Making Music Matters-
Why Mozart Won’t Help You
by Chris Loeffler
“Music makes you smarter”, is an idea that has been core to the lexicon of our society, especially by parents ready to raise the next generational genius who is going to elevate and enlighten mankind, leading civilization to a new age of peace and interconnection, where the sins of the past are wiped away. So you buy “Baby Mozart” and play it in the nursery every time your infant child sleeps, magically growing their intellect while you skulk away, hoping your exit won’t disturb them so you can reward your efforts with a much-needed glass of (fill in the blank). Parenting!
Except, Mozart isn’t going to make your baby smart. At least, that’s what science says.
Somewhere along the way, the benefits of listening to music (especially classical, jazz, or anything that isn’t “easy to listen to”) became interchangeable with the concept of learning and instrument and being able to perform a song. While there have been many studies showing immediate, one-time boosts to creativity or output when a task is completed listening to classical music, there has been exactly zero evidence that listening to music results in long-term growth. Oh, and classical music performs as well (or poorly) as a Stephen King audio book, depending on the person. Turns out it’s likely the fact that someone enjoys the background input that gives them a temporary boost, not how angular and complex a musical arrangement is.
Music appreciation courses that have been tracked by all credible university studies confirm zero correlation between any enhancement in the fields of science or mathematics.
So what gives?
Turns out one of the most frustrating adages around holds true… you have to work for what you want. The false positives and anecdotal wunderkind used to prop up the “listening to classical music makes you a smarter person” argument had something else going on that researchers apparently didn’t take into account: they had learned or were learning an instrument.
Woodshedding...those painful first few months (or years) where hardly a pleasing note can be produced, where all concepts of rhythm and song structure get throw out in the service of just getting the fingering right to play to darned chord, and the concept of stepping outside of the sheet music is unthinkable. These are the things that slowly teach us symmetry, timing, intervals, and patterns (hurray, Math and Science!).
So, yeah… turns out parents looking to boost their infant’s chances of getting into that exclusive Charter school in five years are going to need more than an audio playback device and recording of songs written hundreds of years ago. They’ll actually need to teach (or at least encourage) their children to play an instrument to extract the intrinsic benefits music offers beyond immediate inspiration (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
Make the commitment to making music a part of your child’s life...because Mozart isn’t going to do it for you.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.