trying to actually teach him music along the way.

  22. Cheryl Free says:

    You couldn’t be more right :) I’ve been playing piano since childhood, and have loved it all my life. I’ve enjoyed sharing that love with churches, weddings, a rock and roll band, and more.

  23. julieann r says:

    Wish I would have been exposed to learning music when I was young….it’s so hard for me now as an adult.

  24. Angela Kinder says:

    I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in music early. I never had the chance when I was little so when I had to learn how to read music for high school choir, I actually had to have the director sort of teach me through each piece we had to sing- otherwise, I would be completely off (I was a soprano).

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