The Benefits of Playing an Instrument

December 9, 2011
By , Indianapolis, IN
When times get tough, and schools are left with a tight budget, they have to cut certain programs. Most of the time, music programs are among the first to go. Is it really smart to get rid of music education in school? Research has proven that playing an instrument has many benefits. Students who play an instrument are usually more self-disciplined, are smarter, and have a better memory.

Students in top-quality instrumental programs scored an average of 19% higher in English and 17% higher in math than students in schools without a performing arts program. This is because playing an instrument dramatically increases the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds. By playing an instrument, the parts of the brain that control hearing, memory, and the hands become more active, and so the whole structure of the brain will change.

Playing an instrument will also increase a child’s IQ. One’s IQ can be increased by as much as 7 points. Music students also scored better on the SATs than non-musicians. Musicians scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test than their non-musician peers. They also scored 41 points higher on the math portion of the SATs. In 2002, the average SAT scores for the verbal and math portions for music performance students were 537. The average for non-musicians for the verbal portion was 473. The average for math was 494. That is a 64-point difference for the verbal portion and a 43-point difference for math.

Middle School and High School students who play an instrument scored significantly higher on standardized tests than people who are not involved in performing arts. Studies conducted at universities in Georgia and Texas found correlations between the number of years of music instruction and academic achievement in math, science, and language arts.

Researchers have found that musicians are more likely to keep their memories active. They believe that playing an instrument allows your brain to be more adaptable to aging and make adjustments for any decline in the ability to remember things. Also, they have found that music helps you to be able to continue to separate speech from background noise as you grow older.



“The neural enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just an amplifying or volume knob effect. Playing music engages their ability to extract relevant patterns, including the sound of their own instrument, harmonies and rhythms,” said Dr. Nina Kraus, director of Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Playing music can also help you get into medical school. Music majors are the most likely group of college students to be admitted into a medical school. Lewis Thomas, a physician and biologist, studied the undergraduate majors of med school applicants and found that 66% of music majors who applied to med school were admitted, which was the highest percentage of any group. Also, a study showed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors, including English, Bio, Chemistry, and Math.

As you can see, playing a musical instrument has many benefits. When a school has a tight budget, they should think twice before getting rid of their music programs, especially since music has such a big impact on academics.

Sources
1.
http://www.vh1savethemusic.com/node/2192
2.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6447588/Playing-a-musical-instrument-makes-you-brainier.html
3.
http://www.livescience.com/1388-playing-music-smart.html
4.
http://www.pianocommando.com/music.pdf





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