Benefits of Music & Music Education (80+ Studies)
Music is a wonderful thing, fulfilling and worthwhile in and of itself. And while we should never lose sight of this fact, science has also discovered many additional benefits associated with music education and listening to music in general which are worth exploring.
This page records and categorises these benefits of music according to science.
Study shows a benefit of learning a musical instrument or singing.
Study shows a benefit of listening to music.
Jump to a type of benefit
We’ve categorised the studies by the type of benefit they show. Browse our list and jump straight to a benefit of your choice.
Improves cognitive performance
A study on healthy older adults showed that those with musical experience of ten or more years scored higher on cognitive tests compared to musicians with less the ten years of experience and non-musicians.
Improves attention and working memory
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, it was shown that children who are musically trained perform better in terms of attention and memory recall.
According to this study, listening to music you like helps with the reinforcement of learning and the recall of information.
Increases memory recall
In this study, participants who were asked to read and recall a short list of words performed better when listening to classical music compared to those who listened to white nose or silence.
Slows cognitive decline
In a study of adults with early memory loss, researchers discovered that listening to music improves memory function and lowers self-reports of cognitive decline in patients with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
Enhances speech response throughout a lifetime
According to this study, older adults who had music lessons as children yet did not play music most of their adulthood have faster brain responses to speech sounds compared to those who never learned to play an instrument.
Improves linguistic development
It has been shown that regular music play for 5 to 6-year-old children has a positive effect on linguistic skills.
Helps with word discrimination
Researchers have found that piano lessons have a specific effect on kindergartners’ ability to distinguish between different pitches, which translates into an improvement in distinguishing between words.
How music lessons can improve language skills
Yun Nan, Li Liu, Hua Shu, and Qi Dong, all of Beijing Normal University; Eveline Geiser, a former MIT research scientist; Chen-Chen Gong, an MIT research associate; and John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Improves reading and language skills
In a study presented at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention, it was shown that learning to play a musical instrument can help disadvantaged children improve their language and reading skills.
Improves reading ability
Children who learned to play the piano exhibited enhanced reading and vocabulary ability compared to children who did not undergo any type of music tuition, according to a study published in the Journal Psychology of Music.
Better discernment of sounds and speech
In a study published by Northwestern University, it was shown that musicians better coped with the effects of aging on their ability to hear words even with noise in the background.
Improves speech response in babies
This research shows that play sessions with music improve babies’ brain processing of both music and new speech sounds.
Boosts performance in Science, Maths and English
High school students who took up music courses scored significantly higher in Maths, Science and English exams compared to their non-musical peers, according to this study.
Improves maths skills
In one study from the Center for the Study of Human Development, it was demonstrated that piano lessons can significantly enhance maths ability compared to people who did not take up music lessons.
Is associated with higher IQ test scores
In a study from the Karolinska Institutet, it was discovered that those who scored better on intelligence tests are those who do well with tapping to a rhythm.
Improves reasoning, planning and organisation
According to the study published in the journal Frontiers, music lessons result in improvement in language-based reasoning and the ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks that can translate to better academic performance scores.
Increases focus and ability to absorb information
Studies have shown that instrument training from an early age can help the brain to better process sounds, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing information from other subjects.
Enhances vocabulary and non-verbal reasoning
The results of this study suggest that instrumental music training may enhance auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and non-verbal reasoning.
Enhances verbal intelligence and executive function
After only one month of music lessons (in rhythm, pitch, melody and voice), a study at York University showed that 90% of children between the ages of 4 and 6 had a significant increase in verbal intelligence during an executive-function task.
Improves inhibition, planning, and verbal intelligence
In a study involving 147 primary school children, it was determined that those who had music education scored higher in tests dealing with planning, inhibition, and verbal intelligence.
Helps your brain work more efficiently
Researchers from Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute discovered that people who were trained in music and people who are bilingual used fewer brain resources during memory tests compared to people who had no formal training in music.
Invokes high states of concentration
A study from Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustic showed that fast drum beats can place the mind in a state of increased concentration.
Increases attention span
A study from the University of Southern Denmark showed that just 12 minutes of listening to binaural beats and 4 weeks of mindfulness training were effective interventions to counteract the effects of mental fatigue on sustained attention.
Acts as a reward that drives learning
According to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, music can act as a reward that motivates participants into learning.
Can improve short-term information retention
A US study has shown that when students listen to the same classical music during study and while asleep, a method used to target reactivation of memories during sleep, their chances of passing upcoming exams increased.
Develops brain motor function
People who performed a basic movement task while listening to music showed increased connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement suggesting music can enhance brain motor function.
Improves movement in some diseases
In a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, it was found that music therapy was able to improve the movement of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Speeds up reaction time and improves multisensory processing
In this study, musicians were found to react faster to external stimuli and have “a statistical advantage when responding to multisensory stimuli compared to non-musicians”.
Strengthens breathing and swallowing muscles
In a study published in the Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation, it was shown that singing was able to help those with Parkinson’s disease maintain the muscle strength of their respiratory, swallowing, and voice muscles.
Helps post-workout recovery
Listening to slow music after a workout helps with the post-workout recovery as mentioned in a study from Narayana Medical College.
Makes exercise seem easier
A study published in the journal Frontiers was able to determine that listening to high-tempo music during endurance training exercises like walking was able to reduce the perceived effort of performing the exercise.
Makes people run faster
According to one study, runners who listened to fast motivational songs ran faster than those who listened to calm music or no music at all.
Music is a natural energizer. In fact, according to a study from Brunel University, listening to music while exercising increases endurance by as much as 15%.
Alleviates some respiratory diseases
A study from Mount Sinai Beth Israel found that when patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease participated in music therapy involving wind instruments, they reported improvement with their symptoms, psychological well-being, and quality of life compared to patients who received rehabilitation alone.
Improves brain circulation
A study from the University of Liverpool was able to determine that musical training is capable of improving brain circulation.
Improves mental functioning in the elderly
In a study published in PLOS, elderly people with minimal music experience showed an improvement in cognitive flexibility and working memory after six months of piano instruction.
Helps with stroke recovery
Music has been determined to have rejuvenating properties even for a brain that is traumatized. In one study from the University of Helsinki, stroke patients who listened to music experienced significant improvements in mood, attention, and memory.
Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke
Teppo Särkämö, Mari Tervaniemi, Sari Laitinen, Anita Forsblom, Seppo Soinila, Mikko Mikkonen, Taina Autti, Heli M. Silvennoinen, Jaakko Erkkilä, Matti Laine, Isabelle Peretz, Marja Hietanen.
Increases antibody production
In a study from Willamette University, it was found that people who actively participated in musical activity had increased antibody production which could correspond to an increase in immune function.
Improves ability to fight infections
In the journal for Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, a study was presented showing that drumming can increase the activity of circulating white blood cells in our body thereby increasing our ability to fight infections.
Improves quality of life
According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, dementia patients who participated in group singing activities reported improved quality of life.
In a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers found that Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems.
Music therapy for children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems: a randomized controlled trial
Sam Porter, Tracey McConnell, Katrina McLaughlin, Fiona Lynn, Christopher Cardwell, Hannah‐Jane Braiden, Jackie Boylan, Valerie Holmes.
Makes you happy
The journal Nature published a study stating that listening to music causes an increased release of dopamine. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter that’s released when we feel happy, so this demonstrates a relationship between music and its pleasurable effects.
Leads to focused attention, controlled emotions and reduced anxiety in children
A study from the University of Vermont suggests that playing the violin leads to focused attention, controlled emotions, and diminished anxiety in children.
Cortical thickness maturation and duration of music training: health-promoting activities shape brain development
James J Hudziak, Matthew D Albaugh, Simon Ducharme, Sherif Karama, Margaret Spottswood, Eileen Crehan, Alan C Evans, Kelly N Botteron, Brain Development Cooperative Group
Relaxes the body
In a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, it was stated that using classical music as an intervention was able to decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure and slow down respiration thereby providing an overall relaxing effect to the body.
Decreases stress levels
In one study it was shown that those who listened to self-selected or classical music experience decreased levels of stress compared to those who listened to heavy metal music or just silence.
Reduces pre-surgery anxiety
The anxiety-reducing effects of music are so strong it is even used to help with pre-surgery anxiety. This study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice explores the effect of different types of music on pre-surgery anxiety.
Decreases stress levels during day surgery
In a study published in the British Journal of Surgery, researchers found that music is effective in decreasing the levels of stress a patient experiences during a day operation.
Reduces anxiety prior to minor surgery
Music can also be used for minor procedures to reduce anxiety and help with patient sedation according to the study published in the journal Applied Nursing Research.
Decreases anxiety and depression
In another study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the use of music therapy on Alzheimer’s patients was able to decrease anxiety and depression in both self-report and salivary markers for stress.
Does Music Therapy Improve Anxiety and Depression in Alzheimer’s Patients?
José Enrique de la Rubia Ortí, María Pilar García-Pardo, Carmen Cabañés Iranzo, José Joaquin Cerón Madrigal, Sandra Sancho Castillo, Mariano Julián Rochina, Vicente Javier Prado Gascó.
Relieves anxiety and fatigue
Cancer patients experiencing anxiety and fatigue experienced relief while undergoing music therapy. This was stated in a study by Drexel University published by Cochrane.
Reduces anxiety in heart attack patients
Music was proven to be effective in relieving stress in patients with presumptive myocardial infarction or heart attacks based on a study published in the Journal of Critical Care.
Lowers anxiety in children
Children diagnosed with cancer and under isolation showed positive results with music therapy in resolving their anxiety according to a study published in the journal Music Therapy.
Reduces anxiety in stroke patients
A study from the journal Rehabilitation Nursing was able to show that having stroke patients listen to music even for just an hour reduced their anxiety scores during acute rehabilitation.
Reduces anxiety as efficiently as oral medication
According to this study, the effects of relaxing music on patients’ anxiety prior to surgery were comparable to orally given medications without apparent adverse effects.
Reduces sleeping issues
A study published by the Journal of Advanced Nursing was able to demonstrate that relaxing classical music is an effective intervention in reducing sleeping problems.
Can improve chronic insomnia
A study was able to demonstrate that listening to music for 45 minutes before sleep for four days shortened stage 2 sleep duration while extending REM sleep which translates to improved sleep in adults with chronic insomnia.
Is effective for both acute and chronic insomnia
Music therapy, when used in adult participants, was able to improve both acute and chronic sleep disorders according in an analysis of randomised studies.
Improves quality of work
A study observed 56 software engineers while working while either listening to music or or in silence. The study found that the quality of work improved while participants listened to music.
Helps with accuracy and efficiency
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that surgeon accuracy and efficiency improved when surgeons worked with music playing especially if they were the ones who selected the songs.
Increases pain threshold
According to a study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, playing the drums, singing, and dancing increases your endorphin levels making you more resistant to the pain experience.
Relieves pain after surgery
Patients under the study of Mount Sinai School of Medicine were able to report pain relief after spine surgery through the use of music therapy that includes live music and patient preferred songs.
Relieves chronic pain
A study from the Clinical Journal of Pain was able to show that two daily sessions of listening to music helped a group of patients with chronic pain relieve the symptoms associated with their medical conditions.
The effects of music intervention in the management of chronic pain: a single-blind, randomized, controlled trial
Stéphane Guétin, Patrick Giniès, Didier Kong A Siou, Marie-Christine Picot, Christelle Pommié, Elisabeth Guldner, Anne-Marie Gosp, Katelyne Ostyn, Emmanuel Coudeyre, Jacques Touchon.
Reduces pain from fibromyalgia
Another study from the Pain Management Nursing journal shows that music is an effective treatment for the pain symptoms of fibromyalgia, a condition known for its severe pain.
Reduces pain and anxiety after heart attacks
According to the American College of Cardiology, heart attack patients who listened to their preferred genre of music for 30 minutes a day reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and pain when tested.
Playing a musical instrument lowers blood pressure
According to a study published in the Netherland Heart Journal, playing the guitar or a musical instrument lowers blood pressure as compared to the group that does not play a musical instrument.
Lowers blood pressure in cardiac patients
A study featured in the American Journal of Critical Care shows that listening to music was able to reduce the blood pressure of cardiac surgery patients staying in the hospital.
Lowers blood pressure and relaxes the body
Listening to Mozart and ABBA was shown in one study to lower heart rate and blood pressure, signifying its ability to relax the body.
According to one study published in Sage Journals, it was found that playing the piano weekly for three years increases the self-esteem of students compared to those that receive no music instruction.
Is associated with being more charitable
A study from Chorus America was able to highlight that choral singers are more likely to be involved in charity work as volunteers or as donors as compared to the average person.
Made men more attractive to women
A study has found that when women heard music before looking at pictures of men, they rated the male faces as more attractive and more likely for them to date.
Helps with parental bonding
In a study from the University of Arizona, it was shown that children who listened to music with their parents reported better quality relationships with their parents when they reached the age of young adulthood.
Listening to happy music at work has been shown to increase teamwork in offices according to a study done by Cornell University.
Singing helps with loneliness and self-esteem
In a study done by University College London. it was shown that singing online in a virtual choir helped participants in improving their self-esteem and reducing the feeling of social isolation.
Enhances the taste of food
Researchers from the University of Oxford have discovered a link between music and food taste. It was shown that high-pitch music including instruments such as flutes enhances sweet and sour flavours while low-pitch sounds like tubas strengthen bitter flavours.
Helps you eat less
A study from Cornell found that when people ate with soft ambient music and lighting, they consumed less and reported increased enjoyment with their food.
Effects food choices
In a study, a randomly chosen cafe played different music on two different days and found that softer, more gentle music was associated with higher sales of healthy food while louder, noisier music lead to less healthy choices.
Helps dementia patients to eat
In a 2018 study on dementia, music was shown to enhance patients’ swallowing mechanism, decreasing the incidence of choking, and improving patients’ nutritional status.
Final thoughts on benefits of music education
As we’ve seen, music education and music in general can offer powerfully positive, lifelong benefits for people. And while there’s still a lot of work to be done by researchers before the benefits are fully understood, the body of evidence is already quite large and steadily growing every year.
Do you know of a piece of research that we missed? For that and anything else, please leave us a comment.