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Alyssa Finkelstein

UWRT 1102- 017


Mrs. Thomas
November 19, 2015
Importance of Musical Training
Writing the thesis was the hardest paper because I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to
write about. I found out that I needed to do some additional research because I did not find
enough different articles to use for my topic. Once I started writing it got a little easier, I am still
trying to think of some other ideas of stuff to write.
Musical training is not a foreign activity too many people. It has been around for
centuries and is done all around the world. Playing an instrument is not limited to being done in
one place; it can be achieved in a variety of settings, such as in a room, on a stage and outside.
Before technology allowed people to listen to music at anytime and anywhere, people had to
attend a live performance to hear music. (Oppenheimer) According to archaeologist the first
known instrument is the flute. It was made out of a bone and the most recent one found is at least
42,000 years old. The age of the bone was determined from ultrafiltration of the bones around
the flute like ones. (Wilford) Since playing an instrument been around for such a long time the
question is why is it still popular? Do people gain anything from having the ability to play an
instrument? Does one get any enjoyment from playing an instrument?
Many studies have been done on how the brain works while someone plays an
instrument. It has been known to help peoples auditory skills, language development, emotional
skills and many more skills. Anita Collins, educator for primary and secondary school, claims
that, playing an instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once. When

someone is playing an instrument they are moving their fingers to play the notes, reading the
notes on the sheet of music, listening to how it sounds, and keeping a mental metronome to make
sure they are executing the music correctly. Those activities require both the right and left
hemisphere to work together. One function in the brain called the corpus callosum has been
found to increase its activity and volume when someone is playing music. The corpus callosum
is the bridge between the right and left hemisphere and its purpose is to give messages to each
side of the brain. (Collins) In addition to the increase in activity in the corpus callosum, the
neural activity in the brain also increases in size when one is playing an instrument. (Brown)
There was a study on musicians and non-musicians that compared how their brains acted when
they were at rest. They used an fMRI to measure the brain and there was an increased connection
in motor and multi-sensory areas for musicians. (Miendlarzewska and Trost) In result to musical
training using all the aspect of the brain it can help someone academically. There have been
multiple studies done on if musical training increases IQ. In one study, done by E.Glenn
Schellenberg, he showed how six-year-old children who had music lessons increased on average
of 3 IQ points compared to children who did not receive any musical training. (Brown) The
increase in IQ score for musicians results from musical training requiring attention,
memorization and specific technical skills. Those transfers to skills of executive function, selfcontrol and good focus skills, which allows students to succeed in tests like the IQ test. Many
musicians, encourage people to learn how to play an instrument when they are young, preferably
before they reach the age of seven. It can help with development because of how much of the
brain it uses. (Miendlarzewska and Trost)
As mentioned earlier playing an instrument can escalate ones auditory skills. In a study
done at Northwestern University on college students, researchers found that the students who had

musical training, whether it was in the last year or many years ago were better able to distinguish
complex sounds. The complex sounds that the brain can acknowledge are the pitch, timing and
timbre. There is also a correlation between understanding musical pitches and reading. Nina
Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, claims that to learn to read, one must
have a good memory and the ability to distinguish speech sounds to make a sound-to-meaning
connection. (Klass) Musical training involves cognitive skills such as high-working memory and
selective attention skills, which are crucial for speech processing. (Kraus and Chandrasekaran)
People who have had musical training are known to have increased listening skills.
(Miendlarzewska and Trost) Going back to pitch, someone with musical training can judge the
emotion of the speaker and well as the tone that the speaker is speaking in better than a nonmusician. (Kraus and Chandrasekaran) In addition, older adults who still play an instrument
benefit from continuing using their musical skills. Although they still get the same decline in
peripheral hearing as non-musician, they preserve the central auditory processing skills that
allow one to understand speech when they are in a noisy environment, known as the cocktail
party problem. (Klass)
Playing an instrument can help someones emotional skills. It requires one to be able to
portray different kinds of moods to make the music come alive. Each musician has their own
interpretation about how a piece should sound like and the way they represent it brings the
emotional aspect of the piece alive to the audience. Musicians show their emotions in pieces by
the speed they play and the dynamic or loudness they play. Someone having a musical training
background will be able to interpret pieces and expressive aspect of the performance, while
someone who doesnt have musical training will just get the general mood of the performance.
Emotional skills also correlate with memory because it reflects the multidimensional

relationships with musical elements. (Palmer) Musical training is frequently perceived as having
a positive impact on ones well-being and social development. When someone is playing with
other individuals they are increasing their communication skills, coordination and cooperating,
sometimes even empathy between the group members. A childs overall well-being can be
impacted by learning how to play an instrument. Children who have musical training tend to be
more curious, what to explore, and could possibly have a different outlook on learning and
approaching new skills. (Miendlarzewska and Trost)

Works Cited
Brown Laura Lewis. The Benefits of Music Education PBS. n.d. Web. 24. October 2015.
Collins, Anita. How playing an instrument benefits your brain Online video clip. Ted-Ed.
YouTube. 22, July 2014. Web. 23. October 2015.
Kraus, Nina, Bharath Chandrasekaran. Music Training for development of auditory skills
Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2010 August. Web. 19 November 2015
Miendlarzewska, Ewa A., Wiebke J. Trost. How musical training affects cognitive
development: rhythm, reward and other modulating variables. Frontiers in Neuroscience.
24. January 2014. Web. 19 November 2015.
Oppenheimer, Mark. Stop Forcing Your Kids to Learn a Musical Instrument New Republic.
16, September 2013. Web. 5 November 2015.
Palmer, Caroline. Music Performance Annual Review of Psychology. 1997. Web. 20 October
2015.
Wilford, John Noble. Flutes Revised Age Dates the Sound of Music Earlier The New York
Times. 29 May 2012. Web. 6 November 2015.