How Does Studying Music Benefit Children?
A reader recentlyÂ asked whether listening to music can help children with language and memory skills.Â I would suggest takingÂ this idea one step further andÂ having your children actively engage in music rather than just listen to it.Â Anyone can halfway listen to music while driving in the car, finishing their homework, or completing nearly any other task.Â In fact, I am listening to music now as I write this article.Â The mostÂ important difference between listening and engaging in music is the level of awareness and participation.Â If a child is fully engaged with music they will likely receiveÂ more ofÂ theÂ benefits music has to offer.
When I was growing up, my mother insisted my brothers and I participate in music in some fashion.Â WeÂ were requiredÂ to learn a musical instrument or join the choir.Â Â WeÂ were given the choice of whichÂ instrumentÂ to play; however,Â not participating in music was not an option in our house.Â Consequently, I grew up listening to my family membersÂ practicing the piano, saxophone andÂ guitar.Â Â They in turn, got to listen to meÂ practicing songs on the piano and rehearsing for choir.Â Â It wasn't until many years later that I realized how much I appreciated those music lessons.Â Because music was always a part of my life I took for grantedÂ how often I used the skills I learned by singing and playing.Â Â Only after I met friends and colleagues who had never been involved in musicÂ did IÂ began to recognize how much of an impact itÂ had on my life.
The study of music hasÂ many benefits, one of which is that itÂ teaches children to listen - not distractedly, not half-heartedly - but intensely.Â They must hear the difference between all the notes and chords.Â They learn to recognize harmony and dissonance.Â They develop the ability to tell when a note is sharp, flat or off key.Â In other words, they sharpen and developÂ their sense of hearing.Â We are born with five senses.Â Great emphasis is placed upon developing speech, so why do we not give as much focus to teaching our children about taste, touch, smell and hearing?
Listening is a skill essential not only to music but one which is highly relevant for the study of languageÂ as well.Â If you do not know how to listen, how will you ever pick up the subtle inflections and intonations of language and accent?Â I'm sure anyone can recall an example, either in life or from a movie, where a person has spoken a language with an atrocious accent.Â YouÂ may have asked yourselfÂ howÂ can they not notice howÂ horrible they sound?!Â The answer is simple:Â theyÂ cannot clearlyÂ hear how the words should be pronounced.Â Studying music heightens the ability to detect subtle sounds and tones and can therefore serve a great benefit to learning the correct pronunciation and accents of languages.
Another benefit of learning music is learning rhythm.Â Through the study of music students gain the ability toÂ both recognize and create rhythm.Â Some people seem to be born with a more natural sense of rhythm than others, but rhythm like any other skill is learned.Â MusicÂ is a fun and entertaining wayÂ for children to learn rhythm and pattern.Â Each measure is broken down into a certain number of beats and children must learn to hear and feel the beat as the music flows.Â This connection to numbers and patterns has also been said to aid in the study of math.Â Students of music must understand pattern, counted rhythms, fractions and decimals in order to know how many beats each note is held and how many counts are requied to finish a measure of music.Â Understanding the patterns in music may expand a child's appreciation of different styles of music, such as classical music or jazz.Â It may also reach beyond the music room and help your childÂ understand a mathematical formula or the meter of a poemÂ by teaching them how to recognizeÂ patterns - a skill learned through practice.
Music also aids in memorization skills.Â Â In order to developÂ sight-reading skills students must learn the names and placement of each note on the page and alsoÂ whichÂ key to strike or string to pluck in order toÂ generate the correct note.Â When singing is involved, lyrics must be practiced and committed to memory.Â Often times choral songs are sung in foreign languages as well, lending directly to the development of pronunciation skills.Â Even the simple action of listening to musicÂ aids with memorization.Â Information is easier to retain if it is givenÂ in a rhythm or with a melody.
I spent a year abroad teaching English to primaryÂ school children in France and one of the most heavily emphasized teaching methods was the use of song in the classroom.Â Putting short questions and phrases to music gave the children an easy way to recall their language skills.Â AndÂ perhaps more importantly, the childrenÂ were excited to learn through music.
The benefits of music are boundless.Â Music is such a wonderful gift in and of itself, we should all share it with our children and with each other, listening to the radio, CD'sÂ or attending concerts together.Â To fully engage and embrace the art of music nothing can substitute for active participation.Â There is no better way to increase your appreciation of music than to study it first hand.Â Even if you do notÂ haveÂ professional aspirations as a musicianÂ and youÂ prefer toÂ play an instrument for your own pleasure orÂ to sing onlyÂ in the shower or the car you'll have a much greater personal appreciation for theÂ artÂ ifÂ you have a better understanding ofÂ how music is created, what the notes mean, and the overall skillÂ and passion involved in creating beautiful music.