Music education research

Thank you – 12,000 visitors! *update – 18k at end of week!

Thank you image

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

In a break from our usual posts, we wanted to thank everyone who’s shared our posts over the last couple of years and particularly those who’ve helped us reach 12,000 (*update* now 16,000 as of Sunday!) visitors in just the last week. This is so pleasing for us, as we run the site as a labour of love, simply because we want to help people to increase understanding of the value and impact of music.

We don’t create original content for this site, so thanks also to the many researchers across the world who work hard to help us all to understand the effects of music education. We believe their research deserves to reach a wider audience and we’re pleased to help.

U.S music merchants charity supports music education research

NAMM ShowResearch supported by U.S charity the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation – which is funded by NAMM Members through trade association activities and private donations –
is expanding understanding about the impact of music making and music education, the importance of music at every stage of life, and relationships between music and physical and emotional wellness. 

The NAMM Foundation provides funding for research projects including work by neurobiologist Dr Nina Kraus, of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University, Illinois, which offers insight into how musical experience affects brain function across the lifespan.

They’ve also created a useful summary of the benefits of music education being explored through this research.

NAMM Foundation:

Paradigm shift means stakeholders value music education more

In an article on the Inside Philanthropy website in March 2015, Mike Scutari asked: Have we reached a tipping point in terms of the public and philanthropic appreciation of music education for kids?

He argues that for generations, everyone seemed intuitively to know that music education was a good thing. Scientific studies weren’t needed to back it up. But as public education gravitated towards a more quantitative model of learning, and standardised testing became increasingly prevalent, music education seemed expendable.

In recent years, he says, the tide has turned thanks in part to the very same scientific methods that pushed music education aside a decade ago. Researchers are increasingly publishing findings attesting to the power of music education in shaping the young mind – and this paradigm shift is having profound implications for educators, administrators, and music nonprofits.

By taking a more quantitative, research-driven approach toward articulating the value of music education, not-for-profits and educational organisations can more effectively woo cash-conscious funders who appreciate quantitative, research-driven approaches towards education.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the article is the discussion in the comments below, beginning with the comment: “Not all music education is the same and achieving the results detailed in the Atlantic (and in hundreds of other publications, including peer-reviewed journals) requires an intensity and persistence few organisations deliver”.


Inside Philanthropy:

Brain imaging shows enhanced executive brain function in people with musical training

Boston Children's Hospital brain image

This image shows functional MRI imaging during mental task switching: Panels A and B shows brain activation in musically trained and untrained children, respectively. Panel C shows brain areas that are more active in musically trained than musically untrained children. Credit: Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Boston Children’s Hospital


Another study has revealed a biological link between early music training and improved executive functioning in children and adults. The controlled study by researchers from the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital used functional MRI brain imaging to show the connection. Executive functions are the high-level cognitive processes that enable people to quickly process and retain information, regulate their behaviours, make good choices, solve problems, plan and adjust to changing mental demands.


Science Daily:



AGE: 9-12 YEARS & 18-35 YEARS
DATE: 2014

Music training develops neural mechanisms needed for focused attention

Auditory brain image

Diagram from the Auditory Neuroscience lab of Northwestern University


Attention is a critically important aspect of education. Learners are constantly bombarded by a barrage of sounds and distractions, even in a quiet classroom, and so being able to focus attention has a direct correlation with your ability to learn and to enhance your performance. A study by researchers led by Dr Nina Kraus of Northwestern University suggests that music training can help people’s auditory attention to mature during pivotal developmental years and is believed to provide the first direct evidence of a ‘biological index for enhanced selective auditory attention in young musicians’. The researchers say that is an important consideration for educators and educational policy-makers involved in curriculum design.


Brainvolts (Northwestern University):


DATE: 2014, published Jan 2015

The Power of Music – research report

The Power of MusicA new research review (Jan 2015) by internationally renowned Professor Susan Hallam MBE, UCL Institute of Education, outlines compelling evidence for the benefits of music education.

Commissioned by the Music Education Council (MEC) and published by the International Music Education Research Centre (iMerc), The Power of Music – a research synthesis of the impact of actively making music on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people brings together the vast amount of quality research evidence that has built up over recent years.

It provides the basis for the argument that every child and young person should have access to quality music making opportunities and supports calls for schools to ensure that all pupils receive a thorough, broad and high quality music education.


Download  The Power of Music – executive summary

Download The Power of Music – full report

Visit the MEC website to find out how to buy the printed version, and for more information

Music work with vulnerable young people helps engagement, attainment, confidence and self-determination

Noise Solution Troubled Families ProjectOver the summer of 2013 music organisation Noise Solution worked with seven Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) clients in a pilot project to test the appropriateness and effectiveness of Noise Solution’s methodology for this client group.

Noise Solution is an outcomes driven organisation providing bespoke 1 to 1 support through music and technology and aims to: 1. increase the learner’s confidence 2. foster a greater feeling of self determination 3. provide a successful educational experience with qualification where appropriate 4. increase musical skills 5. facilitate a positive progression to education/volunteering etc

The pilot lasted from May to October and involved 204 hours of delivery to seven young people. It achieved successful engagement and recognised qualifications with 100% of learners, progressed all but one to other positive activities, achieved an attendance rate from a very challenging client group of 94% and in terms of improved functioning every one of the participants reported improvements in key indicators to wellbeing. These improvements were backed up by independent feedback from those closest to the client confirming that improvement.

An evaluation the following year of work with 10 young people from the government’s ‘Troubled Families‘ initiative further demonstrates the organisation’s success in engaging these hard to reach young people and helping them to progress.


Supplied directly:

Download the Noise Solution CAMHS impact report 
Download the Noise Solution Troubled Families report


BENEFIT: Engagement in learning, personal development
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: Unspecified
MUSIC TYPE: Music technology
TYPE OF STUDY: Organisation’s own evaluation
NOs INVOLVED: 7 and 10
PERIOD OF STUDY: Less than 1 year
DATE: 2013 & 2014
PLACE: United Kingdom

Music and Emotional Intelligence

Learning Strategies for Musical Success

This series of posts explores connections between music and other Gardner-listed multiple intelligences. My previous posts discussed  Music and the Body, Music and Nature, Music and Words, Music and Numbers, and Music and Pictures.

In 2009 a report from the UK’s authoritative Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) criticized music educators for not exploiting music’s ‘powerful’ potential for improving pupils’ lives. Ofsted was referring to the emotional-intelligence benefits of music education.

When students engage in project-based learning they get opportunity to develop and practise a range of skills to which traditional schooling does not cater. Relating to peers involves decision-making, expressing opinions, tolerating and accepting different views, regulating emotions, cooperating, and not always getting one’s way. These are skills of emotional intelligence. Increasingly the world is acknowledging that emotional intelligence (EI)—also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ) and social and emotional learning (SEL)—is essential for school…

View original post 867 more words

Playing a musical instrument could help with anxiety, behaviour, and attention

Learning a musical instrument

Photographer: Malcolm Pollock

The longest study of its kind has shown that musical training could help children to reduce feelings of anxiety, gain a greater control of their emotions and give a stronger focus to their attention. The study was led by Dr. James Hudziak, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and the participants were part of the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Normal Brain Development. The results of the study were published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.  The authors of the study analysed the brain scans of 232 children aged 6-18, and found that playing music altered the behaviour-regulating and motor areas of the brain.


Washington Post:

Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: and

Medical News Today:

Daily Telegraph:

Classic FM:

The Strad:


BENEFIT: Behaviour regulation – reduced anxiety
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: 6-18 years
MUSIC TYPE: Learning a musical instrument
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
DATE: 2014
PLACE: United States