Develop the unconventional way: Music

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Victor Hugo

All of us wish to grow up and fulfill our dreams; earn a lot of wealth, own the best car, live in a modern house, travel the world, become famous. Pretty much the first 25 years are spent in training ourselves so that we can go out there and achieve our goals, live a comfortable life, make a change in the world.

People might have similar goals but the road you pick to achieve it could be very different. A lot of times how you reach your destination is more important than the destination itself. Assuming our destination is living a comfortable life with a big bank balance, we get education and training for a quarter of our life so we can reach there. There are a lot of ways to get this education and training; we could classify them under two categories to make understanding easier.

1. The Conventional Way: go to school, learn all your text books, print the same in the exam, get good grades, go to college, repeat.

2. The Unconventional Way: incorporate art, drama, music, sports etc along with the normal curriculum and give yourself a chance to explore various fields.

We shall look into the development of our brain by means of music and how that helps us reach our goals.

Why do we listen to music? Contemporary R&B, Jazz, Punk, Samba, Country, Rock, House. For a lot of us the answer would be as simple as ‘because I like it.’ But the effect this music has runs deep inside our brains, causing physical and cognitive changes.

Music and Memory

Many a times we hear music or sounds in our head even when it s actually absent. It is because our brain performs musical pattern recognition and upon recalling certain patterns we can hear it inside our head. This tells us how sharp our memory is. Even with a constant intake of information our brain is able to store a musical pattern and replay it at our convenience. This is why studies suggest that when we have to memorize lists we could arrange them in a famous tune which makes it easier for the brain to store and later recall the information.

Music and Brain Structure

Ballerinas have a different brain structure than those who do not practice ballet. Similarly, playing a musical instrument can cause fundamental changes in young brain. It helps shape how the brain functions and how it is structured. “Listening to and making music is not only an auditory experience, but it is a multisensory and motor experience. Making music over a long period of time can change brain function and brain structure,” said Gottfried Schlaug, MD, PhD—who is an expert on music, neuroimaging and brain plasticity from Harvard Medical School.

The Impact of Music

Studies list three main impacts music has on the human brain. They are:

  1. Musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight.
  2. The age at which musical training begins affects brain anatomy as an adult; beginning training before the age of seven has the greatest impact.
  3. Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance on working memory and more extensive connectivity within the brain.

Music and the senses

In most cases people have one dominating sense either visual, auditory, olfactory, touch, taste. But the case with musicians is a little different. A study conducted at the University of Montreal revealed that musicians have simultaneously working senses since they are trained in playing their instrument, reading sheet music and listening to the tones they produce all at the same time.

Music can help solve a math problem better

Research has found a link between music and spatial intelligence. Understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together or what steps to take for a particular tune. The same thing goes with math. They learn to align steps better to solve their problem faster.

“A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.

Studies show…

Students who were exposed to the music-based lessons scored a full 100 percent higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.

Neurological Research, 1999

Longer music study means higher SAT scores. For example, students participating in music for two years averaged 29 points higher on the verbal portion and 19 points higher on the math portion of the SAT than students with no coursework or experience in music.

Profiles of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, The College Board, 1999.

When a child studies a musical instrument both left and right hemispheres of the brain light up. Significantly, the areas that become activated are the same areas that are involved in analytical and mathematical thinking.

Dee Dickinson, Music and the Mind. Seattle: New Horizons for Learning, 1993


Devika Soni
An article by:
Devika Soni

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