The joy of music!
There are so many ways people find joy in music. That pleasurable ‘goosebump’ feeling caused by the beauty of a piece or even the memory it recreates from a favourite film or just playing ‘our song’.
Gentle background music can help: pass the time, avoid awkward silences and restaurateurs enhance our sense of taste (if done well!). Music enables us to power through exercise routines, can reduce anxiety and even help recover memories for Alzheimer patients.
These are just some of the benefits of listening to music. Did you know, however, that playing a musical instrument is the equivalent of a gym session for the brain? When a child plays an instrument it leads to incredible auditory, visual and motor cortex stimulation!
A gym session for the brain!
Have you ever thought about what a musician has to do in the space of just one second et le nombre de secondes qu’il y a dans un morceau standard ?
Well, one second in music terms is quite slow at 60 beats per minute (bpm). A quicker walking speed such as a more lively march would be at 120 bpm.
It would not be unusual to ask the musician to play four notes in that one beat (a semi-quaver in the language of music). So, the brain has to master each note in 1/8 of a second!
The brain – our command and control center!
What does the musician’s brain have to do in that fraction of a second? It’s main task is to coordinate multiple sensory signals from the ears, eyes and sense of touch and then use these signals to execute a number of physical movements.
These actions are all done under the brain’s ‘command and control center’ which manages timing, memory and knowledge of musical styles.
Many other non-musical activities also stimulate the brain whether they be sport, painting or dance – but none engage all the areas of the brain that playing a musical instrument requires!
Fast scanning of the eyes!
Let’s consider a brass instrument, such as a cornet, being played in a group with each instrumentalist having their own part to play.
The eyes initially have to signal to the brain what the composer was seeking from the many symbols written down (such as speed, pitch, volume, duration, style, accentuation).
In addition, the eyes will take in signals from the conductor and other players for any subtle changes to the written notes – perhaps a slowing down or quickening of the pace.
Also to help the music flow the eyes will also be scanning several beats ahead to prepare the brain for what’s coming next. No one wants to hit a musical brick wall – that is, being the only one playing when everyone else has stopped!
The ears play a key role in ensuring any note produced is tuneful and if not, signaling the brain to make physical adjustments. Also, the ears guide the musical balance – should I be playing louder or softer?
The ears (and brain) are also key to making sure the instrumentalist is playing in time with others in the group – this may meaning counting beats rest and immediately starting at the exact speed within a fraction of a second!
Many musicians will speak of aching muscles at some point. The physical effort for a cornet player starts with the brain demanding a huge intake of air. The air is then rapidly compressed by the stomach muscles which is followed by the tongue and lips controlling the speed of the exiting air stream.
We must not forget that at the same time the fingers must be directed with fine motor-control to press the correct valve combination (one of eight possibilities)!
#1 Enhanced listening and language skills
So why encourage your child to play a musical instrument? Have you ever said to yourself:“my child needs to listen more or wouldn’t it be great if their language skills could be improved? “”
Well, musical training sharpens the brain's early encoding of sound leading to enhanced performance on a range of listening and language skills.
Music facilitates the identification of speech patterns including the ability to more accurately and quickly discriminate syllables that vary in duration and frequency leading to a greater awareness of phonetics. All key skills in language development.
#2 Reading levels advanced by up to a year
The development of pitch and rhythmic skills support the development of reading, leading to enhanced comprehension of texts. A range of musical activities such as chanting, clapping, copying and composing rhythms are all very helpful to improving reading levels.
Combine these activities with the ability to decipher intonation, syllables and rhythm of speech and is it any wonder that children who are taught music have reading ages of up to a year ahead of their peers?
#3 Psychological well-being
The third and perhaps most heart-warming reason to encourage music playing is to support a child’s psychological well-being. As a parent have you or any of your friends ever said “I don’t mind how well they do academically in life, I just want them to be happy”?”
There is an incredible amount of well-documented evidence to demonstrate that actively making music promotes psychological well-being.
The children involved see a strengthening of their sense of individual and group identity. They take pride in their accomplishments showing an enhancement in determination and persistence. They are better able to cope with anger and to express their emotions more effectively.
The children also experience reduced anxiety and depression.
The Power of Music
The benefits of playing an instrument, however, don’t stop there. Many musicians are good at maths - including above average spatial awareness from deciphering what to non-musicians must look like Egyptian hieroglyphics on a piece of paper.
The list continues with many researched gains in aural and visual memory, creativity, empathy, teamwork and social cohesion. Please get in touch if you would like to know more (see below).
Music lessons in the local primary school
One of the current projects for our association ‘Brass in Charente’ and our Brass Band de Charente is with a local primary school in Bourg-Charente, close to Cognac in Western France.
Over a three-year period the children, aged 8-10 years, receive two lessons per week and have given mini-concerts in their village hall with parents and the general public invited.
The children are now preparing for a joint concert in the grand auditorium of Jarnac with the Brass Band de Charente. The programme will include specially arranged pieces of music that the children can play alongside experienced and professional players.
Why not come and support the children in their musical journey. Please get in touch if you are interested in coming to this fun concert!
A wonderful gift from the parents
Francis Chiché, local professional trumpet teacher and leader of the project commented: “We are so proud of the progress being made by the children. We hope that as many as possible of the children will continue with their musical journey … and perhaps one day play in our senior band!”
Francis continued: “ I am very grateful to the support we have been given by the teachers at the school and the local mayor. "
"I would also like to say how important it has been to have the full support of the parents in both bringing the children to our musical events and being very vocal in their applause! A sincere thank you!”
Hopefully, you have a better appreciation of what the brain has to do in 1/8 of a second. Now give a thought to the musicians who need to play pieces at a 25% faster speed.
It could be for lively dance music or such classics as Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’, Chopin’s ‘Minute Waltz’ or Khachaturian’s ‘Sabre Dance’!
Enough to send the brain into a spin – unless well trained! Like all good athletes, music training benefits from effort every day combined with lots of determination and perseverance.
Find out more about the Brass Band de Charente
Si vous souhaitez en connaître davantage sur la séance de sport cognitive et nos programmes pour développer la musique chez les jeunes, vous pouvez visiter notre site-web et vous inscrire à notre newsletter.
The benefits seen in children also impact adults … and has even led to the regeneration of neurons in the brain … very helpful for mature players!
Why not get in touch?
If you are a brass player and have lapsed for a few years – why not get in touch? Music is a gift for life. Our contact details can be found on our website www.brassbanddecharente.fr .
You can also read more on other recent events with the Association and the Brass Band de Charente – such as a fantastic weekend workshop with the region’s youth players and the international trumpet soloist from Paris Opera, Nicolas Chatenet.