Concentration Skills Developed
When a child sets out to learn a piece of music, daily practice is required to achieve the discrete task of playing the piece from beginning to end. I order to accomplish this task, the child must use his/her brain to concentrate on the task along with using his fingers, hands, and ears. Rote practicing alone accomplishes very little. It is the combination of concentrating while seeking to perfect a passage or a piece that yields results.
This process is the perfect training ground for the concentration required in studying effectively for a test, writing a paper, or formulating an outline for later study, as the requisite application of concentration to a task remains the same.
By concentrating on the music, the child successfully translates the musical notes and phrases written on the page to the auditory result. Like most life skills, the ability and effectiveness of one’s concentration builds with practice over time. Music becomes the ideal vehicle to increase this valuable skill through the art of effective practicing.
To succeed in music lessons, students need to cultivate the discipline of practicing every day, preferably at the same time. Progress comes over time, culminating in a successful performance at a recital or concert. Students used to practicing for a set amount of time soon realize the payoff; the piece gets easier and easier, until eventually it is learned. The finite goal of mastering a piece has been achieved, and the process of disciplining oneself to practice every day becomes a normal part of a child’s routine.
Students who have become accustomed to this type of daily discipline easily transfer this skill to doing homework and studying for tests. They have learned by literally doing the daily task of practicing to manage their own time, owning the need for setting aside a certain amount of time each day for these activities. They have also learned that it is far easier to practice when they are not tired, so they try to plan accordingly. In contrast, students who have spent most of their free time playing video games or surfing the web often procrastinate until the evening to start homework, or do so only with a parent’s urging.
Increased Memorization Skills
Music students at a reputable school will strive to memorize pieces for recitals and concerts. Playing a piece from memory allows students the freedom to play musically, rather than by rote. It also gives students a great sense of accomplishment, as they realize that they have in fact taught themselves to accomplish this goal.
Studying for tests in most schools usually involves a fair amount of memorization, especially in subjects like history and the sciences. The skill of memorizing music, which involves breaking things down into manageable chunks, is directly parallel to the skill of memorizing facts, diagrams, and dates. Good students break things down to related chunks of information, which they then outline or organize into discrete groups of data, which are easily learned. It is no accident that musicians are generally excellent at math and science!
Enhanced Ability to Focus
As students advance in music and attempt to master harder pieces, they learn to practice more effectively by focusing on the technical issues involved. The skill of focusing on a particular musical problem is directly transferable to discussing on solving a math problem, a chemistry equation, or ways to best express and support a theme in an English or history paper.
Training for Successfully Completing Tasks
Studying music trains students to complete a harmonic phrase, just as one approaches a math problem that needs to be solved. Since western diatonic (classical) music is a type of language expressed over time, it is based on the symmetry of the laws of harmony based upon the circle of fifths, and symmetrical patterns found in the overtone series. Playing a piece of music means finding the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic patterns, understanding their musical meaning, and learning to express them in a meaningful way within the language of music.
These skills carry over into learning languages such as French, Spanish, and German, as well as structuring and writing English papers requiring a systematic application of topic sentences, body material, and a conclusion. Both the language of music and the English language are linear languages, where ideas and feelings are expressed systematically through sentences and paragraphs, and music is expressed through musical lines and phrases.
Interestingly, researchers such as Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California, Irvine, have proven that early piano lessons among young children lead to better performance in math, architecture, engineering and any discipline requiring specialization and the ability to visualize strategies in advance, as in completing puzzles or playing chess.
Increased Self Esteem
When a music student works towards a goal such as performing a piece at a public recital, he or she receives compliments, applause, and positive feedback from the teacher. Coupled with the natural sense of pride and satisfaction in successfully achieving a goal, the student will feel happy and full of confidence. Any area of life where a child feels a sense of competency through this type of validation heads to the strengthening of self-esteem, which permeates a child’s ability to confidently take risks and believe in his or her ability and talents in other areas.