Research Shows

Research Shows...

These are some of the ways that participating in school or community-based music training enhances whole-child development...




  • facilitates turn taking
  • helps in learning to follow directions, or help with task completion.
  • helps children learn about the way that others live
  • helps children learn how to behave in group situations
  • builds powerful connections through singing and enjoying music with others
  • helps children to label and express their feelings
  • helps children learn about other’s feelings and perspectives
  • Can be used to help children release feelings physically
  • Can be calming or change a child’s mood
  • Enhances overall emotional well-being
  • Provides a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
  • Facilitates language development.
  • Prepares the brain for learning to read.
  • Enhances memory
  • Helps children recognize patterns
  • Helps children learn to organize and remember information
  • Improves processing of information
  • helps the brain and nervous system be attuned to sound which helps in language acquisition and comprehension

Below are some excerpts from articles on how musical training affects learning and well-being.

Follow the links on each excerpt to read the whole article.

Science supports bringing back Music class.

Hope Crocker December 12th, 2013 in Frizzle

Education Week recently published an article discussing research that “suggests that the complexity involved in practicing and performing music may help students’ cognitive development.” The research provides evidence that “music training may increase the neural connections in regions of the brain associated with creativity, decision making, and complex memory, and they may improve a student’s ability to process conflicting information from many senses at once.” Yes, that music class might be making your child smarter! The article goes on to discuss how music education helps students learn to multitask, to cultivate academic skills, and enhance creativity.

PBS Report on the Harmony Project

(collaborative work between Nina Krauss and Margaret Martin)

Dr Kraus is still analyzing data. But she says preliminary findings suggest music may enhance the neurological development of kids in the Harmony program who had been behind in school. Watch this short news report of the collaborative project.

Using Music to Close the Academic Gap:

New studies on the cognitive advantages of learning instruments at early ages

Tina Barseghian | October 12, 2013 in The Atlantic

Fascinating research: “Children’s brains show evidence of faster development when they are learning to play an instrument. And studies comparing the brains of adult musicians and non-musicians find the most pronounced enhancements in brain structure in those who began their music training early in childhood.”

Several times a week, a group of at-risk youth in Los Angeles reports to makeshift music rooms at Alexandria Elementary School near Koreatown for lessons in violin or cello or bass—and to Saturday ensemble programs where they learn to play with bands and orchestras. As the students study their instruments, researchers study the students’ brains...Kraus’s study is part of a new wave of longer-term, forward-looking studies honing in on the neurological impact of school and community-based music training—as opposed to private music lessons, which, according to Kraus, have been the basis of most past studies—particularly on lower-income students who have not previously had access to music education, so study subjects begin on a level playing field...

“Not only does music instruction improve communication skills and create a brain and nervous system that is more attuned to sound, which is important for both music and language," says Kraus, “but music can fundamentally alter the nervous system to create better learners.” What's more, adds Kraus, is that early music experience will have a positive effect on the adult brain whether you continue it or not...And while there is evidence that listening to music has short-term effects on brain physiology and emotion, making music appears to have lasting effects on both brain structure and brain function. Playing a piece of music involves the auditory, visual, motor and emotional centers of the brain. In fact, according to Dr. Norman Weinberger, research professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine, brain scans reveal that there is more activity in the brain during a musical performance than there is during most other activities.

Not only does music-making activate many different regions of the brain, but it can actually help to shape the brain itself. “We now know the brain is an organ that changes with experience,” Patel says, “and music has an impact on brain structure.” That impact appears to be strongest when music training begins in early childhood, when the brain is developing the most rapidly and multiple new connections are being formed. According to Patel, children’s brains show evidence of faster development when they are learning to play an instrument. And studies comparing the brains of adult musicians and non-musicians find the most pronounced enhancements in brain structure in those who began their music training early in childhood. Musicians’ brains have increased grey matter, which is involved in processing, as well as increased white matter, which is comprised of the connective fibers that link disparate parts of the brain. Several studies have also found that the musician’s brain tends to have a larger corpus callosum, which plays an important role in the communication between the left and right sides of the brain...

(This article has been edited and emphasis added by me. To read the original, click the link below)

A Neuroscientist's Arugument for Saving School Music

Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus makes a strong case supporting the benefits of music making for school-aged children--backed by years of research and observation.

As this blog article outlines, Kraus states that "playing an instrument may help youngsters better process speech in noisy classrooms and more accurately interpret the nuances of language that are conveyed by subtle changes in the human voice...Cash-strapped school districts are making a mistake when they cut music from the K-12 curriculum...People's hearing systems are fine-tuned by the experiences they've had with sound throughout their lives..."

Featured here in Scientific American, Kraus' research shows that musical training can boost everything from pitch perception to visual and motor skills.

Read more on Kraus' research here from the U.K. publication Telegraph.

Even A Few Years Of Music Training Benefits The Brain

Music has a remarkable ability to affect and manipulate how we feel. Simply listening to songs we like stimulates the brain’s reward system, creating feelings of pleasure and comfort. But music goes beyond our hearts to our minds, shaping how we think. Scientific evidence suggests that even a little music training when we’re young can shape how brains develop, improving the ability to differentiate sounds and speech.

There is a body of research that suggests music training not only improves hearing, it bolsters a suite of brain functions. Musically trained kids do better in school, with stronger reading skills, increased math abilities, and higher general intelligence scores. Music even seems to improve social development, as people believe music helps them be better team players and have higher self-esteem. “Based on what we already know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning,” said Kraus. “Our research captures a much larger section of the population with implications for educational policy makers and the development of auditory training programs that can generate long-lasting positive outcomes.”

Music Training Affects Reading Skills

The correlation between reading skills and musical skills has been examined in a German study. The research looks at whether training to play a musical instrument has a positive impact on reading ability. A total of 159 primary children from eight classes in Germany took part in the project.

Children in the experimental group received specialist musical training twice a week for eight months while children in the comparison group had additional training in the visual arts for the same length of time. A third group did not receive any training for the period of the study.

The study discovered that the ability to differentiate rhythmic patterns and tone lengths had a significant correlation with decoding skills when reading. Students who were able to identify and discriminate pitch and melodic patterns, however, did not show any correlation with reading skills. But the specialist music training did have a significant effect on reading accuracy.

This is the actual research study:

Music and early language acquisition

Language is typically viewed as fundamental to human intelligence. Music, while recognized as a human universal, is often treated as an ancillary ability – one dependent on or derivative of language. In contrast, we argue that it is more productive from a developmental perspective to describe spoken language as a special type of music. A review of existing studies presents a compelling case that musical hearing and ability is essential to language acquisition. In addition, we challenge the prevailing view that music cognition matures more slowly than language and is more difficult; instead, we argue that music learning matches the speed and effort of language acquisition. We conclude that music merits a central place in our understanding of human development.

Health Benefits of music for both children and adults

Ah, the healing power of music. Whether it's the perfect song after a bad break-up, or something relaxing to listen to while you study, there are endless ways that music makes our hearts and souls feel better. But research shows that music can have benefits for our bodies, too.

The Mayo Clinic points out that music can have effects ranging from reducing feelings of physical pain to boosting memory. So whether you're a fan of Vivaldi, Explosions in the Sky or Carrie Underwood -- or all three! -- be sure to check out our round-up of the health benefits of both playing and listening to music (click link for slideshow): 11 Ways Playing and Listening to Music Help Both Body and Mind

Your Kid's Brain on Music Infrographic

To see the full-size image, click here:

This is only part of an infographic called

"This is Your Brain on Music"

Check out the full version here: