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Help Improve cognitive development: Learning with Musical Instruments

If he really puts his mind to it, your child can get better at playing any musical instrument. But did you know that playing musical instruments can help improve his brain development.

Separate studies done in Brown University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California reveal that children who have received musical training actually score higher on IQ and cognitive tests. Moreover, it appears that such musically-inclined youngsters are likely to excel in certain subjects including language and mathematics.

Turns out, your little musician stands to gain a lot more than just learning how to entertain houseguests.

The Violin for Improved Language Skills An article in the April 2007 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience says, "Playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem's sensitivity to speech sounds. This relates to encoding skills involved with music and language. Experience with music at a young age can 'fine-tune' the brain's auditory system." What this means is that children will be able to discern speech patterns and avoid speech difficulties like lisps, stutters, and slurring.

While any instrument can help bring about the language proficiency that early music education offers, the violin maximizes it. In fact, one of the most popular methods of learning the violin involves likening its chords to human speech patterns.

The "mother tongue" method was introduced by Dr. Sinichi Suzuki, a pioneer in music education and a noted violinist, himself. It teaches children to play the violin in the exact same way that they learn to speak their native language—by listening and identifying changes in pitch and tempo.

The Piano for Improved Math Skills

Mastering a musical instrument requires focus over extended periods of time. This helps improve cognitive development and build a child's ability to concentrate on any given task—a useful skill in understanding and finding solutions to mathematical problems.

In March of 1999, Neurological Researchfeatured a study conducted with the help of Los Angeles area second graders who were given piano lessons for eight months, together with new music software. Afterwards, the students showed significant improvement in answering a mathematics test. It was concluded that their enhanced math skills were aided by the very process of learning music.

Moreover, the piano is a complex instrument that requires sustained attention and longer control. The aspiring pianist has to get acquainted with 88 keys on the board, and then, keep track of time and rhythm.

But it's all worth it. This intense cognitive development exercise is a good training ground for mathematics because reading sheet music actually involves numbers and calculations.

The Drums for Developed Coordination

The same important motor skills that your child develops when playing sports can also be honed by performing musical instruments.

Says Northwestern University professor Nina Kraus, playing a musical instrument affects automatic processing in the brainstem, the lower part of the brain attached to the spinal cord. The brainstem controls many vital functions such as breathing and responding to complex sounds.

Playing the drums is a good way to practice the use of both arms and achieve a degree of ambidexterity. This skill will come in handy in sports like basketball and tennis.

It's never too early to cultivate your child's interest in music, from listening and appreciating it to creating some of his own through musical instruments of his choice. It will help him stand out, not just in the talent department, but also in terms of cognitive development and intellectual potential, thanks to improved information retention and mental organization. So go on and launch his budding musical career that's in tune with unlimited learning.

Jovanka Ciares and Paul Borgese. The Benefits of Music on Child Development. Retrieved Aug. 11, 2010 from Paul Borgese's website:
Why playing a musical instrument 'can help children learn with language skills'. Retrieved Aug. 11, 2010 from the Daily Mail website:
Benefits of Music Education. Retrieved Aug. 11, 2010 from the VH1 Save the Music website:
The Mozart Effect. Retrieved Sept. 23, 2010 from The Mozart Effect website:
The Suzuki Method. Retrieved Sept. 23, 2010 from The Suzuki Association of the Americas website:
Music can boost language skills, improve learning. Retrieved Sept. 23, 2010 from the Reuters website:

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