Parents are constantly trying to help their children gain a leg up in life, so it comes as no surprise that anything reportedly raising a child’s intelligence will be popular. Music lessons have found themselves in this genre of extracurricular activity.
You’re probably familiar with Baby Einstein, Kindermusik, and music lessons in general, and you’ve undoubtedly heard that classical music training is great for your child’s IQ and linguistic development. But is this true, or is it just a myth?
I teach piano lessons in West Chester, PA, so I’m familiar with this issue – here is some of what I’ve learned. Of course, if you would like to get in touch about piano lessons for yourself or your child, I would love to speak with you.
Do Music Lessons Make Kids Smarter?
No, music lessons do not directly raise your child’s level of intelligence. This may sound controversial, given the decades of study into the matter, but no direct scientific causation has been established between music lessons and “increased intelligence.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t correlations, but we cannot truthfully say that your child will get smarter by taking music lessons.
Claim: Music Lessons Raise Kids’ IQ Scores
A professor from the University of Toronto named Glenn Schellenberg published a study in 2004 that demonstrated a correlation between music study and higher IQ, and many parents and teachers took that study and ran with it.
Schellenberg placed 144 students in four groups: keyboard lessons, singing lessons, acting lessons, and a control group with no lessons. The study lasted for one year.
Combined, the students engaged in the two music classes gained about 3 more IQ points in the year (7) than the students in the non-musical groups (4.3).
So what’s the problem? Firstly, 144 students (and 12 actually dropped out, so the true number is 132) is not a large sample size. In fact, it’s nearly statistically irrelevant altogether, considering the fact that there are roughly 74 million children in the United States. Secondly, one calendar year is not a significant period of time.
Furthermore, is winning the IQ race by 2.7 points really that meaningful? And what other factors did Schellenberg not track during that year-long period of time that could have influenced the results? Is it possible that there were one or two outliers in the music group that skewed the data in their group’s favor?
Claim: Music Lessons Improve Linguistic Skill In Young Children
Music stimulates the same part of the brain involved in linguistic development in young children, so the belief goes that if you expose your child to music lessons, their aptitude for language will improve.
You would probably benefit from reading this study for yourself, but in sum, researchers ran a test on 74 students. The students were split into three groups: piano lessons, reading class, and a no-contact control group. Note – the piano students received THREE 45-minute lessons per week during the study (six months). The piano students out-performed the control group in both consonant detection and vowel detection after the trial period.
Here’s the takeaway – it took six months of thrice-weekly piano lessons for the piano students to significantly distance themselves in the ability to detect vowels and consonants. Furthermore, the piano students did not see more of an increase in IQ or other cognitive function vs. the other groups.
This is hardly a smoking gun, and again, 74 students is not a large sample. I don’t think we should conclude that piano lessons (or music lessons in general) give children a significant cognitive advantage, other than the fact that they will probably learn to be more focused and disciplined.
So Should You Enroll Your Child in Piano Lessons?
Yes! Music’s value should not be tied to an increase in your child’s IQ or cognitive ability, and while many parents’ hearts are in the right place, using music as an “intelligence hack” is just going to make their child resent music and get no value from it whatsoever.
Have We Forgotten That Music Has Intrinsic Value?
One of the issues with the whole “does music make kids smarter” conversation is that it robs music of all intrinsic value. If music did give kids a cognitive advantage, would it give them more of an advantage than other activities? There’s still no reason to specifically pursue music.
And by extension, since music has not been scientifically proven to increase intelligence, does that mean it’s not worth pursuing?
Music communicates ideas that can’t be spoken, and it teaches us to appreciate beauty for its own sake. That is worth more than a few additional IQ points. Visiting the mountains doesn’t raise your IQ, but it’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, and that has enough intrinsic value for us to do it.
Music Teaches The Value Of Commitment and Discipline
Practicing the piano is hard, and it takes a long time to play difficult music. This is a good thing. Children can learn from an early age that they can accomplish incredible things when they just sit down and focus on a specific pursuit for a few minutes every day for a long period of time. There’s a lot of power in teaching your child that if they only focus on something for 30 minutes per day, the end product can be amazing.
Music Breeds Confidence
Self-confidence can be hard to come by for many children and teenagers, but if your child is a competent pianist, they will naturally feel a significant sense of accomplishment and confidence. Better yet, when you start your child at a young age, this confidence will come into play as early as 3rd-6th grade.
Build An Artistic Side From an Early Age
The importance of this can’t really be exaggerated. So many adults reach a point in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or later when they crave an artistic outlet. They wish they could play music, sight read music at the piano, play at more than a beginner jazz level, or something else. But yes, it is much harder to start from scratch at that stage in life. Many adults get discouraged and quit.
But if you start your child at the piano, you will help them avoid that “artistic crisis” later in life, and they will thank you for it!
If you have any questions about piano lessons in Downingtown, piano lessons in Coatesville, or the benefits of piano lessons for kids and teenagers, I would love to speak with you. Please get in touch at your earliest convenience.