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6 Ways Music Can Make You Smarter

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Learning a musical instrument does a lot more than changing the shape of your brain (see my previous blog). It can also help to make you smarter in other ways, because of the skills that it teaches you.

1. Improves maths skills

Reading music requires counting beats and rhythm. Learning music theory includes an understanding of many mathematical skills, such as fractions and adding. Studies have shown the students who play an instrument are often better in maths then student that don’t. A study in 2012 by a San Francisco State University found that students that studied a music-based program were better at working out fractions than their peers who did not use study music [1]. Rauscher (2006) discovered in her study that young children who were learning a musical instrument scored significantly higher on talks measuring spatial-temporal cognition. She put this down to a musician having to be able to subdivide the beat in their heads, to play the right rhythm. [2]

2. Improves reading and comprehension skills

Research has also shown that students who play an instrument also show a higher level of cognitive performance in reading skills, then those who don’t play an instrument [2]. This is because playing music requires being able to read, understand and translate what is on the page into sounds in your instrument.

3. Exposes you to cultural history

Music always reflects the environment and times that it is created in. As you learn music, you get to play a variety of music from different periods of history, cultures and genres. Learning a little bit of background to the music that you are playing helps you to gain more of an understanding of how that piece is to be performed. You are able to play beyond the notes and bring the music alive.

4. Sharpens your concentration

When you are playing music, you need to concentrate on what you are playing. This is, even more, the case when you are playing with others as you need to be aware of what you are playing and what everyone else around you is playing. You need to make sure that you are staying in time and in tune with the rest of the group.

5. Boasts your listening skills

You need to listen when you are playing an instrument. You need to learn to hear when you play a wrong note so that you are able to correct it. If you play an instrument that you need to tune, then you need to be able to hear when it is either sharp or flat know how to correct it. If you are playing with others, you need to listen carefully to help you stay in time and blend in with the other instruments.

6. Help develop performance skills

One reason people play an instrument is to play in front of others. It teaches you the importance of preparation for performance and how to handle the nerves that often is associated with performing. The knowledge of how your body responds to nerves in a musical setting can be transferred to other areas of your life where you need to perform or speak in front of a stranger. For more information on relearning with performance anxiety, please see my blog.

This is just a short list of some of the other ways that learning an instrument can make you smarter. My next post will look at some of the social benefits of playing an instrument.


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