Studying music makes you smarter — here's how it works
Have you been looking for a great excuse to start a band? Here’s your next argument in favor of learning a new musical skill: Playing an instrument might actually make you smarter. No joke; studies have found that musicians have an edge when it comes to reading. Neuroscientists have studied this phenomenon and dubbed it “the musician’s advantage.”
A group of scientists teamed up to study this so-called advantage, and what they learned was kind of surprising. Nina Kraus, the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, found that musical training might be responsible for our sharper abilities to process information and communicate with one another! For the longest time, scientists were noticing that people who studied music were pretty advanced in the areas of vocabulary, reading and attention span, but they weren’t sure why that was. As it turns out, there’s a real connection between music and the way our brains work, and it’s definitely worth paying attention to.
According to Kraus, “Music and language skills rely upon auditory processing. Although reading may not be thought of as a primarily auditory activity, its foundation rests on a child making sense of incoming auditory input in order to map speech sounds correctly…”
That’s a fancy way of saying even the littlest bit of musical training can keep our brains younger and stronger for a longer time. That’s an obvious win — especially if you get a little guitar know-how out of it!
However, the researchers wanted to know if their assumptions were right, so they tested the “musician’s advantage” on students who typically had no real exposure to musical training. Kraus and her team did something awesome. They took a group of low-income students and put them into a music training program. Later, she compared that group to students who weren’t in a music program, and boom: The students who studied music were positively affected by it.
So what does this mean for students and school systems? Hopefully schools will invest in musical training for their students early on, which will help everyone better communicate, pay attention and separate noises in loud environments (hello: high school!) So, if you’re thinking of quitting your piano lessons, think again.