Do music lessons make you smarter? This question is misleading. It is easier to address this question by rephrasing it. Do music lessons improve cognition? The answer is a resounding yes! To elaborate, there are four basic parts of cognition. They are: attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibly. Music lessons improve each one of these parts. The finding that "elementary school students in higher quality music education programs demonstrate a 20% improvement in standardized tests of English and math" provides an excellent illustration of this enhancement. This represents a powerful endorsement for music education.
"Neuroscientists have demonstrated that learning to play a musical instrument or singing leads to changes in a child's brain. These changes make it more likely that they will reach their full cognitive and academic potential." With this in mind, it is important to consider the following facts. Firstly, passively listening to music will not work, this requires active engagement in music making. Secondly, these benefits occur at any age, however, the younger the start the greater the effect. Moreover, it is interesting to note that a rather high percentage of professionals, such as medical doctors and lawyers, play a musical instrument. Perhaps their enhanced abilities acquired by learning a musical instrument have helped professional development?
"The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception" - Albert Einstein
Music Lessons and the Brain
The three quotes I have highlighted above are from an article titled The Benefits of Music Education published by the Royal Conservatory of Music. As a point of interest, the RCM operates an on-site neuroscience laboratory and conducts research on the topics related to music lessons and the brain. Dr. Sean Hutchins, who is a neuroscientist and the Director of Research at this facility, has prepared this article containing a wealth of information. This includes an extensive list of references for related reading.