“I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get (the) most joy in life out of music.” Who do you think said this? Mozart, Beethoven, Pandit Ravi Shankar, MS Subbalakshmi? Guess again! It was Albert Einstein, who also said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.” The world’s ‘most intelligent man’ was also a musician (a violinist) – which makes you wonder: is there any connection between music and your Intelligence Quotient (IQ) level? If so, should every child learn music?
While there are some studies which brought this discussion to the fore, there were many that supported the fact that learning music had several benefits. Let’s explore how listening to and learning music benefits children.
Benefits of music classes for children
Most of us love listening to music- classical, rock, hip-hop, rap, instrumental, pop, jazz, film – whatever the form, it is difficult not to have been touched by music in one way or the other. If nothing else, you would have enjoyed the tweeting of the birds.
How does it make you feel? It elevates your mood, energises you, and reduces stress, doesn’t it? Now imagine producing musical notes on your own – through singing or playing an instrument. This has a deeper impact on you – it’s as if it connects you with a special place – within you. So, naturally it makes sense to ensure our kids experience these benefits of music.
- Physical coordination: Playing a musical instrument requires coordination of various parts of the body. Pick up a string instrument like the violin or cello and you need to be able to move each finger independently and in unison to play different notes or chords, or to pluck the strings, as well as to hold the bow appropriately. Similarly, with a key instrument like the piano, you need to be able to move the fingers of both your hands with dexterity and precision. All these practices enhance motor skills and coordination in children.
- Academic skills: Have you ever thought that music has Maths and Physics in it? The beats, rhythms, and scales give children a good exercise in some mental Maths – multiplication, division, and fractions! Also, the sounds emanating from instruments allow children to explore vibrations and waves. A harmonic way to introduce Physics to children.
- Social skills: Singing in choirs and performing in a band teaches children leadership skills, teamwork, focus, patience, empathy, and a sense of coordination. Music also helps children bond with their peers and friends, helping them interact. It is an ideal ice-breaker helping children lose their inhibitions.
- Language development: Music introduces children to different sounds. This universe of sounds helps children develop phonetics and speech perception, and makes them more receptive and able to learn a variety of different languages as well.
- Creativity: Have you ever noticed a child fiddling with the keys of a piano? There is no seeming rhyme or rhythm in the tune but somehow they play as enthusiastically as if it were a Beethoven sonata! What is invisible to the adult eye is the inner machinations of the child’s brain. Music brings out a child’s inherent creativity and helps develop the spirit of innovation. It may not make sense to you but the child is finding a path through the labyrinth of ideas in his exploding head.
- Memory power: You must have noticed that it is much easier to learn a song than it is to memorise dry text. When you put words to a song, it stays in your memory much longer as you use both the tune and the lyrics to remember. This is why prolonged exposure to music helps children sharpen their memory power, keeping them alert as they grow older as well.
To this effect, there have been quite a few studies on how music helps in a child’s brain development.
Research on music and brain development
- A 5-year study by The Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at USC in 2012 in partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and the Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) examined the impact of music instruction on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The study shows music instruction speeds up the maturation of the auditory pathway in the brain and increases its efficiency.
- A workshop conducted by The National Institutes of Health and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with a panel of experts concluded that there is a growing body of research showing that listening to or making music profoundly changes the brain by modulating cognition, emotion, multisensory, and motor networks.
- A 2018 study has found that structured music lessons improve cognitive skills – language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition leading to improved academic performance.
So, the next logical question is, ‘What can you do as a parent to encourage your child’s all-round development through music?’
Simple tips for parents to include music in children’s lives
- Start music classes for your child at an early age (before the age of 7) – in fact, singing to your unborn little one could be a good place to start!
- Encourage your child to listen to any music – language, genre, no bar. Normally, it is the videos that need censoring!
- Bond with your child over a musical or a song and share your musical interests. You could also karaoke with your kid and watch the generation gap melt away!
- Take your child to musical concerts of different genres to expose them to the melodious world that they could be a part of.
- Encourage them to compose, sing, and play at home no matter how out of tune, or nonsensical it may sound! From this crazy, uninhibited, and unguarded space the magic of composition begins.
Remember that in every child there is a song waiting for expression, a tune waiting to enthral. Help your child express himself/herself through music in any way you can.