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Piano Lessons Make Kids Smarter!
Piano teachers have known this all along, but it is now confirmed by the research findings of Dr. Frances
Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at OshKosh, and Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California at
Irvine. The work of Drs. Shaw and Rauscher concentrates on the importance of music in the early
developmental stages of childhood and has been widely recognized as groundbreaking, attracting intensive
The research team in Irvine, California explored the link between music and intelligence and reported
that music training - specifically piano instruction - is far superior to computer instruction in
dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills necessary for learning math and science.
The new findings, published in the February 1997 issue of Neurological Research, are the result of a
two-year experiment with preschoolers, led by psychologist Dr. Frances Rauscher and physicist Dr. Gordon
Shawl As a follow-up to their earlier groundbreaking studies which correlated how music can enhance
spatial-reasoning ability, the researchers set out to compare the effects of musical and non-musical
training on intellectual development.
The experiment included four groups of preschoolers: one group received private piano / keyboard lessons;
a second group received singing lessons; a third group received private computer lessons; and a fourth
group received no training.
Those children who received piano / keyboard training performed 34% higher on
tests measuring spatial - temporal ability than others.
These findings indicate that music uniquely enhances higher brain functions required for mathematics,
chess, science and engineering. The implications of this and future studies can change the way educators
view the core school curriculum, particularly since music-making nurtures the intellect and produces
long-term improvements. "It has been clearly documented that young students have difficulty understanding
the concepts of proportion (heavily used in math and science) and that no successful program has been
developed to teach these concepts in the school system," stated Dr. Rauscher. "The high proportion of
children who evidenced dramatic improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning as a result of music training
should be of great interest to scientists and educators," added Dr. Shaw.
Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw's research is based on some remarkable studies that have recently begun
pouring out of neuroscience laboratories throughout the country. These studies show that early experiences
determine which brain cells (neurons) will connect with other brain cells, and which ones will die away.
Because neural connections are responsible for all types of intelligence, a child's brain develops to its full
potential only with exposure to the necessary enriching experiences in early childhood.
Their studies indicate that music training generates the neural connections used for
abstract reasoning, including those necessary for understanding
What Drs. Rauscher and Shaw have confirmed has been the causal relationship between early music
training and the development of the neural circuitry that governs spatial intelligence. Specifically, earlier
studies led by Drs. Rauscher and Shaw reported a causal relationship between music training and
spatial-temporal ability enhancement in preschoolers (1994), and among college students who simply
listened to a Mozart sonata (1993,1995).
Dr. Frances Rauscher reported their findings to the White House Conference on "Early Childhood
Development and the Brain" on April 17, and then later testified before Congress on April 23 on their
research results. At a time when more and more pressure is being exerted on both school and family
budgets and time, this research is a welcome reminder to decision-makers of the vital role music plans in
a child's development.
- article courtesy of Neil A. KJos Music Co. - setting the standard in all areas of the educational music publishing
industry including piano, choral, band, jazz band, orchestra, and guitar