The Surprising Benefits of a Music Education

Tricia Chadwick

Here are just some of the brain-boosting effects of learning to play an instrument.

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” — Plato.

Take it from Plato, widely recognized as one of the most profound thinkers of our time; music makes everything easier.

Did you ever notice that painting a room or mopping a floor seems to go much faster when good music is playing?

What about how you can hear a song on the radio and remember the lyrics, no matter how long it’s been since the last time you heard it?

There’s little doubt that music can unlock otherwise hard to reach areas of the brain. While the advantages of music education are well documented and researched, it seems the list of benefits only grows longer each year.

Here are some of the coolest and most surprising benefits of learning to play a musical instrument.

Helps with ADHD

Music provides benefits to attention and focus. This improvement in focus extends to those with ADHD as well.

“Playing, or learning to play an instrument, can also help develop skills needed for sustaining attention, alternating attention, impulse control, and decision-making. One study found that children who studied a musical instrument showed better auditory connectivity in the brain, which is often diminished in ADHD brains,” according to ADDitude mag.

Protects against dementia and cognitive impairment

Research done in 2014 on sets of twins sought to explore the link between playing a musical instrument and the development of dementia.

The study was able to “confirm the hypothesis that twins who played a musical instrument in older adulthood were less likely to develop dementia and cognitive impairment compared to their cotwins.”

The implications of this study are enormous. Scientists are only beginning to touch upon ways to use this information to help dementia patients.

Language development

There is a reason that so much of our interactive play with babies and toddlers involves music. The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Mary Had A Little Lamb help children build foundational language skills.

“Research reveals strong connections between rhythm skills and pre-reading abilities in toddlers,” — Woodruff Carr K.

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, we can see music education’s effect on language development in the brain.

“Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

This is a good reason to tie learning new information to music. When you need to remember something important, make a song out of it.

“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” Plato

Increased coordination

Learning to play an instrument takes good hand-eye coordination. Learning to play, and more importantly, practicing your instrument establishes muscle memory and improves your coordination.

“If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.” Zimbabwe Proverb

Improved Spatial Intelligence

Students that play a musical instrument may also have a leg up on the competition in math.

“Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more,” according to

Increased responsibility

Learning to play an instrument develops responsibility. Students of music must take care of their instrument, as they can be costly and also high maintenance. They also must commit to a practice schedule to progress their skill level. Over time, this develops and increases their level of responsibility.

Improved test scores

Students that learn to play an instrument perform better in school.

“A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts.”

Students from every economic background benefit from music education. We must ensure schools keep funding these programs!

Improved Executive Functioning

“Music is a discipline, and a mistress of order and good manners, she makes the people milder and gentler, more moral and more reasonable.” — Martin Luther

Executive Functioning is a big determiner of success in life. defines it in this way:

Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.

Music can help improve these skills.

“Several studies show that people who were musically trained tend to do better as a group on tests of memory, attention, and executive functioning, compared to those who were untrained,” according to Larry Maucieri, Ph.D., ABPP-CN.

Increased IQ

Students with a music education have shown increased IQ scores.

“A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons.”

Increased confidence

Learning to play a musical instrument increases confidence. It can be challenging at times! Overcoming the difficult moments and mastering new songs, notes, and skills are empowering.

Playing for an audience is another way music students can increase their confidence level.

Music teaches empathy

“Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it’s essential to being human.” Jewel

With the world changing rapidly, the need to know and understand our fellow humans is more significant than ever before. Music offers an opportunity to look at the world differently, to see a different perspective.

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.” — — Shinichi Suzuki

The benefits don't end there

The above is by no means a definitive list of the benefits of music education. Scientists are still finding new advantages every day.

If you’ve been thinking about learning to play, why wait? Start now and let your brain reap the benefits!

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” — Arthur O’Shaughnessy

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Small business owner, teacher, and mom. I write about learning, health, parenting, and animals.

Torrington, CT

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