What is the impact of MUSIC on All, Musicians included

  • Know about the profound effect that music has on our mind and body.

This article highlights the major effects that music has on our mind and body. (For studies and research resources please refer to the bibliography from which the author has drawn heavily from.)


So, what does the power of music do to us? How does the brain get more powerful? Why does music therapy work? How does it improve our mathematical skills? What is synaptogenesis? Etc. Here are some interesting facts.


Just as we play music and train, do we know how it is influencing our brain and body? Let us look at how music enhances the power of the brain! After all this is where all ideas start!


1. The cerebral cortex self-organises as we engage with different musical activities. Skills learnt in these areas transfer to other activities. Some skills transfer automatically without our conscious awareness, others require reflection on how they might be utilised in a new situation.


 Perceptual (deep evaluation) language and literacy skills, speech and music have a number of shared processing systems. Musical experiences enhance processing, therefore impacting the perception of language. Perceptual skills are evaluated during performances, communications etc. Visual perception is the capacity to interpret or give meaning to what is seen. Musical training develops skills enhance creativity, special skills, memory and form consistency.


This is critical in developing phonological awareness which in turn contributes to learning to read successfully. Music participation enhances creativity, particularly when the musical activity itself is creative, for instance, improvisations. Indian classical music with its high degree of improvisational emphasis is one such core example.


2. Personal and social development

Music has a strong influence on personal and social development.


Playing an instrument can lead to a sense of achievement; an increase in self-esteem/confidence; persistence in overcoming frustrations when learning is difficult; self-discipline; and provide a means of self-expression. These may increase motivation for learning in general thus supporting enhanced attainment.


Participating in musical groups promotes friendships with like-minded people; self-confidence; social skills; social networking; a sense of belonging; teamwork; a sense of accomplishment; co-operation; and responsibility. It also provides a sense of commitment; mutual support; bonding to meet group goals; increased concentration and provides an outlet for relaxation. Working in musical groups requires the development of trust, respect and skills of negotiation and compromise. In adolescence music makes a major contribution to the development of self-identity. It is seen as a source of support when young people feel troubled or lonely.


Music increases emotional sensitivity. The recognition of emotions in music is related to emotional intelligence. This is because the induced audio nervous system releases happiness chemicals from the hypothalamus, peptides such as dopamine, and a host of others.


3. What is Synaptogenesis?

Our knowledge of the way the brain works is still in its infancy but some of the fundamental processes involved in learning have been established. The human brain contains approximately one hundred billion neurons, a considerable proportion of which are active simultaneously. Information processing is undertaken through interactions between them, each having a thousand connections with other neurons.


When we learn there are changes in the growth of axons and dendrites and the number of synapses connecting neurons, a process known as. SYNAPTOGENESIS. This process gives the brain greater power for cerebration.


4. What is Myelinisation?

It’s an increase in the coating of the axon of each neuron which improves insulation. This makes the established connections more efficient. Through combinations of these processes the cerebral cortex self-organises in response to external stimuli and the individual’s learning activities vastly improve. 


Extensive active engagement with music induces cortical re-organisation producing functional changes in the brain which increases the efficiency of processing power.


The brain develops in specific ways in response to particular learning activities. The tools and practices utilised to support the acquisition of musical skills have a direct influence on brain development and preferred approaches to undertaking musical tasks.


It also influences approaches on tasks that are outside of music.


5Memory Strength

When an event is important enough or is repeated sufficiently often, synapses and neurons fire repeatedly indicating that this event is worth remembering. This changes the efficacy of existing connections are made. As learning continues and activities are engaged with, over time myelinisation takes place.


However, note that everyone has a specific ‘learning biography’ which is reflected in the way the brain processes information. 


6Use of Skills learnt, through MUSIC, to other activities

As individuals engage with different musical activities permanent changes occur in the brain, albeit over extended periods of time,


These changes reflect what and how has been learned. They also influence the extent to which developed skills can transfer to other activities. The transfer of learning from one domain to another depends on the similarities between the processes involved.


Salomon and Perkins (1989) refer to low and high road transfer. Low road transfer depends on automated skills and is spontaneous for instance, processing of music and language or using the same skills to read different pieces of music or text. High road transfer requires reflection and conscious processing. For e.g. musical skills more likely to transfer are those concerned with perceptual processing of sound (temporal, pitch, and rule governed grouping information), fine motor skills, emotional sensitivity, conceptions of relationships between written materials and sound (reading music and text), and memorisation of extended information etc.


7. Music improves brain power of encoding

When we listen to music or speech, we process an enormous amount of information rapidly without our conscious awareness. The ease with which we do so depends on our prior musical and linguistic experiences. This knowledge is implicit, learned through exposure to environments, and is applied automatically whenever we listen to music or speech. Speech and music share same processing systems. Musical experiences which enhance processing can impact the perception of language. This in turn impacts on reading skills.


Music sharpens the brain’s early encoding of sound leading to enhanced performance improvement. This has an impact on the cortical processing of linguistic pitch patterns, or the timbre of music notes. Playing a musical instrument triggers changes in the brainstem, not only in the cortex but musicians have been found to have earlier brainstem responses to the onset of a syllable than non-musicians.


8. Examples of First Language and Second Language learning

Musicians also have high-functioning peripheral auditory systems. (A well-trained ear can distinguish the sound of the approaching car much earlier than others).


The quality of sensory encoding is related to the amount of musical training. The  ability to perceive slight differences in phonemes depends on the ability to extract information about the frequencies of the speech.


Studies confirm that having musical skills improves the ability to perceive and produce subtle phonetic contrasts in a second language and reading abilities in their first language. It also enhances the ability to interpret affective speech rhythms. Speech makes extensive use of structural auditory patterns, not based on pitch but timbre-based differences between phonemes. Musical training develops these skills.


9. Impact of rhythm or Beats

Active music-making involves kinaesthetic movements to emphasise steady beat, rhythm and pitch. Learning to discriminate differences between tonal and rhythmic patterns and associate their perceptions with visual symbols leads to improved phonemic awareness. Humans can recognise a melody transposed in frequency easily. This skill may be related to its importance in spoken intonation.


A listener needs to be able to hear the similarity of intonation patterns when spoken in different pitch registers. Speech processing requires similar processing to melodic contour. It is one of the first aspects of music that improves speech for e.g. beats. Children with dyslexia have difficulty with rhythmic skills (not pitch) and that learning, focusing on rhythm, has a positive effect on both phonological and spelling skills.


Music plays a key role in developing perceptual processing systems which facilitate the encoding and identification of speech sounds and patterns.


Transfer of these skills is automatic and contributes not only to language development but also to literacy. The role of music in facilitating language skills contributes to the development of reading skills. Early studies, where music instruction was specifically designed to develop auditory, visual, and motor skills, found that the mean reading comprehension scores of the intervention groups was always much higher as compared to others.


10. Music instruction also increases verbal memory. Learning to play a musical instrument enhances the ability to remember words. Adult musicians have clearly enlarged left cranial temporal regions of the brain, the area involved in processing heard information.


11. Music, because of association with speech and sound, transcends experiences into fields as theatrical and visual arts making musicians great appreciators of arts in general.


Success in music can enhance overall feelings of confidence and self-esteem thereby, increasing motivation for study. Research in Switzerland showed that there was an increase in social cohesion within a class, greater self-reliance, better social adjustment and more positive attitudes in children.


Music and the arts are related to personal and social development. Music has effects relating to awareness of others, social skills, well-being, and transfer effects.


Variations in response related to the degree of musical knowledge. Some students perceive the benefit of music classes in being listening to music and the development of musical skills while others referred to the sheer fun and therapeutic nature of music, how it gave them confidence to perform in front of others, how it facilitated group work and enabled them to learn to express themselves.



An enormous range of health and well-being benefits of participating in group singing (e.g. choir) is clearly seen and felt. It leads to physical relaxation and release of physical tension; emotional release and reduction of feelings of stress.


Also sense of happiness, positive mood, joy, elation, and feeling high, a sense of greater personal, emotional, and physical well-being. Increased sense of arousal and energy; stimulation of cognitive capacities-attention, concentration, memory, and learning; an increased sense of self confidence and self-esteem. Therapeutic benefits in relation to long-standing psychological and social problems; a sense of exercising systems of the body through the physical exertion involved, especially the lungs.


The sense of disciplining the skeletal-muscular system through the adoption of good posture; being engaged in a valued and rewarded thing gives a sense of purpose and motivation. Playing the piano exercises the heart as much as a brisk walk and there are lower mortality rates in those who attend cultural events, read books or periodicals, make music, or sing in a choir enhanced by opportunities to develop rhythmic co-ordination. Fine motor co-ordination is improved through learning to play an instrument.


Music improves spatial reasoning, one aspect of general intelligence which is related to some of the skills required in mathematics. Engagement with music can enhance self-perceptions as it provides positive learning experiences which are rewarding. This means that musical experiences are enjoyable providing challenges to the human body and mind.


13. Musicians experience a large amount of information transfer and integration of complex sensory, motor, and auditory processes when training. To investigate neural adaptations in the brain, techniques such as diffusion-weighted imaging DWI, probabilistic tractography are used to study music’s impact on the architecture of white matter anatomical networks. 


Musicians, unlike others, exhibit significantly increased connectivity strength in the left and right supplementary motor areas. The left calcarine fissure and surrounding cortex and the right caudate nucleus is stronger. Research has shown, significantly larger clustering coefficient in the right olfactory cortex, the left medial superior frontal gyrus, the right gyrus rectus, the left lingual gyrus, the left supramarginal gyrus, and the right pallidum. Preliminary findings show the network level understanding of white matter plasticity is much higher in musicians. These findings indicate that musicians do acquire enhanced information transmission efficiencies in local white matter networks related to musical training, thereby considerably strengthening the brain.



Thus, there are benefits of active engagement with music for it is a great developer of the human mind and body and perceptual skills happen with music. Enhanced by opportunities to develop rhythmic co-ordination, fine motor co-ordination improves through learning to play an instrument.


Music has significant contributions in our lives. Music begins where words and speech end.


To read all articles by author


Also read

1. The Power of Music Therapy

2. What is a RAGA

3. World Music Day



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