The Benefits of Your Child Learning an Instrument | Guest Post
As your children (perhaps begrudgingly) settle into their fall routines after a summer full of camps, vacations, and zero homework, you may feel bombarded by the manifold options to fill your children’s time after school and perhaps keep them in touch with school work. In this age of digital information overload, it becomes increasingly important to engage children sans computer screens. Learning to play a musical instrument, for example, provides children countless benefits. We’ve listed six key benefits, below:

IQ Boost after 20 Days of Lessons!

At least that is what Dr. Sylvain Moreno of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, found when he examined the cognitive activity of 32 eight-year-old children who were given free music lessons. Approximately 90% of children in Moreno’s studies experienced spikes in IQ. Further, rising IQs are much more pronounced when students engage in music as opposed to other creative after-school activities such as painting (note: I have no personal vendetta against painting). If you do not see noticeable improvements in your child’s IQ after 20 days, fear not! Other researchers have noted gains in IQ after enrolling children in keyboard lessons for 36 weeks. These numbers are not finite rules; rather, they further illustrate tangible gains in child IQ after engaging in instrument practice.

Improving Reading Skills:

Who says the benefits of learning an instrument only be relegated to the right side of your child’s brain? Since “there are similarities in the ways that individuals interpret music and language and because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain,” musical ability may seamlessly translate into higher reading comprehension levels, according to Drs. Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz. The process of learning music through instrument practice demonstrates several parallels to the process of attaining literacy, such as exposure to “formal notation read from left to right…symbols that represent information,” as well as listening to key changes in both auditory and visual narratives. Additionally, music education may hone the fundamental cognitive functions critical to improve reading levels, particularly working memory, or “the type of memory that allows us to remember things even while our minds are busy with other matters.''

Focus! Focus! Focus!

The children of “Generation Z” are the world’s first, true digital natives; thus, we need to prioritize engaging our kids in activities that increase their attention span without the mesmerizing blue light emitted from a computer screen (or a smartphone or a tablet). Examining brain images of subjects listening to classical music, Stanford University School of Medicine found that exposure to music lengthens attention span. Specifically, our neurons work harder when exposed to transitions within a piece of music. As this piece engages our brain over a certain time period, “the process of listening to music could be a way that the brain sharpens its ability to anticipate events and sustain attention,” according to Dr. Jonathan Berger. Cue substantive dinner conversations without smartphones. Priceless!

Rising self-confidence:

Like painting (see, I do like painting), sports, dance, etc., playing an instrument offers a unique outlet for children to express themselves, to cultivate an individual identity through their own hard work and dedication. When children embrace opportunities to showcase their newly-found talents for others, they gain self-confidence. The ability to perform music in front of others may seamlessly translate into other skills, like giving a cogent speech in front of their peers or strangers. In the long run, another context in which musical abilities even pitching their talents to prospective employers. In today’s increasingly competitive job market, particularly among young people, any avenue to bolster effective, interpersonal communication should be prioritized. Music also provides an alternative means of communication for children who may have had trouble expressing themselves in the past. Particularly with children diagnosed with autism, the acoustic guitar may be a sound option (no pun intended) to promote critical communication skills. Referring to the records of the autistic subject in the study above, the child was characterized as “sensitive to hard sounds,” as well as having “few friends.” Musical changes in the child’s life not only “improved social contact,” but also improved the child’s concentration and confidence to try new activities like swimming.

Promoting Tolerance:

The music that your child is listening to on the radio (or on your Spotify playlist), regardless of genre, is the product of hundreds of years of cross-cultural exchanges. As we may all be aware, music transcends different cultural backgrounds and resonates well with people despite their individual origins, race and cultural persuasions. For example, what would have happened to icons like the Beatles or Rolling Stones without the blues that form the sonic backbone of Chicago? Where would the state of U.S. hip hop be without the influences of Jamaican “selectors” (DJs) immigrating to the Bronx, New York? We could go on for days. Exposure to music education offers children a unique lens into cultures that your children may not necessarily be exposed to in their social studies classrooms. And even if they are, music may serve to complicate the identities of those unfamiliar to your kids, beyond a few lines in a history textbook. In the long run, this heightened sense of cultural competency ignited simply playing an instrument may help your children recognize the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation, which will only become a more vital skill for your child to thrive in this age of social and economic globalization.

Fostering Grit:

Even if your child may not exhibit the talents of a musical prodigy, learning to play an instrument may promote the idea and merits of grit, defined by psychologist Dr. Angela Duckworth as a combination of passion and perseverance integral to success in nearly any professional field. Having your child commit to honing a talent, like learning to play an instrument, provides them a critical opportunity to persevere through various potential setbacks in the process, which may entail: making repetitive mistakes, handling constructive criticism, and building mental endurance to push through. Sure, you may have to invest in some ear plugs, but investing in your child’s tenacity, though, may be worth the headaches.

Further Reading

The Benefits of Music Education Finding the Perfect Guitar For Your Child How Music Education Can Improve Children’s Reading Skills