One of the strangest beliefs about the study of music: That you only study music if you have talent, are gifted, are good at it…. but the general truth is a huge percentage of us really enjoy music – it’s one of humankind’s oldest shared traditions… so what if we could prove that music is good for even the non-talented, or listeners, or essentially all of us? Could there be more to music than simply entertainment?
I remember receiving a sticker after taking a Royal Conservatory Exam one year; it read “Making Music Makes You Smarter!” After all the work I had put into my exam, I thought this couldn’t help but be true!
The truth is that though this has been the boast of many a music teacher, it was more intuitive than fact…. until!!
Enter Neuroscience and brain imaging technology. Introduced to me by this fabulous TED video by Anita Collins (which then spawned me to write a university research paper to explore this question of music making you smarter… but I digress:). This brain imaging technology allows neuroscientists to observe the brain in real time, that is when it is actually engaged in a specific task (i.e. alive). The stellar amazing thing that neuroscientists discovered is that the task of music – be it listening or even better playing! – is an excellent way of observing how the brain works. This is because music, out of many possible tasks, uses the most areas of the brain, simultaneously and synchronistically. This promotes all sorts of wondrous things including better memory, focus and concentration, improved IQ, creation and strengthening of neural connections and more grey matter and white matter (the building materials of our brains), boosts speech and reading skills, faster problem solving skills, heightened executive function (planning strategy, attention to detail), improved cognitive function (perception, thinking, reasoning and remembering), better motor skill co-ordination and sense of empathy. In summary, musical training actually trains and strengthens our brains for many other different processes and functions – i.e. it can help make you smarter!!
While the research in this particular branch is still quite young, the results have been overwhelmingly positive and research continues….
TED talk by Anita Collins:
The Royal Conservatory of Music also put out a great paper on neuroscience research which includes some great references:
So get out there and have fun learning to play music; knowing that talent or not, it is highly beneficial for your mind!!