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Making music makes you smarter

Music is not only good for your spirits, it's good for your brain too! There's research going on all the time that proves that studying music is a great workout for the brain, making kids better thinkers, learners and test takers.

The Facts

Why do some children do better in school than others? Because they make music! Studies have linked active music making with better math and language skills, boosts in school grades, and improvements in "spatial-temporal reasoning," which is the foundation of engineering and science.

In Newsweek magazine's February 19, 1996, cover story, "Your Child's Brain," it quoted from research done by Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher at University of California at Irvine showing that music education increases a child's learning ability. The big bottom line is this: Teach kids music, and they'll have better memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills.

“Making Music Makes You Smarter” is more than a slogan. It’s a fact which is backed up by numerous scientific studies. Take a look at some of the exciting findings which show how exposure to music can affect a child's intelligence from the earliest stages in life:


  • Research shows that music students are better equipped to comprehend mathematical and scientific concepts. A group of preschoolers received private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons. A second group received private computer lessons. Those children who received piano/keyboard training performed 34 percent higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than the others. “Spatial-temporal” is basically proportional reasoning –- ratios, fractions, proportions and thinking in space and time. This concept has long been considered a major obstacle in the teaching of elementary math and science.

Elementary grade children

  • Music study can help kids understand advanced math concepts. A grasp of proportional math and fractions is a prerequisite to math at higher levels, and children who do not master these areas cannot understand more advanced math critical to high-tech fields. Music involves ratios, fractions, proportions and thinking in space and time. A group of 237 second grade children were given four months of piano keyboard lessons as well as time using a newly designed math computer program. The group scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children who only used the math computer program.
  • Young children with developed rhythm skills perform better academically in early school years. One study showed that students who were achieving at academic expectation scored high on all rhythmic tasks, while many of those who scored lower on the rhythmic test achieved below academic expectation.
  • Music training helps under-achievers. In Rhode Island, researchers studied eight public school first grade classes. Half of the classes became “test arts” groups, receiving ongoing music and visual arts training. In kindergarten, this group had lagged behind in scholastic performance. After seven months, the students were given a standardized test. The “test arts” group had caught up to their fellow students in reading and surpassed their classmates in math by 22 percent. In the second year of the project, the arts students widened this margin even further.

Secondary school students

  • A ten-year study, tracking more than 25,000 students, shows that music-making improves test scores. Regardless of socioeconomic background, music-making students get higher marks in standardized tests than those who had no music involvement. The test scores studied were not only standardized tests, such as the SAT, but also in reading proficiency exams.

Pre-university students

  • Music can help students get into a better university. In 2001, SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts. And, it appears that the longer you study music, the better you do in testing. 

University students

  • Music majors are the most likely group of college grads to be admitted to medical school. Physician and biologist Lewis Thomas studied the undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. He found that 66 percent of music majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. For comparison, 44 percent of biochemistry majors were admitted. Also, a study of 7,500 university students revealed that music majors scored the highest reading scores among all majors including English, biology, chemistry and math.

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