When it comes to extra curricular activities, music lessons may not seem like they are on the top of everyone’s priority list. Interestingly, though, in the US over 50% of households have at least one person that plays a musical instrument. That may sound like a lot, but if you look closely at the reasons that taking music lessons is so important, you’ll find that this number should be much higher.
Here are 6 important reasons that kids need music lessons.
1. Musicians are Smarter?
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly. I’m sure you’ve heard a million times that musicians are better at reading and math, and just about everything else. I’m a little biased, and I would love this to be true. We have to remember though that correlation is not causation. What I mean by that is just because one study showed that students who took music lessons scored better on math tests, does not necessarily mean that music is what caused them to do better.
There are so many variables in these studies that we can’t very well disprove the possibility that these students had a propensity for math that drew them to music. Or perhaps students that took music lessons had more active parenting. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know.
Learning music should be a goal in and of itself, and yes there is the possibility that students who study music do better in school. Whether it’s true or not, learning music definitely can’t hurt.
2. Learning Delayed Gratification
Learning a musical instrument is not quick. I often get asked how many lessons a student needs in order to learn an instrument. The answer is… A lot. Students shouldn’t plan on taking lessons for just a few weeks or months, they should plan on years. The longer the better. No one learns an instrument overnight, not well at least.
So it takes a long time to learn, but why does this help children? It teaches them delayed gratification. In a now famous study children were put in a room with a single marshmallow. They were told that they could eat the marshmallow now, or they could wait and the adult would come back with a second one. If they ate the marshmallow right away, however, there would be no second marshmallow.
Some children ate the marshmallow right away, and some waited. The viral video below is a recreation of the test.
So why does this all matter? Researchers followed these children for 40 years. Over and over again the ones that waited for the marshmallow succeeded in their lives. Their relationships were healthier. They had better careers. They even had lower BMIs.
If you give your kid a marshmallow, and they eat it right away, they’re going to be a failure. Sorry. No no no, of course this is not true. There are many other variables that could be at work in this study, but the study does at least open our eyes to the importance of delayed gratification.
How can you help your child understand that good things come to those who wait? At first, music may be difficult, but eventually if they practice, they will learn how to play. The joy that comes from playing a musical instrument is much more than the joy that comes from eating a marshmallow. Kids learn from doing. After all their hard work, they’ll realize that because they were able to consistently work on something, they reap the reward of being able to play an instrument.
This is one of the best lessons any parent can give their children.
3. Music is an Amazing Hobby
What do you do in your free time? In the rare times that you have time to yourself, do you just sit and watch TV? How do you feel afterwards? Accomplished? One of the most important things that I got from music lessons is a lifelong hobby. Studies show that adults with hobbies are more successsful. Sure, I’ve also made music my career, but the most joy I get from music is when I do it for fun.
I love sitting at the piano and reading through gorgeous music. It’s enjoyable, and I feel accomplished doing it. It works my mind and body in a way that help me wind down after a hard day of work.
You may have grown up with people, or you may be one yourself, that never really had anything that they learned well as kids. As adults these people just have TV, movies, the internet, and video games as their “hobbies”. Giving children the gift of a lifelong hobby, something they can enjoy after work, is one of the best things that you can do for them.
4. Learn Autonomy
Adults need to think and do things for themselves. It’s just a fact of life. Think back to when you moved out of your parents house. It was pretty exciting right? You were finally an adult and everything was up to you. Some young adults do amazing things with this autonomy. They study at school, they get a job, and they work towards a career. It’s not that way for everyone though. A lot of young adults go nuts. They waste a lot of time and sometimes get into a little bit of trouble.
One reason young adults feel they need to act in this way is because they finally have some autonomy. They need to explore it! When it comes to music lessons you may think that it’s the opposite of having autonomy, but it actually teaches it in disguise.
This isn’t to say that practice time shouldn’t be guided by the parent, in most cases it should be. Eventually, however, parents will find that their kids know what they’re doing. They can self-direct their practice time. This helps kids feel a sense of autonomy. It helps them feel that they are in control of their futures. Parents and teachers can encourage this feeling with giving kids as many options as possible when it comes to song/repertoire choice, and when to practice.
5. Build Self Confidence
Overcoming obstacles that seemed insurmountable before is one of the best ways to boost self confidence. The idea of “I can’t do it” is completely foriegn to me. I attribute this in large part to my music lessons growing up. Yes, learning music was difficult at times and there were plenty of times I thought that I just couldn’t do it. Even though I may have doubted myself hundreds of times, in the end I was always able to do learn what I was working on.
This has taught me self confidence, one lesson at a time. Now as an adult, if faced with a problem or obstacle, not being able to overcome it doesn’t even seem like an option. I know I can do it, even if it will perhaps take a little extra work.
6. Teaching Music is a Great College Job
Being a professional musician doesn’t usually pay well. It can be hard, but definitely not impossible, to raise a family and be a professional musician at the same time. With that said, teaching music is just about the best college job any student could have. In many locations throughout the country $40/hour is a very reasonable price for private music lessons. It’s pretty difficult to get full time work by teaching privately, but most college students aren’t looking for full time work.
With just a high school diploma, odds are a college student won’t find part-time work for much more than minimum wage. Let’s say they were lucky, though, and they found a job that pays $12/hour and they work 20 hours a week. That means they’re making $240/week. What if that same student were to find 6 hours of music lessons to teach at $40/hour? It’s not too hard, and they’re only working 6 hours a week. This same student would be making the same amount as their peer that’s working that good job 20 hours a week.
Better than even the money, though, is it’s actually rewarding. The minimum wage jobs college students usually get can be life suckers.
This is just a small list of benefits that come from music lessons. Kids can only really get these benefits if they continue with lessons through most of their childhood. If you ask me, these benefits far outweigh just about anything else you can buy your kids. Give them experiences. Give them knowledge. Give them music lessons!