Playing the piano increases intelligence
You, and your abilities, are the result of your brains ability to process information. Studying piano in the correct way helps to increase your brains ability to process information. This is one reason why studying piano has been proven to have a positive effect on the study of all other subjects. Academic research has given us conclusive proof of the major benefits of playing a musical instrument, especially the piano. It can help children develop cognitive skills, helping them gain confidence and improving social skills and networks. It has been proved to reduce stress in adults and help keep minds of all ages healthy and exercised. Giving a child the gift of music may also give them the gift of enhanced academic achievement.
Benefits of playing the piano
There is clear evidence of the benefits of playing the piano:
- increases a players confidence through the acquisition of a new skill
- increases a players creativity</li><li>fosters and garners social and community responsibilities
- increases brain activity
- helps with conditions associated with memory loss
- reduces stress levels in all ages
- promotes lower blood pressure
- helps work against depression and related conditions
- enhances cognitive development in children
The academic research
Piano teachers and those of us who work with music everyday have always known the benefits of playing an instrument. We've had our passion confirmed by the research findings of Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at OshKosh, and Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California at Irvine. Their research shows the importance of music in early developmental stages of childhood and has attracted many supporters.
The team explored the link between music and intelligence, finding music training, especially the piano, superior to computer instruction in enhancing a child's abstract reasoning skills. This makes playing the piano far more beneficial to children's understanding of math and science. Building on their earlier studies which showed how music can enhance spatial-reasoning ability, the doctors compared the effects of musical and non-musical training on intellectual development.
For their experiments, the researchers created four groups of preschoolers: one group received private piano or keyboard lessons; a second group received singing lessons; a third group received private computer lessons; and a fourth group received no additional training. Those children who received piano or keyboard training performed 34 percent higher than the other groups on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability, showing music uniquely enhances higher brain functions required for mathematics, science and engineering.
This research can change the way educators view the core school curriculum, as it proves making music nurtures the intellect and produces long-term intellectual improvements. Dr. Rauscher tells us, "It has been clearly documented that young students have difficulty understanding the concepts of proportion (heavily used in math and science) and that no successful program has been developed to teach these concepts in the school system.” Dr. Shaw added, “The high proportion of children who evidenced dramatic improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning as a result of music training should be of great interest to scientists and educators."
This research does not stand alone. Numerous studies have recently focused on child development and music. Early experiences determine which brain cells connect with others and which ones die away. Young brains develop to their full potential when exposed to experiences that nurture and enrich them in early childhood. Studies indicate that playing and learning an instrument, especially the piano, generates the right kind of connections for enhanced intellectual capacity, including capabilities necessary for understanding mathematical concepts.
A Canadian study shows the IQ of students participating in music training increased by three points more than children who were not. In no other subject area than music does a child have to make four or five decisions per second and then act on them continuously for long stretches of time. This research lends more weight to the theory music exercises parts of the brain useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence and other intellectual pursuits. Study author, E. Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga said, "With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved - such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords - the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the effect" In his study, Schellenberg offered 12 six year-olds from the Toronto area free weekly voice or piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Over a school year, those children receiving voice or piano tutorial saw their IQ increase an average of 2.7 points more than the other groups. The authors of both research studies are in wholehearted agreement music lessons should be available to children as part of their education.
More benefits to learning to play the piano
Learning to play the piano and music instruction increases a child's cooperative skills and they learn that together, they can accomplish more than in isolation. A cooperative understanding is an excellent grounding in teamwork, an essential skill throughout ones life. Such a skill as playing the piano gives great pleasure to the musician and those around them. It increases self esteem to know you are mastering a complex and sought after skill. This can build a can-do attitude and a positive self image. Learning music helps increase their understanding of aesthetics, creativity, emotional responses, abstract thinking and creative expression. As well as the complex cognitive advantages piano playing has, it gives the player a sense of beauty, enriching ones life.
Musical education – the benefits:
- development of higher order thinking skills
- improved concentration
- lengthened attention spans
- improved memory and retention
- improved interpersonal skills
- abilities to work with others in collaborative ways
Intriguing facts and figures about making music
- 113 million, or 53%, of Americans over the age of 12 are current or former music makers.(Source: 1997 "American Attitudes Towards Music" poll conducted by the Gallup Organization)
- Americans Say Schools Should Offer Instrumental Music Instruction as part of the regular curriculum. 88% of respondents indicated this in a 1997 "American Attitudes Towards Music" Gallup poll. (Source: Music Trades, September 1997)
- Active music-making positively affects the biology and behavior of Alzheimer's patients. (Source: Music Making and Wellness Project, a study conducted at the University of Miami)
- The window of opportunity for studying music is between the ages of three and ten. This is the time when we are the most receptive to and able to process music. (Source: Newsweek, February 19, 1996)
- Rhode Island studies have indicated that sequential, skill-building instruction in art and music integrated with the rest of the curriculum can greatly improve children's performance in reading and math. (Source: "Learning Improved by Arts Training" by Martin Gardiner, Alan Fox, Faith Knowles, and Donna Jeffrey, Nature, May 23, 1996)
- “The Mozart Effect” surfaced when research uncovered that adults who listened to music of complexity for ten minutes or so experienced temporary increases in their spatial IQ scores. (Source: Frances Rauscher, Ph.D., Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 1993-1994)
A recent study of teenage science students in over seventeen countries showed the top three academic countries were Hungary, the Netherlands, and Japan. All three include music throughout the curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Another report shows that academic establishments who produce the highest grades in the United States devote 20 to 30 per cent of the day on creative arts, with increased attention on music. St. Augustine Bronx elementary school was failing in 1984. It started an intensive music program and today they have 90 per cent of students reading at or above grade level. Davidson School in Augusta, Georgia (grades 5-12), started its music and arts program in 1981 and is now the top academic school in the country. Ashley River Elementary in Charleston, North Carolina is second academically, second only to a school for the academically gifted. Thanks to advancements in science, we can see the effect musical learning and playing has on the brain. When people learn to read music, begin to understand key signatures, notation and other musical references, and can follow a sequence of notes, the left hemisphere of the brain starts to work, producing the same brain activity as analytical and mathematical thinking.
Can a love of music affect our cognitive abilities? Dr. Paul MacLean at the National Institute of Mental Health has a theory that suggests the human brain acts as three brains in one. The smallest part of the brain, about 5 per cent, called the reticular formation is like a gateway for the majority of sensory input we experience and maintains automatic body processes like breathing and heartbeat. About 10 per cent, the limbic system, controls the emotions, various memories, and our glands. The cerebral cortex, about 85% of the brain, controls higher order thinking processes. However, the smaller limbic system is powerful enough to have a positive or negative affect on learning and higher order thinking. Such positive emotions, such as love, tenderness, and humor, can help higher order thinking. However, conversely, negative emotions, such as anger, hostility, and fear, can literally inhibit the brain, reducing it to basic survival thinking. When children are exposed to situations where they are joyfully making music, a positive effect on their emotional make-up can take place. Dr. Georgi Lozonov, Bulgarian founder of accelerated learning techniques has researched the most effective music for academic development. According to Dr. Lozonov, Baroque and Romantic music offer students increased learning opportunities in any subject. Dr. Lozonov has reportedly used the technique for corporate training programs and schools, halving the time it takes to deliver teaching.
Success stories of using music for academic accomplishment
Chicago’s inner-city Guggenheim Elementary School are enjoying good attendance records alongside good test scores and increased enthusiasm since a fresh approach to academia using visual arts and music was instigated. Music has been used successfully and extensively to teach students at the Horton School in San Diego to become bilingual in Spanish and English.
The fully rounded facets of music and musical training
We live with music to such an extent its easy to take it for granted. But break it down into its constituent areas and it becomes easy to see how integral it is with every facet of our life.
- Science - Music is a specialized science dealing with the qualities of sound, acoustics and timbre. Extensive training is given to the aural discrimination between like pitches and those that are different.
- Mathematics - Counting in groups of two, three, four and higher are used consistently in all music repertoire. We develop and reinforce the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
- Geography - Music is a common language, but unique to every culture on Earth. Each music selection utilizes rhythmic patterns and a specified tonality. Both have their origins from other regions and countries on the globe.
- History - When musicians understand the intentions of the composers masterpiece, they gain insight to all historical eras. Music acts as a blueprint, testimonial, and archive of the particular epoch. It is then possible to experience history through musical performance.
- Physical Education – The wind and vocal musician spend significant time developing proper breathing habits. Rehearsals are as intensive and exhaustive as jogging and swimming laps. Motor skills are advanced when playing percussion, woodwind, brass and string instruments. As with all sports organizations, the concepts of teamwork and cooperation are exploited in the band, orchestra and chorus setting.
Thanks to Pacey Pianos for granting permission to reproduce this excellent article.