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Turn the Volume Up: Using Music to Optimize Learning


In an increasingly competitive world where everyone is expected to perform at the peak of their abilities, it is important to find ways to achieve goals without succumbing to stress. This is especially true for children. Children are less able to manage stress effectively simply because of their lack of experience and maturity. Still, today’s children are more prone to stress-induced mental health issues.

Due to this, parents, guardians, and teachers are now exploring various means to aid children in managing their tasks effectively while reducing the amount of mental pressure they may feel while undertaking these tasks. This is where music comes in useful.

Music and Stress Relief

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that music reduces stress. There are numerous playlists on music services such as YouTube and Spotify aimed specifically at stress reduction. Whether you find jazz or heavy metal to be soothing, adults have long since cracked the code of which specific genre of music aids them in mood management. We just need to find what works for young learners.

Sometimes it can be as simple as introducing your child to different types of music and helping them find the optimum volume at which they can enjoy the music while doing their homework. But more and more parents are finding ways to integrate music learning into their children’s schedule more systematically by getting them a vocal coach or signing them up for piano classes.

Music and the Brain

Science has conclusively proven that there is a part of the brain, in the auditory cortex, that responds exclusively to musical stimuli. It responds to all types of music. The only issue is that each brain reacts differently to different types of musical stimuli. This means that while listening to music can aid some students in focusing and retaining information, simply listening to music is not enough for all students.

Structured music lessons have been shown to improve cognitive abilities in children, especially in the areas of reasoning, memory, and inhibition. In fact, a study has shown that the increased cognitive ability can help children achieve more in areas unrelated specifically to their music training. Simply put, formal training in music can help your child become a more holistically improved student.


Music and Formal Training

Prominent brain researcher, Nina Kraus, said that “music training leads to changes throughout the auditory system that prime musicians for listening challenges beyond music processing.” This confirms the wide-ranging advantages of formal training in music. Musicians are prime subjects when researchers such as Dr. Kraus want to study the learning ability of the brain.

Formal training in music gives the students enhanced abilities in assessing information and retaining that information at a higher volume. Even in non-music related situations, such as a lecture or speech, students with musical training will remember more of what they have heard than a student without the same training. This is not to say that a student with musical training is smarter than a student without it. It simply means that the specific student is smarter with training than if they have not received the training.

Music and Thinking

While the desire to turn on music when learning depends on the personality of the listener, the benefits of formal music training are evident even when the student is not actively engaged in listening or practicing.

Musicians have a better working-memory load. Working memory is the ability of the brain to hold information temporarily. Having a greater load has short-term benefits such as higher I.Q. test scores. It can also have a constant long-term benefit of improving the ability to think. Having a greater working-memory capacity allows students to hold on to more information that can aid them in thinking and reasoning at a more complex level.

Musically trained people, whether they are adults or children, have also shown greater ability at learning languages, are quantifiably more empathetic to others, and are better at collaborating within groups and project settings. Also, the idea that a child must be gifted or very young to enjoy the benefits of music training is a false one. It is entirely possible to pick up an instrument and gain the ensuing advantages at any age. Whether you would like to improve your grades at college or need a boost to help you perform better at work, music just might be what the doctor ordered.


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