Why learn an instrument?

Music develops and integrates the whole person, developing parts of the brain which other academic subjects don’t reach. Active engagement with music can result in specific changes to the cerebral cortex and these changes enhance skills in other areas. More specifically…

• Learning an instrument develops and improves a range of motor skills, body awareness and co-ordination.

• Playing an instrument can lead to a sense of achievement, an increase in self-esteem, increased confidence, self-discipline and provide a means of self-expression. Being in an orchestra, band or other type of group promotes friendship, team-play and a wide range of personal skills.

• Speech and music have a number of shared processing systems. Research with children has shown how musical experiences can sharpen the brain’s early encoding of linguistic sound. Learning to read music seems to contribute to the development of literacy skills, while learning to play an instrument enlarges the left cranial temporal regions of the brain leading to a greater capacity to remember words.

• Learning an instrument has a positive impact on childrens’ intellectual development, particularly spatial reasoning. Much research has shown a consistent relationship between active engagement in music and general attainment. Studies contrasting the impact of instrumental music lessons with drama tuition or neither of these found that the music groups had reliably larger increases in IQ.

For more on this, please read Professor Susan Hallam’s paper ‘The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people’. You can find it at the University of London, Institute of Education’s website. The address is www.ioe.ac.uk/Year_of_Music.pdf