Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published recently in the journal Psychology of Music, published by SAGE.
According to authors Joseph M Piro and Camilo Ortiz from Long Island University, USA, data from this study will help to clarify the role of music study on cognition and shed light on the question of the potential of music to enhance school performance in language and literacy.
Studying children the two US elementary schools, one of which routinely trained children in music and one that did not, Piro and Ortiz aimed to investigate the hypothesis that children who have received keyboard instruction as part of a music curriculum increasing in difficulty over successive years would demonstrate significantly better performance on measures of vocabulary and verbal sequencing than students who did not receive keyboard instruction.
Several studies have reported positive associations between music education and increased abilities in non-musical (eg, linguistic, mathematical, and spatial) domains in children. The authors say there are similarities in the way that individuals interpret music and language and “because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain…. it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviors, namely reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain would overlap.”
A number of studies have reported positive associations between music experience and increased abilities in non-musical (e.g., linguistic, mathematical, and spatial) domains in children. These transfer effects continue to be probed using a variety of experimental designs. The major aim of this quasi-experimental study was to examine the effects of a scaffolded music instruction program on the vocabulary and verbal sequencing skills of two cohorts of second-grade students. One group (n = 46) studied piano formally for a period of three consecutive years as part of a comprehensive instructional intervention program. The second group (n = 57) had no exposure to music lessons, either in school programs or private study. Both groups were assessed on two subtests from the Structure of Intellect (SOI) measure. Results revealed that the experimental group had significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores at post-test than did the control group. Data from this study will help to clarify the role of music study on cognition and shed light on the question of the potential of music to enhance school performance in language and literacy.