15 Incredible Benefits Of Learning A Musical Instrument As A Child

Child singing into a microphone

If you’re thinking of investing in music lessons for your child, you might be wondering what the potential benefits are. Having taken instrumental lessons since the age of six, I can personally attest to the following 15 benefits: 

1. Accelerated Brain Development

According to a five-year study conducted by the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI), musical training accelerates the maturation of the brain’s auditory pathway. In turn, this results in significantly-improved reading and speaking abilities. In addition, many studies have shown that musically-trained children have increased grey matter volume in the auditory, motor and visual-spatial regions of the brain. 

 

Furthermore, multiple studies have shown that children with musical training have a slightly higher IQ than children with no musical training. 

2. Improved Patience

There’s no doubt that learning a musical instrument comes with a significant learning curve. Before a child can play an instrument to a reasonable standard, they will first have to master the following skills:

  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Left hand/right hand coordination
  • How to hold the instrument 
  • Posture 
  • Breathing technique (if the child is learning a wind instrument)
  • Effective use of short & long-term memory

 

Each of these techniques can take several weeks or even months to master. It’ll also more-than-likely take years for a child to become proficient on an instrument. As a result, children will learn the importance of delayed gratification as they’ll have to put in a lot of work upfront in order to achieve long-term, sustainable success. 

3. Improved Discipline 

As mentioned in the previous point, learning a musical instrument requires children to master a whole host of individual skills. Without using impeccable technique, it’s unlikely they’ll reach proficiency on their instrument. They’ll also have to practice the instrument daily and turn up to weekly instrumental lessons, which require a high level of concentration. When playing in an ensemble (such as band or orchestra), they’ll have to respect their peers and refrain from fiddling with their instrument when they aren’t playing. Consequently, musical education enforces a strong sense of discipline and respect for others.

4. Improved Social Skills

Playing in an ensemble can have incredible effects on a child’s social skills. Here are a few social benefits children can gain from playing music with other children: 

  • Teamwork: There’s no doubt that an ensemble is almost entirely-reliant on teamwork. Children will have to tailor their performance to suit the interests of the ensemble rather than their own personal interests. They’ll also have to pay close attention to their peers in order to bring the best out of the performance. Many tutors also split children into breakout groups in order to work on their parts.
  • Respect: When children start playing in ensembles, it’s likely they’ll be amongst children of differing abilities. They’ll be able to aspire to those better than them and relate to those who are newer to playing an instrument. They will also have to learn to tone things down when someone else is taking the lead, before stepping forward when it’s their time to shine. 
  • Friendship: By nature, music is both a very social activity. When undertaking musical training, it’s likely a child will be playing and interacting with fellow musicians on a regular basis. Additionally, music serves as a common interest which two children can bond over. 

5. Improved Language Development

Recent research has found a strong link between music lessons and language development in young children. As children learn how to distinguish different pitches, they also learn to distinguish differences between spoken words. According to a 2016 study conducted in Beijing, children with musical training were significantly better at distinguishing words that differed by a single consonant than children with no musical training. 

 

Further studies have shown that musically-trained children have superb phonological skills, which allows them to learn new words quickly and vastly expand their vocabulary. This can also help children learn to read at a much quicker pace. 

6. Improved Empathy

We’ve observed that musical training improves phonological skills, allowing musically-trained children to develop their speaking and reading skills at an accelerated pace. However, recent research has shown that musically-trained children are also able to pick up subtle nuances in speech and better-comprehend the underlying emotion.

 

It’s also worth noting that music is an inherently-emotional activity. When approaching a new piece of music, children will first have to gauge the emotional intent and incorporate it into their own performance. They will also have to learn how to emotionally connect with others, be it other members of an ensemble or an audience they’re performing in front of. 

7. Improved Mathematical Skills

Whilst you might not realize it, music and math have a significant amount in common. Music theory strongly relies on both ratios and fractions; a child will have to keep track of how many beats are in a minute, whilst simultaneously adhering to a key signature. These skills are undoubtedly transferrable when it comes to traditional mathematics. 

 

In addition, music requires children to actively apply mathematical principles to real world activities. As a result, musically-trained children are much-more-likely to view mathematics in a  more visual and practical manner. 

8. Improved Memory 

As previously mentioned, playing a musical instrument comes with a steep learning curve. Children will have to memorize a wide range of techniques and use them on a regular basis. Children will also be required to play pieces and scales from memory. These are often taught via mnemonics or other memorization techniques, which can be easily applied to other areas of the child’s life. 

 

Playing a musical instrument relies heavily on short-term memory. When presented with a piece of music for the first time, children will have to quickly learn the key signature, time signature and basic structure before playing. Even if a child practices for just ten minutes a day, their short-term memory will develop and strengthen incredibly quickly. 

Child playing guitar

9. Improved Physical Abilities

Almost every musical instrument requires different actions from the left and right hands. More physical instruments (such as percussion) also require strict coordination and motor skills. It’s also worth noting that many instruments are uncomfortable to play at first. As a result, children undertaking musical training not only improve their coordination, but also become accustomed to uncomfortable positions. These skills can easily be applied to other activities, such as sports or arts & crafts. 

10. Improved Self-Esteem

There’s no doubt that learning a musical instrument can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem. This is for several key reasons:

  • Sense of accomplishment: Mastering a new technique or nailing a new piece can provide children with a real sense of accomplishment. Seeing positive results from their hard work and effort will only motivate them to keep up the progression.
  • Improved social skills: As we’ve observed, musical training can have a remarkable impact on a child’s social skills. This will allow them to make friends easily and become more confident in social situations. 
  • Comfort in the public eye: When undertaking musical training, a child will surely be required to perform in front of an audience on a regular basis. Becoming comfortable in front of an audience will provide children with a serious advantage when it comes to performing,  presenting or public speaking later on in life. 

11. Improved Cultural Awareness

Music is deeply and fundamentally rooted in culture. When undertaking musical training, a child will be taught the history of their instrument and the culture it comes from. Furthermore, a child will likely play music from a wide variety of different cultures, from traditional African music to American jazz. In order for the child to best-represent a particular piece of music, they’ll first be encouraged to understand the culture it comes from. Therefore, musical training strongly encourages children to open their mind to cultures that are different from their own. 

12. Emotional Expression 

As you may well know, children desperately need to ‘blow off steam’ from time to time. Instead of resorting to negative emotional outlets (such as temper tantrums), playing a musical instrument can serve as a phenomenal way for children to let their emotions out. Additionally, music can be a fantastic way for children to comprehend or express their emotional identity.

13. Encouraged Creativity

Playing a musical instrument is a phenomenal way for a child to develop and express their creative side. It’s also worth noting that the modern-day workforce is becoming increasingly creative, with industries such as digital marketing and app development gaining significant traction. As a result, encouraging children to develop their creative side will best-prepare them for an increasingly-creative workforce. 

14. Lifelong Health Benefits

You might be surprised to learn that playing a musical instrument offers several lifelong health benefits: 

  • Stress relief: Many studies have identified a strong correlation between playing a musical instrument and stress relief.
  • Improved listening skills: As we’ve observed, playing a musical instrument accelerates the maturation of the brain’s auditory pathway and improves listening skills.
  • Strengthened heart: Playing music releases endorphins that can improve vascular health. 
  • Strengthened immune system: Various studies have found that playing a musical instrument can increase the level of antibodies in the human body.

15. It’s Fun!

There’s no doubt that playing a musical instrument is an incredibly fun and rewarding activity. Allowing a child to learn a musical instrument can provide them with a lifelong hobby and a strong social life. 

Tips For Supporting A Child Learning A Musical Instrument

If you’ve already taken the plunge and invested in instrumental lessons for your child, congratulations! However, you might be wondering how to best support them. Here are four essential tips:

  • Show an interest in their musical tuition: Ask the child what they’ve been learning in their instrumental lessons and get them to give you a short rendition.
  • Source an appropriate practice space: Music practice requires a high level of concentration. As a result, children will need a quiet, distraction-free area to practice. Find an appropriate space in your home to set up a ‘practice area’.
  • Host performances at home: If you have family over, encourage the child to give a short performance for everyone. Make sure you also attend any recitals your child performs in. 
  • Keep good communication with the child’s instrumental tutor: Communicating with the child’s instrumental tutor can help flag up any problems and ensure the child is receiving all the support they need.

Additional Equipment You’ll Need

If you’re in the process of signing your child up for music lessons, you might be wondering what equipment they’ll need to effectively practice their instrument. Luckily, you’ll only need to invest in a couple of low-priced items:

  • Music stand: This is the most essential piece of equipment you’ll need. A music stand is a frame-like stand that supports sheet music. There’s no need to go over the top with a music stand; a cheap one such as this one on Amazon will be perfectly adequate. 
  • Practice journal: A practice journal allows children to create summary notes after each lesson & practice to refer back to. It’s a great way of instilling a sense of responsibility whilst also providing physical proof of their progress. Any old notebook (such as a composition notebook) will work as a practice journal.
  • Metronome: A metronome is a small device that allows musicians to keep time by providing a ‘ticking’ sound at a selected pace. Without practicing to a metronome, a child may find it difficult to scale up their speed and simultaneously retain their technique. Whilst metronome apps can be downloaded onto a phone or tablet, I’d advise against introducing any form of digital distraction into the practice session. Instead, I’d recommend getting a physical metronome such as this one on Amazon

 

Related Questions

  • How long should a 7 year old practice piano? A 7 year old should practice piano for at least 10-15 minutes per day. They should start with warm-ups and scales before moving on to their set pieces. 
  • Can my baby listen to music on headphones? Yes, a baby can listen to music on headphones. However, it’s important to keep the volume low and avoid prolonged listening. In addition, it’s recommended to use wireless headphones as wired headphones present a risk of suffocation.

 

 

I founded Indie Panda in mid-2018 to help independent musicians organically grow and develop their projects. I specialize in branding, identity, audience/industry engagement and project logistics.

I have a wealth of experience in both classical and popular music. After taking piano and violin lessons as a child, I went on to play first violin in philharmonic, symphonic and chamber orchestras throughout my adolescence. I began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 13 and have played in a wide range of bands ever since. At the age of 18, my music received airplay for 30 consecutive days on BBC Radio, which led to an 'in-session' event where I performed live on the radio. I went on to earn a Music/Popular Music BA from the University of Liverpool, where I specialized in popular music performance.

I'm passionate about helping other artists realize the full potential of their talents and abilities through a strong work ethic, coherent project identity and a strong logistical foundation.

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