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Music & Intelligence: Will Listening to Music Make You Smarter?
Will listening to music make you smarter? Will learning to play a musical instrument make your brain grow larger than normal?
Questions like these ones have been popping up all over the place in the past few years, and not just in scientific journals either.
In recent times the media has been fascinated by the research surrounding brain development and music, eagerly reporting on the latest studies to the delight of the music-loving parents of young children.
But all this information - and some misinformation too - has led to generalized confusion about the role of music and music training in the development of the human brain. The bottom line is this: if you're confused by all you read about music study and brain development, you're certainly not alone.
In part, this is due to the manner in which the phrase "the Mozart Effect" has been popularized by the media and bandied about to describe any situation in which music has a positive effect on cognition or behavior.
In fact the Mozart Effect refers specifically to a 1993 research finding by Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Katherine Ky and published in the prestigious journal Nature. The scientists found that 36 college students who listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata performed higher on a subsequent spatial-temporal task than after they listened to relaxation instructions or silence.
An enchanted media reported this interesting research as "Mozart makes you smarter" - a huge over-simplification of the original results.
As Rauscher explains in a later paper, the Mozart Effect was studied only in adults, lasted only for a few minutes and was found only for spatial temporal reasoning. Nevertheless, the finding has since launched an industry that includes books, CDs and websites claiming that listening to classical music can make children more intelligent.
The scientific controversy - not to mention the popular confusion - surrounding the Mozart Effect, has given rise to a corresponding perplexity for parents. They wonder: "Should my kids even bother with music education?"
In fact the answer to this question is still a resounding yes, since numerous research studies do prove that studying music contributes unequivocally to the positive development of the human brain. Other researchers have since replicated the original 1993 finding that listening to Mozart improves spatial reasoning. And further research by Rauscher and her colleagues in 1994 showed that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers demonstrated a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ, a skill important for certain types of mathematical reasoning.
In particular, it is early music training that appears to most strengthen the connections between brain neurons and perhaps even leads to the establishment of new pathways. But research shows music training has more than a casual relationship to the long-term development of specific parts of the brain too.
In 1994 Discover magazine published an article which discussed research by Gottfried Schlaug, Herman Steinmetz and their colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf. The group compared magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of 27 classically trained right-handed male piano or string players, with those of 27 right-handed male non-musicians.
Intriguingly, they found that in the musicians' planum temporale - a brain structure associated with auditory processing - was bigger in the left hemisphere and smaller in the right than in the non-musicians. The musicians also had a thicker nerve-fiber tract between the hemisphere. The differences were especially striking among musicians who began training before the age of seven.
According to Shlaug, music study also promotes growth of the corpus callosum, a sort of bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain. He found that among musicians who started their training before the age of seven, the corpus callosum is 10-15% thicker than in non-musicians.
At the time, Schlaug and other researchers speculated that a larger corpus callosum might improve motor control by speeding up communication between the hemispheres.
Since then, a study by Dartmouth music psychologist Petr Janata published by Science in 2002, has confirmed that music prompts greater connectivity between the brains left and right hemisphere and between the areas responsible for emotion and memory, than does almost any other stimulus.
Janata led a team of scientists who reported some areas of the brain are 5% larger in expert musicians than they are in people with little or no musical training, and that the auditory cortex in professional musicians is 130% denser than in non-musicians. In fact, among musicians who began their musical studies in early childhood, the corpus callosum, a four-inch bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right sides of the brain, can be up to 15% larger.
While it is now clear from research studies that brain region connectivity and some types of spatial reasoning functionality is improved by music training, there is growing evidence that detailed and skilled motor movements are also enhanced.
Apparently the corpus callosum in musicians is essential for tasks such as finger coordination. Like a weight-lifter's biceps, this portion of the brain enlarges to accommodate the increased labour assigned to it.
In a study conducted by Dr. Timo Krings and reported in Neuroscience Letters in 2000, pianists and non-musicians of the same age and sex were required to perform complex sequences of finger movements. The non-musicians were able to make the movements as correctly as the pianists, but less activity was detected in the pianists' brains. The scientists concluded that compared to non-musicians, the brains of pianists are more efficient at making skilled movements.
The study of music definitely affects the human brain and its development, in a staggering number of ways. But what to make of all the research, especially in terms of deciding the best course of music study or appreciation for yourself or your offspring?
A 2000 article by N M Weinberger in MuSICA Research Notes makes the following excellent point: Although the Mozart Effect may not list up to the unjustified hopes of the public, it has brought widespread interest in music research to the public. And listening to ten minutes of Mozart could get someone interested in listening to more unfamiliar music, opening up new vistas.
Irregardless of the hype surrounding the Mozart Effect, the overall academic evidence for music study as a tool to aid brain development, is compelling.
At the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, Dr. Frank Wilson says his research shows instrumental practice enhances coordination, concentration and memory and also brings about the improvement of eyesight and hearing. His studies have shown that involvement in music connects and develops the motor systems of the brain, refining the entire neurological system in ways that cannot be done by any other activity. Dr. Wilson goes so far as to say he believes music instruction is actually 'necessary' for the total development of the brain.
So the bottom line is this: Music study and practice probably does aid in the development of the brain in various important ways. And after all, if you enjoy music, there is nothing to lose by trying, and everything to gain!
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and products such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. He holds an advanced degree from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. He can be reached at http://www.pianolessonsbyvideo.com. He is the author of the popular free 101-week e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" with over 55,000 current subscribers. Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to http://www.playpiano.com/
Top 50 Music Quotations
Discover the phenomenonal complexity of music and reflect on the way it can positively influence your life with this sound collection of riveting quotes...
Piano Chords and New Age Music
There are basically two ways you can compose a piece of music. The first and most traditional way is to write out the melody and then harmonize it. Some call this working from the top (as opposed to the chords on the bottom.) The second approach is where you create some kind of rhythmic harmonic pattern and improvise (or compose) the melody on top. Now, which one is best for New Age music?
Piano Lessons For Adults: More Fun, Easier, & Faster Than Piano Lessons For Kids
Piano lessons for adults is generally LOTS more fun than it is for kids, primarily because the only adults that play piano are people who really want to, which is certainly not true of most kids that take piano lessons because their parents want them to.
50 Cent G Unit
His lockjaw delivery makes him look as gangsta as Marlon "the Godfather" Brando, but 50 Cent is no actor, folks. In fact, his unique articulation has to do with a hole in his jaw, the result of having taken a bullet in the face (along with eight other shots taken to the rest of his body). He managed to defeat the odds by leaving the street hustle behind before it was too late, transforming his life of crime into a profession in rhyme. Whether rapping about the streets, the clubs, or even certain candy shops, 50 has quickly emerged as one of hip-hop's most dominant and talked about superstars to date.
Tips for Buying Digital Pianos and Keyboards
Buying a digital piano could be a very delicate attempt, especially if you have no idea about pianos in the first place. This article is written to help you out how to choose the best digital piano.
Would Chopin Have Passed A Music Quiz?
Q. My children are very interested in playing music. Is there such a thing as a music quiz for kids?
The Bagpipe and Its History
You may have heard that bagpipes are a Scottish invention; you may have heard that they are an Irish invention. The truth (of course) is neither one. The bagpipe was invented in ancient Samaria, in Israel. The Bible mentions the instrument in the book of Daniel chapter 3, where it is listed as one of the instruments use to call the people to worship a statue.This event takes place in ancient Iraq, which was then part of the Babylonian empire.
New Age Piano and Improvisation
There are so many areas in life where one must do things right. Thankfully, art is an area where great discoveries are made by making mistakes!
Formation of a Song (Recording)
As industry insiders, we sometimes forget that when discussing the recording process, the rest of the world really has no idea what we are talking about. Hopefully this will provide an explanation of the song formation process in layman's terms so that there may be less disconnect between the professional and the consumer.
The Dark Side of P2P File Sharing
P2P file sharing programs are free. Period. But there are P2P scam sites out there that want you to pay them instead. P2P scam sites are rogue companies that have set up shop to fleece unsuspecting music downloaders looking for file sharing programs by charging a fee for an otherwise free service.No P2P file sharing software costs money. Exceptions would be a site asking members to make a monetary donation to help pay for bandwidth, hosting costs, and other administrative costs.Some P2P file sharing programs offer "pro" versions of their free software. But again, their basic service is free to the public. I want you to fully understand this, because paying a P2P scam site money can not only make your wallet a bit lighter, it can also make your computer vulnerable to dangerous spyware.That's right. These scam sites are only interested in making money off you. As well as actually taking your money by fooling you into paying them, they'll make money off you by installing spyware on your PC, so that they can get paid by sharing your online habits and personal information with others.For music download beginners, all of this can be very confusing. Why? Because these scam sites advertise all over the Internet. Search engines return results chockful of these scams alongside the real P2P file sharing programs; their banner ads riddle the Internet landscape; sites are promoting these scams to get their piece of your money.Most real P2P programs don't advertise much on the Internet. The reason is that they're not money makers. It takes money to advertise, and who has more money--the free P2P file sharing programs or the scam artists? You guessed it. P2P relies on word of mouth. The scam sites rely primarily on advertising.How Can I Tell a P2P Scam Site?This is the easy part, if you know what you're looking for. P2P scam sites often use phrases like 100% Legal, which is absolutely untrue. This is a trick they use to prey on people interested in P2P file sharing programs, but who are worried (rightly) about Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lawsuits. Keep in mind that sharing and downloading of copyrighted files is, at this moment, an illegal activity.Another tactic is to use fake endorsements and recommendations from legitimate companies. Other cons are to use phrases like Direct Downloads!, Get Access Now!, Download Unlimited Free Music!, and other phrases that are promising you things they absolutely CANNOT deliver.How Does It Work & How are They Doing It?To be honest, I do not know the ins and outs of P2P scam sites. But I know this: all P2P file sharing programs are free. Think about it a moment. It is because music files are being shared free of charge (without artists receiving royalties) that organizations like the RIAA are mad and suing.These P2P scam sites are merely taking your money, downloading a little spyware to your PC, then connecting you to one of the real P2P file sharing programs. This is all convoluted by the nature of P2P, which is a series of servers networking files to one another. Unless you're buying your music MP3 downloads from a legitimate company, either per song/album or through a monthly subscription, you cannot be sure where your music is coming from.The legal status of P2P file sharing programs is confusing. We know that MP3 files themselves are not illegal. For example, it's legal to possess MP3s, to rip your CDs to your hard drive, and to burn CDs for your personal use. But, by sharing and/or downloading these files, you are breaking copyright laws. To my knowledge, P2P scam sites are not actually breaking any laws. But why pay for something you don't have to?One of the most common techniques these scam artists use is to set up sites that are misspellings or derivations of popular P2P file sharing programs. KaZaA is probably the most hijacked name being used these days.Other sites may not actually charge you anything at all, but they'll "give you the software for free" if you give them your email address. This too is a scam. Because once again, they're just sending you along to a proper P2P program, but after collecting your email address, they're selling it to third parties. Don't give these scammers any of your personal information!If you're on a website you trust, even this website, you may see ads by these scam artists, preaching their lies about 100% blah, blah, blah. For your own security, don't click on the links. They're still scams. (Many independent websites rely on ads to pay the bills. We don't always have full control over what advertisements appear on our sites. Keep in mind that most online advertisements are arranged and distributed by third-party companies who pair up advertisements with appropriate keywords. So a page that discusses "music downloads" is likely to have an ad from a scam site singing their own false praises.)On this note, there are sites all over the Internet that actually promote P2P scam sites. Why? I have my opinions. First, these scam sites are paying large sums of money to affiliates who promote their sites. For example, a scam site may be charging you $29.95 for their non-service. Well, they're paying affiliates over half (I've seen the pay-out as high as 75%) of that just for getting you, the visitor, to their scam sites.I Think I've Used One of these Scam Sites. What Do I Do Now?Stop! Right now, stop using that service. If you've got some type of monthly payment with them, stop paying them. Cancel your "membership," contact your bank or credit card company, and stop paying them immediately! Secondly, your computer has probably have been infected by spyware, and you need to remove it right away. I recommend purchasing spyware-removal software like Pest Patrol because they do the best job at clearing out spyware parasites.If you've been pulled into a scam site, just rack it up to experience. Their ad copy is very convincing, and you just wanted to "be legal" while downloading. Take heart in knowing that you're not alone. But you're better off now, with this information at your disposal.In my opinion, this is another reason to consider not using P2P file sharing programs as a means to get your online music. I think that these P2P scam sites will increase in number, and will use more clever tactics to get your money and your information. Until the peer-to-peer communities are regulated in some way, I fear that these types of activities will get worse before they improve.
Guitar Buying - The Pros and Cons of Vintage vs. Reissue
To most people, owning the "genuine article" is the only thing that will suffice. As a guitar player, and one who appreciates classic "vintage" instruments, I can fully understand this point of view. I can't think of a single guitarist who wouldn't absolutely adore playing a real 50's Les Paul or Stratocaster. However, becoming the proud owner of a true vintage instrument does have its drawbacks.
Beginning Clarinet: The Very Start
Like starting with any instrument, beginning clarinet is a process of learning that involves both great achievement and the occasional setback. However, if the beginning clarinetist follows a few tips relating to clarinet care and clarinet playing, the success is sure to outweigh the setbacks.
Do you really need college to learn to play music?
Music courses are a great way to learn about virtually any area of music; history, theory, and musical instrument instruction -- you name it and somewhere music courses specialize in it. Though generally found through colleges, universities or high school programs, music courses are also offered via one-on-one instruction with a private teacher or community-based workshops. Some churches even offer music courses as a complement to their choirs; the music courses may be offered to the general public, but they're often geared toward the choir members and congregation.
Polychords and the Jazz Improviser: How to Practice & Apply Polychords to Improv
In the world of music, many Jazz improvisers and Classical composers eventually venture into exploring poly-harmony within their respective art form. Poly harmony is the simultaneous sounding of more than one harmonic concept. The preponderance with poly-harmony began the late 19th-early 20th centuries with classical composers as Stravinsky and Debussy. About sixty years later, jazz musicians as John Coltrane and Richie Bierach incorporated such ideas into their music. The benefits of learning poly-chords will enhance an improviser's repertoire of harmonic concepts. Thus they can create harmonic colorings that can influence a listener's outlook. This article will focus on how once can practice and incorporate tertian polychords into their improvisational styles. Many of the examples and references within this article will make use of the seventh chord and triad. One should to explore other tertian harmonies such as ninths, elevenths, and all other similar formulations.
Modal Theory for Guitar Players - Part 2
Playing the Modes
Spectral Muses Revisited: The Channeled Melodies of Rosemary Brown
Rosemary Brown (1916-2001) was a middle-aged South London widow, making ends meet as a grade school kitchen assistant, who rocketed to international fame in 1968 through a BBC broadcast recounting her purported collaborations with long-dead composers. These included Liszt, J.S. Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Schubert (who of course no longer needs spectacles), Monteverdi, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Brahms, Robert and Clara Schumann, Mozart, Grieg, and Poulenc. And after he died in 1971, Igor Stravinsky joined them.
The Life and Music of Beatle George Harrison
Propelled into fame as one of the Beatles, along with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr, George Harrison was known as the "quiet one" of the group, and also as the "spiritual one." He was the lead guitarist.
Irish Fiddle Ornaments
When I started playing jigs, my default bowing pattern made a groove like Pop Goes the Weasel: "Long-short, long-short, muberry bush, the long-short, long-short weasel."
Canadian Stars: The Marble Index and the Waking Eyes
Canadian Indie bands are dominating the music scene and it just so happened that three of them took over the Rivoli on Queen St. for a night of true entertainment. Boy, The Marble Index and The Waking Eyes all performed for free at an event that was hosted by BenQ called the Video Sound Tour. Unfortunately I was unable to make it for the West Coast natives Boy who were the openers for the show but was told that they were great but lacking the entertaining factor.
How to Buy an Electric Guitar
For most of us, making any major purchase, such as a new refrigerator, or a new car, is a cacophony of options and confusion; do we want the silver one or the black one? How much can we afford to spend? Will it last over time? If nothing else, we at least know what we need these appliances to do: the microwave needs to make the food hot quickly, the car needs to get us from one place to the other without breaking down. When confronted with the purchase of a new guitar, even experienced guitarists can have trouble deciding what exactly they want and need. However, if you follow a few simple suggestions, you can make your guitar-buying experience a whole lot easier. 1. Determine your price range: you can spend anywhere from $99 to $20,000+ on a guitar, so make sure to work out your budget before you go into the store or start shopping online. Quality guitars are available at all different price ranges, so don't feel that you have to break the bank to get what you need.
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