Posted on October 2, 2013 by Andy John

Are you considering music lessons for your child because you think it will make him/her smarter?  Do hours of practice lead to enlightenment and better test scores?  Does making my child start lessons at 4 years old give them an advantage in the long run?


There are plenty of studies that cover these questions.  If you type the question above into Google you can get a good idea of the amount of related research that has been conducted.  I found it bewildering.  Programs are designed to captivate the parent who wants to do what’s best for their child.  These products sell very well.  I have benefited handsomely as a music teacher by this approach.  I’m not sure these are the best reasons to have your child take lessons, however.

Music seems to be universal.  That means EVERYBODY everywhere in the world is culturally musical and there is plenty of evidence that music has been with us for a long time.  We like music.  Children like music.

The problem occurs when children like music but don’t like to practice.  It’s completely understandable.  Practice is hard.  It sounds bad.  It takes a long time.  They can’t do it.  So why bother?

I think the best answer to this is that there must be a motivation and a reward.  If junior has been asking to take piano lessons for a year (my mother’s approach) there is reason to believe they will stick with it longer than a kid who is taking lessons because it is ‘good’ for them.  All three of my siblings took music lessons and I think we all benefited from it.  I suspect it had a great deal to do with my father playing piano every evening.  It is clear he enjoyed it.  We often played and sang together.  A good teacher who engages your child and makes it fun and interesting is critical.

If you are considering music lessons for your child, ask yourself why.  Is it for them?  Is it for you?  Will they like it?  Will they be good at it?  Will it bring you and your child together?   Will you be angry when they don’t seem to like it and don’t practice?  Can you afford an instrument and $30/week or more for lessons?  Can you make them stick with it for a set amount of time and then reassess?

We are all aware of either ourselves or people we know who were forced to take piano lessons until they were 15 and didn’t have any say.  My original mantra stands though:  there must be a motivation and a reward.

I ran a rock-n-roll ensemble at my school.  Some of the kids were very talented, practiced, and were driven.  Some of the kids just wanted to play what they could and be a part of the group.  They were both welcome.  I have different expectations for each student.  I had a third grade drummer whose mother desperately wanted her to take piano lessons but her daughter showed no interest.  Playing drums in a rock band though?  Way cooler.  The daughter enjoyed it, talked about it, thought about it, and practiced with her dad (who is a seasoned drummer).  She’s also inspired to play some piano now because she sees a high schooler who is amazing!  She sees the big picture and now has a reason to play and she will probably keep doing it.  It’s much better to discover music this way.  It also brings the family together in a new way.

One last thing.  Someone who plays music voluntarily and regularly, benefits in so many ways.  Self esteem is such a big thing for children, especially those kids who suffer from common issues like obesity, speech impediment, dyslexia, shyness, or even acne.  The reason this is important is that children are very good at finding fault with themselves and it only takes one thing that they can do well to give them the motivation to put up with bullying, teasing, or other daily embarrassing situations that take a toll on their self esteem.  I have many students who find solace in their music.  They are usually not the kids who are in a dozen activities.  Music is an escape that helps them deal with all the rest, which is a wonderful thing, even if a transcript to college is far from anyone’s mind.

Will music lessons make my kid smarter?