“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning”. Plato
As a music teacher and champion of musical education for all children, I’m often asked about the benefits of learning a musical instrument. Parents often like the idea of their child taking up an instrument but are not sure which one, or if it’s worth the expense or time commitment. My answer to that would be Yes it is!
So here are my top 5 benefits of learning a musical instrument:
1. A workout! Playing any instrument early on helps develop strong posture and muscle strength, improve dexterity and teach breathing control, often all at the same time!
2. Food for the soul. Playing an instrument can be a vehicle for self-expression, emotions that are hard to articulate can be released through the process. There is a spiritual and emotional connectivity experienced when children play or sing with others not to mention learning about. The rush of endorphins or ‘happy hormones’ is just as strong when a young child is applauded by their family as when a professional receives a standing ovation in a concert hall. Playing nourishes their self-esteem and helps them reach a place of contentment.
3. Music trains the brain. Music exercises the front, back and middle brain areas in a unique way. The study of music can enhance the brains development by practising concentration, listening and analysing codes on a page. Reactions and spatial awareness are fine-tuned through the playing of an instrument.
4. Develop life skills! The application to the study of music and an instrument, especially as a child gets older involves commitment and determination. When things require practise and are not immediately achieved, it teaches resolve and the reward of effort.
5. 5. A sensory journey. By just picking up an instrument a child is connecting sensorially to a beautiful piece of craftsmanship in their hands. Entrusting a child with their first instrument is a wonderful thing to experience. The delight as they touch and hold it, the thrill of being handed such a precious object. The texture of the strings or running fingers over smooth keys, the sensation as the drum sticks strike, the experience of touch sensitivity. Musicians experience how their feelings can become tangible sound through the power of touch and breath.
Ruth Travers is Founder of internationally renowned music programme for children, Stave House and baby and toddler programme ‘Music with Henry’. She is also a fellow or the London College of Music and trains teachers in the UK and overseas.