Benefits of Music Education: the Harmonious Path to Success
How it works
Music plays a key role in society today. People listen to music in the car on the way to work or school to distract them from the bore of the drive, in the house while cleaning or doing homework to help them focus on their tasks, and at parties to increase the level of fun and entertainment. People begin to hear and understand music starting at the beginning of development as newborn children. Music has the power to change the way people act, think, and feel.
While in the developmental stages of life, music has the ability to affect the development of linguistic skills, literacy, numeracy skills, and overall intellectual development of children.
Learning and Music
Learning can be divided into two general categories: conscious learning and unconscious learning. Many things that are learned, such as tying shoes, are learned through direct teaching. These skills fall under the conscious learning category. Skills such as speech patterns and linguistic processing are learned unconsciously through the things that we experience and become accustomed to early on in childhood. “Speech and music have some shared processing systems” (Hallam, 2010). This enables children to learn speech skills more efficiently through music.
Music’s Influence on Speech Skills
When people listen to music, they unconsciously process the speech patterns and tonal differences in the voice of the singers. Speech is not a monotone thing. As a person speaks, each word or syllable has a slightly different pitch. Those who are older and more mature tend to have lower-toned voices than those who are still developing. Through music, young children are able to correlate pitches better, which helps them to understand speech more clearly and efficiently (Hoffer et al., 1973). The rhythms and pulse within music also help children to understand speech better. In music, there is a constant pulse or beat throughout the song. The human speech also contains a pulse, or cadence, throughout. Children are able to connect the understanding of a pulse in music to the varying cadences of speech that are required to communicate effectively with others. “ Musical training seems to develop skills which may enhance the perception of these patterns [in speech]” (Hallam, 2010). Music also helps children to develop the skills to distinguish between rapidly changing sounds. Music often has fast-paced, changing melodies and harmonies. Because of the understanding gained through music, children are able to comprehend speech faster than those without the skills developed through music.
Music’s Impact on Reading and Linguistic Skills
Music has been shown to improve reading capabilities as well as speech comprehension. In one study, a group of seven and eight-year-old students were exposed to music designed to stimulate certain areas of the brain for six months. After the six-month period was over, the group was tested on their literacy skills. The average score of the exposed group versus the control group showed that those exposed to the music scored higher than those who had not (Douglas & Willatts, 1994). Music skills strongly correlate to the awareness of linguistic skills necessary for strong development. Many studies have been conducted that focus on children who are labeled as “slow learners.” These studies have followed the development of reading skills in “slow learners” who are receiving musical instruction and those who are not. It was consistently found that over a period of two or more years, the music group had significantly higher scores than the children not receiving musical training.
Music’s Relationship with Mathematics
Music, specifically rhythmic training, has a strong correlation with early mathematics. Musicians who work with more rhythmically challenging pieces are required to sub-divide the rhythms to make good music—children who have had rhythmic training score higher in mathematics than those who do not. The research on mathematics and music correlation has had mixed results, however. It was found that those students in 8th grade and below have a better chance for improvement in mathematics. This is because the math required in 8th grade and below corresponds more with the mathematics required by musicians. Whitehead, however, found that in high school-aged children, there was little to no correlation between music and mathematics scores (Whitehead, 2001). This is because high school-level mathematics is more advanced than anything that can be learned from rhythmic notation. This shows that rhythmic training during the earlier years of development will help with mathematics more than later rhythmic training.
- Hallam, S. (2010). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education, 28(3), 269-289.
- Hoffer, C. R., Petrie, H. L., & Hoover, J. D. (1973). Correlations between music training and the reading readiness skills of kindergarten children. Journal of Research in Music Education, 21(1), 47-58.
- Douglas, S., & Willatts, P. (1994). The relationship between musical ability and literacy skills. Journal of Research in Reading, 17(2), 99-107.