Music: The First Language a Child Learns

Music: The First Language a Child Learns

In 2018, a research team consisting of anthropologists, psychologists, biologists, musicians and linguists from top universities around the world concluded that “music is the universal language of mankind”. Be it hymns echoing through the rafters of ancient European cathedrals to the vibrating ding of Buddhist singing bowls, music is a means used to transcend or connect people across cultures.

Humans can identify music related to behaviors such as lullabies, healing, dance, love and ritual, no matter how foreign or remote.

What Role Does Music Play In A Child’s Life? 

Like language, music is a shared and expressive way to be together. It can be a powerful force in the lives of children and families. On a side note, do you remember the old classic Bollywood movies that had a family song? Invariably, the family separated and reunited decades later only when they heard each other sing the family song.

“There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University. 

The basis of good music has always been part of Disney's films starting from “Someday my prince will come”( Snow White and the Seven Dwarf’s) to today's “We don’t talk about Bruno (Encanto) It includes a rich collection of music whether it’s “Let It Go” (Frozen) or “Un Poco Loco”(Coco) or “Hakuna Matata” (The Lion King) or “Arabian Nights”(Aladdin) or “How far I’ll go” (Moana). The list is endless and just a small paragraph doesn’t do justice to the legacy of Disney films. 

From learning the sound of each note of the scale from the hit song Do Re Mi” (Sound of Music) to trying to sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins), my life was nothing short of musical while growing up. What is noteworthy is the fact that the movie, Mary Poppins, contained live action, animation and music.

Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Hindi language adaptation of the hit American children’s series Sesame Street was a favorite too. As a mom, I made sure to introduce the same to my little girl. The life lessons that music teaches you, even money can’t buy! 

What Are The Benefits Of Learning Music?

The debate on the monetary benefits of music as a career has always raged with everyone being divided on the conclusion. The important point to remember is that music builds skills that make a difference in both your professional and personal life. Listed below are a few benefits:

  • Language Development: Recent studies have shown that learning music develops the left side of your brain which is associated with processing language, and helps wire the brain’s circuits in distinct ways. When they link familiar songs to new information, it helps imprint information on young minds.
  • In music, students are required to recognize and repeat pitch, tone, or enunciation of words resulting in enhanced reading comprehension skills.

  • Spatial-Temporal Skills: Pruett, Founder-Performing Arts Medicine Association says “We have some pretty good data that music instruction does reliably improve spatial-temporal skills in children over time”. These skills are activated when solving multistep problems in math, art, gaming or working with computers.
  • The causal link between music and spatial intelligence means that music helps children visualize various elements that should go together and helps in mapping.

  • Lifelong skills: Learning music or a musical instrument ignites all areas of child development like:
    1. Enhanced concentration
    2. Self-esteem
    3. Creative thinking
    4. Patience and hard-work
    5. Social cohesion
    6. Discipline
      1. Improve social skills: Music is often played in a group thus enhancing skills like teamwork. In order to create a great piece of music or song, the music band or singers have to be in tandem. A great way to develop empathy in the child.
      2. A great story that I came across recently is “The Music Band” which is about three childhood friends who are trying to form a music band and face a few minor hurdles along the way. They are pleasantly surprised when they learn that one of their friend’s mom was a singer in a band earlier. 

         National Association of Music Merchants Foundation (NAMM Foundation) says, learning to play a musical instrument can improve mathematical learning. 

        Who Are Child Music Prodigies?

        A child prodigy is defined as a person under the age of ten who produces significant output in a domain to the level of an adult expert performer. Similarly, child music prodigies are the ones who displayed a skill level otherwise displayed by skilled adult musicians.  Let us take a look at four music prodigies who have proven their expertise in their musical fields at a young age.

        1.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Best known as Mozart, he was an influential Austrian composer of the Classical period. He started composing music at the age of 5. Mozart wrote in all musical genres of his time and excelled in everyone, a feat no other composer in musical history has achieved.
        2. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): He was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor. Felix composed 13 string symphonies, four operas, one full-scale symphony, various instrumental concertos, chamber music, choral works, major piano sonatas and smaller piano pieces even before the age of 18. He composed his groundbreaking Octet at an age when he should have been partying with his friends.
        3. Lydian Nadhaswaram (2005 - present): A 15-year-old Indian piano prodigy, he started playing the drums when he was just 2 years old. Lydian has proven himself as a challenging pianist who can play the fastest and the toughest western classical pieces. He can also play Guitar, Mrudangam and Tabla. He was also awarded Global Child Prodigy Awards 2020 because of his amazing talent
        4.  Tara Ghahremani (2009- present): This 13-year-old Santoor player from Iran received the Global Child Prodigy Award in January 2020 for music. She was also among the Top 100 Child Prodigies of the year. She started out by playing the traditional Iranian instrument called Tonbak. Tara fell in love with Santoor when her mother introduced the instrument to her

        The assumption that children are not emotionally mature to grasp the nuances of intricate music negates the fact that humans are tuned or inclined to music by birth. Leonard Bernstein, in his 1973 Norton Lectures at Harvard University echoed Moan Chomsky’s theory of “universal grammar” - music as a natural language in which melody functions as a noun, harmony as an adjective, and musical metre as a verb.

        Simply put, music brings us joy. Imagine listening to an upbeat song in the car with air in your hair. That is sheer joy!

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