All you need to do is visit the children’s audio/video section of your local CD store and you will be bombarded with a multitude of educational enhancement products to purchase. You can find ‘Baby Einstein’ or ‘Brainy Baby’ and a host of similar products to make your child smarter. These types of products can be a wonderful way to introduce music to your children before the age of three. However, nothing can replace private music lessons for a 3-9 year old.
The brain develops at a rapid rate between birth and three years and is an essential window for the development of neurons. Therefore, encouraging musical exploration is an easy way to promote intellectual development.
Before the age of three, toy instruments can be an excellent introduction to reality, and group music performance lessons can prepare a child for further study. Singing at any age is highly beneficial and linguistic and musical awareness can begin as early as the fifth month of pregnancy when the fetal brain and ears are fully open to receive stimuli.
From the age of 3, a child’s brain circuits are mature enough to begin instrumental and/or vocal lessons. The voice is probably the most important instrument because singing is a great gateway to confident communication and full self-expression.
The piano is usually the best musical instrument to start with because it doesn’t require any specific fingering to play. However, children should choose the instruments to play based on the sounds they like. Children will practice more if they like the sound of an instrument.
If your child chooses the piano, cheap electronic keyboards are a good way to start because they are so affordable and portable. Many brands on the market today will display the notes on a digital screen while music is playing. These types of keyboards can be a great help for a child to start reading musical notes and symbols. They also often have built-in song and rhythm features that make it easy to sing and dance along with the music.
Since Howard Gardner’s “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences” in 1983 and Gordon Shaw and Francis Rauscher’s “Mozart Effect” in 1993, there has been much debate and research about whether or not the study of music can be linked to a better academic performance.
You will find thousands of books, products, articles and websites on the benefits of studying music. For your convenience, the top 20 reported benefits for studying vocal and instrumental music are listed below.
1. Musical training has been linked to spatiotemporal reasoning skills. (That is, the ability to read a map, do puzzles, form mental images, transform/visualize things in space that develop over time, and recognize relationships between objects. These skills are often useful in science, math, and chess.)
2. Musical symbols, structure, and rhythmic training use fractions, ratios, and proportions, which are all important in mathematical study.
3. Increases problem finding/solving, logic, and thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, and linking/organizing ideas.
4. Optimizes the development and circuitry of brain neurons
5. Helps motor development, especially hand, eye and body coordination.
6. Expands multiple intelligences and helps students transfer study, cognitive, and communication skills from one subject to another in any curriculum.
7. Orchestra or ensemble group activities help promote cooperation, social harmony, and teach children discipline as they work together toward a common goal.
8. Music increases memory. For example, most people learn the alphabet by singing it. Repeating a melody in a predictable rhythmic song structure makes it easier to memorize.
9. Singing is a great way to help/enhance reading skills and instruction. Karaoke is a perfect example. Children can learn a song by ear (auditory), but the words on a television or computer screen provide a simultaneous visual anchor.
10. In vocal music, learning rhythm, phrasing, and pitch greatly improves language skills, pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. This is especially noticeable when songs are used in the study of the first and second language.
11. Improve critical reading and writing
12. Raises test scores, decreases performance anxiety, and teaches kids how to handle/manage stress during standardized tests
13. Help children channel unexpressed and/or negative emotions in a positive way
14. Power creative thinking
15. Reading music and performing memorized pieces helps children think about the future
16. Improvisation helps people “think on the fly”
17. Solo performance is related to self-esteem and self-efficacy. (concept of own capacity) Children learn to achieve the best of themselves.
18. When children constantly prepare and practice for a recital or performance, they work to sing/play without mistakes. They typically apply a similar determination and perseverance to many future academic or other endeavors.
19. Improves the understanding of homework and allows a higher level of concentration
20. Children who study music tend to have a better attitude, are more motivated and feel less intimidated by learning new things
Strong music reading, written notation, sight singing (solfeggio), music theory, literacy, and body movement to music are strong, transferable skills. Learning is a two-way street. For example, it can be assumed that mathematics can also develop music. Academic performance is positively related to musical performance and vice versa.
As far back as the 19th century, visionary Dr. Maria Montessori included music and the arts in school curricula around the world to greatly enhance and accelerate learning.
‘Lorna Heyge, Ph.D., says, ‘While educational leaders turn to early childhood music because it promotes brain development, they will stay with music because of the joy and stimulation they experience in making real music. Musical learning requires full participation, which is why it appeals so much to young children.”
Copyright 2006 Deborah Torres Patel