“I’d just like to see if my child is musical.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard dozens of times as an early childhood music and piano teacher. “I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but I’d like to see if my child does.” Parents, let’s pop those breaks on right now. Dr Anita Collins, an award-winning educator, researcher and writer in the field of brain development and music learning, discusses two myths when it comes to learning music.
Myth Number 1. You should only study music is you are going to become a professional musician.
Myth Number 2: You are wasting your money and time on lessons if your child is not “musical.”
Let’s check out myth number 1. Let’s apply that same logic to let’s say, maths, for example. Should children only study maths if they’re going to become professional mathematicians? Let’s not fall prey to straight line thinking! Research shows us that every child can benefit from making music as it literally builds bigger, better brains. Playing music makes your brain work hard – it requires a high cognitive load. Networks such as your analytical, reward, emotional, sensory, perceptual and cognition are all given a work out while doing one thing—playing music. Yes, it has been described as “fireworks in the brain” or the equivalent of a full body workout. Watch how the brain responds to music here.
So is this a waste of money (myth number 2)? Research has shown that the fireworks effect and regular brain works that come with learning music, helps children in other areas of learning. Here is one I’d like to highlight. In this age of immediacy, children need opportunity to develop resilience and persistence in long-term projects and efforts. Learning an instrument to a skilled level requires a faithfulness of time and effort and can be a medium through which students learn to become adults who are willing to take small steps and nurture growth one step at a time. As Anita says, kids need music not in order to become musicians, but to become productive adults.
It’s a case of use it or lose it! Around the age of 8, our brains do a major clean out, removing many of the neurons that are not being used, which is why it is beneficial for a child to learn music in they’re younger years. While it’s never too late, learning music early in life will help design your child’s brain for life.
Check out Anita’s 4.5 minute animation here on music learning and the brain.