Six Reasons to Start Early

There are a lot of intriguing studies which show that music training has a significant impact on the brain development of a child. New findings on the benefits of learning how to play an instrument have been presented by different scientists over the last five years. This evidence may not be the final answer as to whether playing the violin or any other instrument really contribute to a child’s cognitive abilities, but many parents are becoming more convinced that music training is an effective way to stimulate their children’s brain development. Below are some of the most compelling reasons why your child should start with his/her music training at an early age.

1. Significant difference between a musician’s brain and a non-musician’s:

In playing a certain instrument, a child’s brain performs a lot of complex physical and mental operations which enable him to visually present the music symbols through finger coordination and recognition of sounds. Scientists such as Schlaug and Gauser believe that this could be the reason why the gray matter volume (a measure of density of brain cells in a certain brain region) of a musician’s brain is greater than that of non-musician. They derived this conclusion from a study they conducted, where in they compared the brain structure of professional musicians, amateur musicians and non-musicians.

2. More developed Motor Skills and Brain Connections

Another experiment was conducted by Winner and Schlaug, where they performed a test on 59 children, ages 9-11. 41 of these children were given regular music training for 15 months while the rest did not. The results showed that the musically trained children showed better finger coordination and faster recognition abilities (the so-called near transfer abilities) than the non-musicians. He supported this finding using the brain scans of the musically trained children which clearly showed more defined brain connections than those who did not receive any music training in the duration of the study.

3. Longer Attention Span and Better Self Control

Research conducted by Michael Possner, a professor at the University of Oregon, showed the positive effects of music training on attention, self control and general intelligence. By using neuroimaging, he found that attention-controlled tasks contribute to the development of a child’s attention network, which leads to an increase of “fluid intelligence and IQ”. His research provides evidence that a child who is able to sustain attention and control for longer periods than other children of his age, has more developed language and reasoning abilities (so-called far transfer abilities).  He considered music training as an activity that could have this effect on children.

4. More Developed Geometric Abilities

Elisabeth Spelke, a professor at Harvard University showed in her research that children with music training have better map-reading and geometry abilities. In her study, she showed that infants as young as four months can associate lengths of sounds to the length of visual objects. In this research, she used tones of different lengths with corresponding cartoon worm sizes. “If an infant hears music, the melodic processing may lead to new forms of visual processing,” Spelke said. “This may form the basis for the relationship between math and music later on.”

5. Better Overall Performance at School

The recent study of the College Board, the institution that oversees the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, showed that students who are regularly taking music lessons scored, on average, 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 39 points higher on the math portion than non-musician students.

6. Strengthens the “Mozart Effect” in Children

Everyone has heard of the Mozart effect. However, none of the scientists was able to prove its long-term effects on children who are merely listening to Mozart’s compositions. However, if combined with regular music training, it has been said that Mozart’s music could have long term positive effects on the cognitive development of a child’s brain.  For this reason, over the past years, more parents are introducing classical music to their children by teaching them how to play the violin or the piano. However, due to its portability and current media exposure (violin being used by the media in the remakes of old songs), the violin is gradually gaining more popularity among the youth. Many educators have also noticed a steady growth in the number of students interested in learning how to play the violin compared to any other instrument.

We’ve heard it a lot of times – children’s brains are like sponges. They have the ability to learn a lot more than adults can. Why not start early and give your child a head start in life? As a parent, we are being presented with a lot of ways to educate our children. There are a lot of theories that are subject of dispute among educators and scientists but there’s one thing everyone agrees on – music lessons can only be beneficial to your children. As of this date, there is no existing study that proves otherwise.