Does Learning a Musical Instrument Make Kids Smarter?
The October 14, 1993 edition of the journal Nature published a study that found listening to Mozart made college students smarter. This led to a Mozart craze that included the Baby Einstein DVD series and books like The Mozart Effect for Children: Awakening Your Child's Mind, Health, and Creativity with Music. Zell Miller, the Governor of Georgia at that time, wanted to provide classical music CDs to each child born in the state. Later studies found that the Mozart Effect wasn't real. While listening to Mozart may not make your child smarter, learning to play Mozart's music will.
Learning a Musical Instrument Raises IQ in Kids
Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto, did a study to determine if learning to play a musical instrument raises IQ. Schellenberg's study assigned children to keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons or no lessons. The children's IQs were measured before beginning lessons and afterwards.
Benefits of Music in Education
Previous studies have found that musical training promotes intellectual developments, such as literacy, verbal memory, spatial ability, reading ability, selective attention, and mathematics achievement. However, it was possible that more intelligent children were more likely to learn a musical instrument than other children. Another possible explanation was that children from more affluent backgrounds were more likely to receive musical training, which could explain the higher levels of intelligence.
Schellenberg wanted to determine if it was or wasn't musical training that accounted for these intellectual abilities in musically trained kids. His study determined that the IQ of musically trained children increased 3 points. By randomly assigning a large number of children to different groups, he was able to determine that it was the music lessons and not another factor that raised IQ. Schellenberg suggests that the following may account the increase in IQ:
"Music lessons involve long periods of focused attention, daily practice, reading musical notation, memorization of extended musical passages, learning about a variety of musical structures (e.g., intervals, scales, chords, chord progressions), and progressive mastery of technical (i.e., fine-motor) skills and the conventions governing the expression of emotions in performance." *
Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports Study
Research published in the online publication Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain. The parts of the brain that control motor skills, hearing and memory are larger and more active when learns how to play an instrument and can improve day-to-day brain function.
According to this study, it can also increase IQ by 7 points in both children and adults. Evidence suggests that musicians have brains that are structurally and functionally different than those of nonmusicians. University of Zurich psychologist Lutz Jäncke said:
"For children especially we found that learning to play the piano for instance teaches them to be more self-disciplined, more attentive and better at planning. All of these things are very important for academic performance, so can therefore make a child brighter. Of course music isn't the only answer, but I do believe that it should be used in addition to other things."
* Research Report: Music Lessons Enhance IQ by E. Glenn Schellenberg of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada