Music may actually be the most nourishing food for the ears; the hearing capacity is best enhanced by training the ears for good music. Learning music not only involves training the vocals and playing an instrument by fingers, but also active listening, imitating, improvising, composing, comparing and contrasting, refining, interpreting, recording and notating, practising, rehearsing, presenting and performing. While learning music one has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously in a synchronised way. As a person learns music, they stretch themselves mentally in a variety of ways.
Listening to music is an extremely rich kind of experience in the sense that it requires listening, enjoying, reflecting, analysing, appreciating and evaluating in an integrated way.
Music, like science, is exact and specific, needs knowledge of acoustics, pitch, timber, intensity, volume changes, melody and harmony all at once and with exact control of time. Music involves mathematics; rhythm is based on division and subdivisions of time, which must be worked out instantaneously and spontaneously. It is a beautiful art that creates human feelings and emotions.
Various aspects that are benefitted by learning music
- Motor skill development: Swaying and dancing to musical beats is known to be beneficial for motor skill development, hand-eye coordination and strengthening of large and small muscles.
- Language development: Music like any other language has semantics with phrases and sentences, commas and periods, question and exclamation. Young children recognise words, sounds, rhythms, tones, and pitches long before they talk, sing, or dance. Clapping hands, stamping feet, and using percussion instruments to keep beat (steady pulse) in music develop important pre-reading skills.
Children who play an instrument and sing also speak and write better. They outperform other children in using information resources, reading and responding, and proof-reading. They memorise foreign words more easily, and they learn grammar more quickly. Many famous writers were also music lovers and spoke more than one foreign language.
- Social competence: Music education benefits language development from an early age. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent. Language competence is at the root of social competence.
- Cognitive development: Research shows that an early and sustained educational experience in music impacts and improves development of learning capabilities in general and supports scholastic success too. Music education not only benefits self-expression and enjoyment, but is also linked to improve cognitive function such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.
- Auditory discrimination: Through music, children learn to hear tempos, dynamics, and melodies. Listening for loud and soft, up and down, fast and slow encourages auditory development in the brain. Songs encourage speech and auditory discrimination.
Studies show that children who had three years or more training of a musical instrument performed better in auditory discrimination abilities and fine motor skills than those who did not learn an instrument.
- Complex thinking ability: Complex thinking processes become easier to process for students who have studied music because the parts of the brain that are used in processing maths are strengthened through practice of music.
Students involved in instrumen tal music do better in algebra. Music affects the ability to see part-whole relationships (spatial-temporal reasoning).
K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and one of the brains behind the mission to mars Mangalyaan is an accomplished vocalist (Carnatic music) and Kathakali (classical dance form of Kerala) artist. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, President of India and India’s missile man and nuclear scientist is a keen musician and plays the ‘Veena’, a string instrument.
- Abstract thinking: Music stimulates the brain and encourages abstract thinking. Abstract reasoning is integral to students’ ability to apply knowledge and visualise solutions. Studies have shown that young children who take keyboard lessons have greater abstract reasoning abilities than their peers, and these abilities improve over time with sustained training in music
- Memory skill: Use of patterns, both in melody and in rhythm, helps the child develop memory skills further. Have you ever wondered at the way vocalists render song after song even without referring to text? Musicians are found to have superior working memory compared to non-musicians. Learning music improves recall and retention of verbal information
- Creativity: Music education develops the creative capacities for lifelong success. It sharpens student attentiveness, strengthens perseverance, equips students to be creative and supports better study habits and self-esteem
Specifically, there are three fundamental ways that children can engage in musical behaviour:
- Listening – by far the most common and easiest of behaviours
- Composing – most difficult and perhaps the least common
- Performance – performance is really divided into the reproduction of music written by others and the creation of music ‘in the moment’ within a context— often referred to as ‘improvisation.’
Learning music helps in creating a network of connections across different areas of the brain. The more connections children have in their brain, the faster they are able to process information, and the faster they can think. Engagement, persistence and creativity are the components of a higher order thinking and complex problem solving. Music education nurtures higher order thinking as a habit of the mind.
‘Without music, life would be a mistake’
— Friedrich Nietzsche
‘I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning’
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‘What Makes Music Work for Public Education?’(2003) Journal for Learning through Music, Music in Education National Consortium Retrieved from: