Four Cognitive Skills Supercharged by Music Education

In recent times, music programs seem to be one of the elements being reduced or eliminated in schools. However, music has so many educational benefits for all students, not just for those who are musically gifted. Students that are not musically talented can also participate and sharpen different cognitive skills while musically inclined students will take their learning one step further by tuning their musical abilities.

Academic Processing and Skills

Acquisition of language occurs faster in students who study music rather than students who do not participate in music. Since similar regions of the brain are responsible for language and reading, reading skills also develop faster. Students work on math skills in music because the music itself is grouped into sets such as beats of four. When playing music as a group, for example, fractions and ratios play a part because someone playing the bass guitar may play one note every two beats. In this example, participants would understand a 1:2 ratio when playing music with others. If he is not able to do so, the group would not be able to create cohesive music together.

Critical Thinking

Part of music is putting different elements together. These elements can include dance, multiple instruments, or different music styles. To this, students need to have an understanding of the purpose of the different elements and how to integrate each without having one of the elements compromised. No matter what the musicians try to do, they always need to keep in mind the purpose of the overall musical creation. Is the performance being used to convey a story? Is the performance showing great emotion? Or does the performance show progress students have made over time? Incorporation of these ideas must also be done appropriately, and with intention or else the story gets lost, and the audience becomes confused. Combining all these elements takes practice, failures, and critical thinking to bring them together as one.

Long Term and Short Term Memory

When learning a new instrument or song, students need to be able to mimic the notes back to instructors. To be able to do so, their short term memory must be sharpened. Learning music does just that. Decoding the music takes precision and practice. Once learned and mastered, notes, songs, and movements are transferred to the long term memory. Pathways are created in long term memory to act as a filing cabinet that can be accessed when needed. Even when time has passed, the learned information and actions can still resonate with the individual who may even be able to play a song on a piano they learned 20 years ago!

Attention and Focus

Music is based on different rhythms, measurements, combining different instruments, and physical movements, whether this is through playing an instrument or dancing to the rhythm of music. To be successful, students need to be aware of beats, pauses, and deliberate movements. If children cannot maintain attention or focus, even for a second, there can be a disconnect between the music and one’s involvement in the music. The more this is practiced, the more nerve pathways are developed and connected.

Music engages students with different interests and teaches skills dynamically rather than through rote memorization or rote practice. Each student involved in music can learn something whether the skill is coordination, teamwork, fixing mistakes with instant feedback, or expressing one’s self.

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