Music is extremely important to the development of young children. Research has proven again and again that music education helps young children succeed. Parents take this as an excuse to shove their children into music classes for the next 10 years of their life and push them ever onward to perfection. As it turns out, just a few years of music training will return the same results.
A recent study from the Journal of Neuroscience sought to find out how much music training is needed to actually make an impact on the mind of a child. The study used 45 adults with varying degrees of music education. They were split up based upon how much music training they received as children and were then tasked to respond to complex sounds ranging in pitch. The results are actually pretty surprising.
The researchers from Northwestern University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory found that adults who studied music as a child were better able to process the sounds being played. What's interesting is that the amount of music training didn't matter. Those with even a minimum amount of training (one to two years) were able to pull out low frequency sounds from the test noises.
So what does this say about music? It's imperative that everybody be exposed to some kind of music education as a child. You don't have to force children to take years of grueling music theory courses. They just need to take a few years of piano or another instrument in elementary school and they'll be set for life.
The study only tested the participant's ability to hear and pick out sounds. Music training definitely enhances your ability to hear, but it does so much more. Music is essentially the steroids for your brain. It makes children better at reading and math. There are probably other benefits that we don't even know about yet. Most important of all, however, is that music is just fun. Inspiring a love of music into children at a young age guarantees them a life of at least occasional happiness as music is a great stress reliever.
Unfortunately, public funding for music and arts education is always declining. Schools are forced to focus on what they see as more important subjects like math and science. This latest study might help to convince some schools that music and art are just as important in fostering the kind of intellectual development that math and science require.
Just be sure that your music education is strictly about the classics. Modern pop music will probably just degrade your mind to the intellectual equivalent of a spoon.[h/t: Scientific American]