Thursday, October 9, 2008

#36 Piano and learning.

[caption id="attachment_407" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Scales today, Harvard tomorrow?"]Scales today, Harvard tomorrow?[/caption]

More than 2000 years ago, Plato said:

"Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, and children should be taught music before anything else."

Many studies show that listening to and playing music has profound effects on a child's learning. It also gives them an outlet to express their emotion and boosts their self-confidence and independence, not to mention that it is a great way to develop discipline.

Although there are a lot of dubious claims that are more in the realms of the esoteric and have not been since replicated--- for example, the so-called "Mozart effect"--- there are plenty of well documented scientific studies that give evidence of the beneficial effects that music and the piano has on children. Here are a couple of those studies:

- This study by Toronto professor E. Glenn Schellenberg showed that keyboard instruments in particular have a significant impact on a child's IQ and academic achievement. He offered free piano, singing and drama lessons to groups of six year olds and monitored their progress as they started elementary school. The students receiving music lessons had a boost in their IQ and the most significant results were apparent in the children taking piano lessons.

- Dr. Frances Rauscher has written many research papers on the way the brain works when learning music and the effects it has on the different types of reasoning and academic performance, ranging from pre-schoolers to college students. At the bottom of the page, most of her research papers are available in .pdf format.

A good resource online for learning about research done on music and how it affects people and learning is the NAMM foundation, at

So, today's daily piano tip is:

Get a piano for your children.


  1. My son's fifth grade teacher used to play Mozart during math time. It may not have helped all the students with math - but they didn't putz around as before. It made them concentrate on what they were doing better. I was surprised. Suppose that there are many purposes for Mozart.

    I believe what you say about piano and learning very much. It used to be that people mentioned the 'muses' and how the arts work together. I don't necessarily think the greeks had it wrong in the sense that the nine 'muses' are facets of the arts which include many more things than just music. Have to look them up again - but seems that to favor one art so highly against another is being close minded and works against performing piano to a higher understanding. A well-rounded education would perhaps lesses music studies a tiny bit in highschool - but one could regain more momentum in college. To overdo it in highschool, to me, is limiting the brain and mind to one part of the brain - whereas in youth - all the parts of the brain need to be stimulated.

  2. Instrumental music, song, romantic poetry, art, the sciences (incl. astronomy), mathematics - these are all things that children can begin to understand in a deeper way by not telling them 'you are a musician first.' Maybe they aren't! Maybe they will be a better mathematician. Exposing children to things helps them see what they are truly gifted in.

    My opinion is that piano practice time can easily reach two or three hours a day in middle school and highschool - but practicing more than that is taking time away from other brain enhancement.

    With very young children, telling them to practice more that the lesson time (a half hour or so) - seems that it is requiring them to sacrifice other forms of brain stimulation. Exercise, exploration, experimentation, using all the sense, cooking, reading, growing things, taking care of animals (pets), these are fun things that a lot of children miss.