“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout…” Many parents start exposing music to their children from young, citing the many different benefits that music will bring to their child’s brain development. Some “kiasu” parents even start exposing their child to music in the womb! Are the benefits really true- or are they just marketing gimmicks that music schools use to convince parents to sign up for their programs? This article seeks to find out.
Music is Universal
In the 19th century, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called music “the universal language of mankind”. Researchers from two Canadian Universities- McGill University and University of Montreal, together with scientists in Berlin, travelled to the depths of the rainforests in central Africa to find out the emotional and physiological effect of western music on an isolated tribe in Congo and compare them to that of Canadian participants. Even though the music preferences are quite different in the two groups, all the listeners showed similar emotional and physical responses to the music, whether it was calming or exciting. This is because music is universal and can communicate basic human feelings regardless of the listener’s cultural or ethnic background. Think about a piece of music you can relate to, no matter your age, gender or status in society, there will always be at least one.
Listening to music
Like to listen to music at work or while studying? It turns out that moderate noise level is the best to get those creative juices flowing. How this works is that moderate noise levels increases processing difficulty which in turn promotes abstract processing, leading to higher levels of creativity. In other words, when we struggle just a little more than we normally would to process things, we would resort to more creative approaches. However, high noise levels will impair our creative thinking because the struggle to process information becomes too overwhelming.
It is also long known that background music can increase your work satisfaction and productivity by increasing your attention span. However, it is important to note that this only applies to music without lyrics, like classical music. In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2012,it was found that background music with lyrics had significant negative effects on concentration and attention. This suggests that if you are listening to songs with lyrics as background music while working and studying, it is actually likely to reduce your attention span and performance instead!
Many parents generally assume that letting their children learn music is beneficial, but it is actually useful in more ways than we might expect. In a 2008 study, it was found that children who received at least 3 years of instrumental training outperformed their control counterparts in terms of auditory discrimination abilities and fine motor skills. They also performed better in terms of vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills, skills that require children to understand and identify similarities and differences between shapes and patterns. This is surprising as the two areas are quite removed from musical training, and adds to the already wide variety of skills one inadvertently learns while learning to play an instrument.
Early age playing
Playing music from a young age, can also easily instil certain qualities in children. Discipline and time management are the hallmarks of a music player. By encouraging children to pick up a music instrument, they will learn that the quality of practice time is more valuable than that of the quantity. He/she will learn how to organize his/her practice time and plan to work on different challenges, making use of time. In addition, an instrument is not something that can be learnt overnight, a musician needs to be disciplined in his/her practice times and duration.
As seen, music is indeed beneficial for your mind and your children’s brain and qualities development! So, encourage your children to take up a musical instrument or join the school band or orchestra to make new friends at the same time!