Music plays a huge role in our lives. It can help us form our identity, make friends, and understand ourselves. But it also has a huge impact on learning. In this blog, our Music National Lead Practitioners explore the impact of music in learning and development.
Music has great benefits in letting us know more about the world and people in it. It can also improve our mood and bring us positive thoughts and messages. But not everyone realises that learning music at school also deepens our understanding of the wider curriculum. Learners in schools where music is taught often and throughout the curriculum have far more opportunities and deeper learning in all other areas and subjects as a result.
Research into the science of the brain has shown that musical training can change the way our brain is organised, and help it work better in a variety of situations. It can also improve long-term memory and lead to better development for those who start at a young age; musicians tend to be more mentally alert! Simon Landry, Lead researcher at the University of Montreal, found that musicians have faster hearing, touch, and physical reaction times. Musicians also have stronger number skills and they can understand and think about more things at the same time. This means that they're better when learning new information as they can take in more and link it to what they already know!
Many of us are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument - in our out of school, and playing an instrument is both enjoyable and complicated. This is because when we play, we are using information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, along with fine movements. Doing this can result in long-lasting changes in the brain. In fact, brain scans have been able to identify the difference in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians. Most notably, the corpus callosum, which connects the two sides of the brain, is larger in musicians. Also, the areas involving movement, hearing, and how we understand space appear to be larger too.
Researchers have shown that children who did 14 months of musical training had positive changes to their brains. They proved that learning a musical instrument increases the size of grey matter (which helps us understand information) in different areas of the brain. It also strengthens the pathways that link between them. Other research shows that musical training can improve memory, develop reasoning, and improve literacy skills.
This change that occurs in musicians' brains depends on the age when we first start to learn to play. It shouldn't be surprising, but those who start learning music at a younger age had the most drastic changes. Researchers also believe that playing music helps speech processing and learning in children with dyslexia. Learning to play an instrument as a child has also been shown to protect the brain against dementia in later life - how incredible is that?
The reason we do music, affects how we do music. The importance we place on music in our academies and our passion to include and engage every child with music, is growing a generation of learners who are better equipped for learning in general and have a stronger chance of reaching their potential. The fundamental offer in all of our academies includes the opportunity to learn an instrument and music lessons are carefully designed to make links to lots of other areas of learning for children to help them explore and understand the world.
Most importantly, music as a subject is designed to be both fun and inclusive, linking to the characteristics and habits we want to see developed in our children as life-long learners and active participants and advocates in the world they are in.