Proof: Learning Music Makes Children Smarter!

As music teachers, we’ve all known it and we already endorse it, but now its becoming official.

On the 10th September, 2009, the UK Government is kick starting a schools music program which has been dubbed the biggest music lesson ever and will reach thousands of schools and children throughout the UK.

This year, the British government will invest 330 million pounds into their “First National Year of music” . This came about as a result of some conclusive research undertaken by Professor Susan Hallam of the Institute of Education, University of London.

In her research she found:

  • Students who learned music over time, increased their general IQ by 7 points, while drama subjects only increased their IQ by 4.3points.
  • Playing an instrument improves general behaviour because it requires a students to trust, respect and compromise with others
  • Learning a musical instrument improves behavior, memory and intelligence
  • musically trained students retain up to a fifth more information

Ed Balls, Secretary of the State said:
“Music is at the very heart of British popular culture – it’s what kids talk about, it’s what they aspire to. It’s fantastic that TV talent shows like X Factor attract millions of viewers each week, but young people need to know that they can only become stars by mastering the basics when they’re young and by learning about a range of music, from classical to country. This is exactly why we need world-class music education in schools. We know that learning to play an instrument can improve both reading and writing. It is right that music should play an important role in school life and beyond.”
Just check out his you tube interview releasing the program the other day.

If there are any UK teachers out there reading this, I would love some input into this discussion. Did you take part in the Biggest Music Lesson ever; What was it like; what did your students think and do you know if and where we can get some footage of the broadcast on you tube?

If anyone has any ideas or footage, please leave a comment and links in the box below as I am most intrigued!

Fun in Music Lessons


  • By Vicki Davis Reply

    This is definitely worth blogging about (will be on my blog tomorrow.) In our effort to boost test scores and canceling music and drama – perhaps we have lowered the very scores we sought to improve! What a shame. Music is not just something that is nice to have – it is a connection to the very soul of who we are as human beings.

  • By Brandt Schneider Reply

    I would be curious about the time needed to spend in music class. Is 40 minutes a week enough for this effect? 40 minutes per day? Music integrated throughout the day?

  • By Phil Kirkman Reply

    I’d like to clear a few things up here. Firstly, Hallam (2006 p.182) states that the evidence from studies is mixed and NOT conclusive. Secondly, it was Schellenberg (2004) who reports larger increase in intelligence for those students who received musical instruction.

    In fact when looked at closely Schellenberg’s findings are far from conclusive. The study was carried out on Canadian student who’s 6th birthday fell between Jan and October. Generalization beyond this demographic is risky at best. The increase in IQ (whatever that really tells us about students anyway) can also be linked to wealth, age or dropout rate. For example, The music group taking keyboard lessons demonstrated an improvement of 6.1 compared to the 5.1 receiving drama lessons. BUT they were on average (mean) $7500 more wealthy. Also, those receiving no lessons showed an increase in IQ of only 3.9. However, they were a further $5000 less wealthy on average (mean). While the vocal were of comparable wealth to the drama group they were 102 days over 6 years compared with only 75 in the drama group. In other words the drama group were nearly a month younger. Finally, Schellenberg reports that the keyboard group experienced 16% dropout, the vocal group 11% and the drama group only 5%. Out of classes of 36 this might be significant. I will illustrate. If the 6 who dropped out of the keyboard group were at the lower end of the group for IQ score (Standard deviation for final test was 12.5) then calculating these into the final mean increase gives a figure of 106.6 rather than the 108.7 reported. This is less of an increase than for those who received drama instruction.

    I say all this to make an important point…We need to be VERY careful about using research to make the case for something we think is a good idea. I think music ed is a GREAT idea (as I am a music teacher and researcher). However, I get rather exasperated with what seems to be a pressure to justify it in terms of what it does in other subjects or to our IQ (again…whatever that is other than a test of how well you do on an IQ test). Is there not a value inherent in studying music for its own sake?

  • By Jennifer Henry Reply

    I’m finding that Phil’s comments on how we interpret and use research resonate with me. Sadly, if the integrity of research protocol is not maintained, anyone can make almost any study show his or her desired result. It would be marvelous to have a very comprehensive and tight study done with highly stratified test and control groups. Research on the impact of any fine arts instruction upon a person’s measure of intelligence has to be very difficult to accomplish with valid, reliable results since the arts are so subjective to each person’s experience to begin with.
    I will freely admit, however, that I would gladly welcome and such research to help promote funding for music education and participation in programs.

  • By Kids Music Reply

    Your blog is like an encyclopedia for those who want to know more about this. Thanks for the interesting information.

  • By Valentino L. Vazquez Reply

    I have created in conjunction with the “Jazz Workshop Inc.”(Pgh. PA) and “The Duquesne University Music School” a program called Jazz for Tots. The observations I have made and their implications are profound. Adult-like responses to music are surely visible even in those students that are a mere two years old!

  • By Mickey Carroll Reply

    Hello My name is Mickey Carroll and I was inspired to write a song entitled A Portrait Of A Teachers Life

    I just want to share my thoughts with a song regarding the Career I admire most . This song has jazz legion Ira Sullivan on trumpet and famed jazz bass player Jeff Carswell .

    Mickey on Myspace

    Thank you all for what you do

    Mickey Carroll Mother J Productions

  • By Ty Burtin Reply

    Investigate Sharon Burch and her series of Freddie the Frog books. She has stuff at and at Rumor has it a jazz book is coming out next. Her comments, experience and research indicate the same. It isn’t just listening but you must be learning music.

    I’m no scientist but my wife required our two children to take music lessons from an early age until they started driving. They were both in the top 5% of their class. Based on our IQ they didn’t come by it genetically. In addition we live in a very poor area with an average at best school. My daughter even made it into an ivy school.

    Funny how most the kids in band are also on the honor roll and a lot of them say the only reason they are there is becasue their parents make them.

    Study or not, why not copy what seems to be working?

  • By Tasha Brient Reply

    Thanks for every other wonderful post. Where else could anyone get that type of information in such a perfect means of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.

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