The Benefits of Music Education
Music study leads to lasting changes in children’s brains, increasing their capacity to perform tasks that require sustained attention and careful listening and reading.
The Royal Conservatory. (2014). The Benefits of Music Education: An Overview of Current Neuroscience Research. Toronto: Canada, The Royal Conservatory of Music. 9pp.
For more than 127 years, The Royal Conservatory of Music has contributed to the musical education of millions of Canadians, as well as to their academic success and social well-being. The research we highlight in this document offers compelling insights into the powerful, long term value children gain through music study.
Research shows that participating in music study benefits both brain structure and brain function. Just like well exercised muscles protect the bones and joints, reduce blood pressure and increase energy levels, music education produces bigger, better functioning brains – a benefit to people of any age.
The brains of musically trained individuals are typically larger in the temporal cortex – an area on the side of the brain that controls hearing, among other things – and in the frontal cortex – an area in the front of the brain in charge of abstract thought, planning, and complex behaviours, as well as controlling our intended movements.
Many researchers link music lessons with improved IQ and academic performance.
Recent studies have also indicated that individuals who are musically trained show better working memory abilities than those who are not.
Studies have shown that musically trained children have better phonological skills, which can help them to learn words faster, develop a richer vocabulary, and learn to read sooner.
We know that from early childhood through to retirement years, whether involved in recreational music making or training for a professional career, people who are engaged in music study are sharpening their cognitive skills and developing social connections.
Over the past two decades, several large-scale studies have found that music students outperform academically compared to other students, often by large margins. Music students tend to be more engaged and motivated in their studies, and more likely to win academic awards.
Thanks to the groundbreaking research of neuroscientists, we now have a clear scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Music study leads to lasting changes in children’s brains, increasing their capacity to perform tasks that require sustained attention and careful listening and reading.
Parents can be more confident than ever that an investment in music lessons will deliver lifelong benefits for their child.
Recent studies have shown that collaborative music making can increase empathy in toddlers.
Scientific research is starting to emerge showing that lifelong music training can offer improved cognitive function as we age.