“I joined band!” your child excitedly yells as they drop their backpack on the floor from school. Do feelings of joy or dread come over you? Having done this to my mom and had my kids do this to me, your feelings are only natural.
Learning to play a musical instrument is well researched to show improved math and cognitive skills. Music theory and the ability to read music definitely will make your child better in math. But there are other benefits.
A multi-year study on children ages 6-18 from the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont found that playing a musical instrument increased the child’s brain development. This development was in the areas of motor skills and coordination, organization and planning, working memory, visual-spatial acuity, and controlling their emotions and responses.
How Learning an Instrument Can Improve Language Skills in Children
Beyond the motor skills and cognitive development, researchers at MIT found children that learned how to play a musical instrument were better able to differentiate sound waves. This meant they were better at figuring out the different sounds of a spoken language.
The study done in Beijing China, studied a group of children ages 4-5 that were learning to play the piano. They had a control group that did similar activities except the music lessons. After 6 months, the results were astounding.
They found that the children that took music lessons were better at “the processing of sounds that extend not only from music, but also into language”.
Health Benefits of Playing an Instrument
Your child will benefit mentally from learning to play an instrument. There are both physical health and additional mental health benefits from learning to play an instrument.
Physical Health Benefits
The band teacher or music teacher will ensure your child is properly positioned to play their instrument. This means standing or sitting up straight, hands and arms naturally positioned, and head and shoulders aligned. This will ensure your child can perform at their best and teach them proper posture.
Most of the instruments in a school band make their musical sounds by blowing into them. Your child will benefit from this by learning to breathe deeply and learning to use their diaphragm. This will strengthen their lungs and breathing capacity. Your child will benefit by being able to perform physical activities better.
Playing in the school band requires your child to do many things at once. They have to listen to the musical notes they are playing and listen to their bandmates play their instruments. This leads to finer levels of sound differentiation. They have to listen to the timing of the rest of the musical instruments so they can play along correctly.
When they play their instrument, they have to listen carefully to make sure they are in tune and playing their instrument at the correct sound level. They will learn to listen to other children playing music which will help them in their school and careers.
When your child learns to play a musical instrument like the trumpet or flute, it requires doing multiple things at once. They have to read the music, blow air, press the keys, listen to their fellow students, and watch the band teacher.
Their manual dexterity improves as they have to press the keys to change notes. In the case of a flute or saxophone for example, your child has to use both hands at the same time. This has been shown to dramatically improve their hand eye coordination.
Mental Health Benefits
Playing music and learning how their instrument sounds teaches your child to translate the sheet music to sounds. They learn if they should play short and loud or long and soft. This will improve their ability to interpret written material.
Learning to play a musical instrument takes dedication and a lot of hard work. It also means that you have a learn to take care of the instrument. This means wiping it down after using it, oiling the valves or other moving parts, and cleaning it regularly.
Become More Cultured
Music has its roots from the earliest times. The famous composers in history created amazing music. These musical compositions are famous and instantly recognized. The musical notes that surround you will fill you with culture and history.
Learning to play a musical instrument seems more like art than science. But the foundation of music theory is based on math. Learning music reinforces their fractions as there are whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eight notes, and sixteenth notes.
Research shows that a child develops better pattern recognition and math formula comprehension.
The health benefits of why your child should learn to play an instrument are clear. It will increase their mental capacity, improve their language skills, and improve their health. The next question your child will ask is…
What to Expect When Learning to Play an Instrument
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? Did you ride it perfectly the first time? Maybe, maybe not. Like most, you were probably wobbly at first, may have needed training wheels to learn your balance, but with practice you got better.
Same thing goes for learning a musical instrument. Your child will likely not sound amazing at first. They may struggle to form notes, play scales, and learn to read sheet music. But with practice and training, they will get better. Teaching your child patience, persistence, and focus will go a long way in keeping them motivated.
What Does Learning An Instrument Cost?
The Early Years
When your child first starts learning to play an instrument in school, your expenses will be low.
They will likely take band or orchestra in school. Most schools have instruments that your child can use during class. Many may allow your child to take the instrument home to practice. You will have to pay for a few personal use parts of the instrument and incidentals.
- Brass Instruments: For brass instruments like a trumpet, a mouthpiece which ranges from $10 – $60
- Woodwind Instruments: For a woodwind instruments like a saxophone, a mouthpiece ranges from $20 – $100
Some incidentals may be a fee that the school charges for the band or orchestra class for the costs to have all the instruments and assistants.
If your child’s school doesn’t have instruments to use, renting an instrument will be a larger cost. Depending on the instrument, monthly charges can vary from $20 – $50/month depending on the instrument and the market you live in.
Once your child has a year or two of learning to play an instrument, both of you will have a good idea if they are serious. You both should sit down and talk.
Continuing to learn an instrument from grade school and beyond takes the magic combination of desire, dedication, and talent. If you both decide to move forward, congratulations.
The costs will jump up significantly at this point. First, getting a real instrument for your child can be a big investment. There are many low-cost instruments out there, but they are made with lower quality materials and design. This will likely frustrate your child and stunt their progress.
On the other side of the coin, professional instruments run well into a few thousands to many thousands of dollars. The upside of investing in a professional level of instrument can be somewhat recouped should your child decide to quit after high school or later.
Private lessons can add up quickly. The monthly costs for private lessons vary widely. They can be a few hundred or more per month depending on the experience and reputation of the instructor.
For example, a locally known musician verses a nationally known music professional will command very different rates. Another avenue to consider is remote lessons. This is where your child takes lessons from music teachers over the Internet. The benefit of this is no travel and you have a better selection of teachers available.
Band and orchestra have costs such as a instrument accessories, uniforms, trips, competitions, workshops, sheet music, digital recordings, etc. Some top high school bands can have costs of $20k – $30k per year.
Thankfully many do fund raising to help cut down on your out of pocket costs. Volunteering your time is often an option too to help offset these costs to fund your child.
The most important benefit is that your child will likely develop a strong group of friends. This can be invaluable if your child finds themselves attending a new school. They will find children their own age that have a shared love of music. Many professional musicians often started playing their bands with their friends from school. This means your child may develop lifelong friendships.
So instead of dread, feel joy when your child says, “I joined band!”. You are setting up your child to succeed not only in math, but in life. Learning to play a musical instrument will help your child learn new skills, become stronger physically, and increase their mental development. And most of all, your child will have a whole new group of friends doing the most positive activity, making beautiful music.