Can Music Make You Smarter?


How well do you know your treble clefs from your quavers? If like me you have pretty much no idea, does that mean we are not as intelligent as those who are in the know?

As a child I always wanted to learn piano (women love pianists ;-)). But I never got the chance. Most likely due to my commitment level (though its improving with age).

It has long been thought that playing music makes you smarter. Countless parents have taken their children to music lessons in an attempt to improve that exam grade. Some even listen to classical music while pregnant – I think I’d have preferred some Foo Fighters!

Prof. Schellenberg, a psychologist at the university of Toronto, suggests

that this long tradition of dragging unwilling children to music lessons in an attempt to improve that exam grade is a complete waste of time.
Schellenberg has studied this link between intelligence and musical training in 130 children. He found that after taking personality factors out of the equation, this legendary relationship disappears. He concludes that, it is the child’s personality type that makes them perform well at school, not musical training.

So what do you think? Does musical training improve intelligence as a youngster? Or should we spend the money on a good old fashioned book?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About krisfarrant

Kris is a postgraduate (Cognitive Neuroscience) who loves to talk/rant about science. From the weird to the wonderful. Follow Science Rant for the latest in quirky science stories. Twitter: @krisfarrant Facebook:

3 responses to “Can Music Make You Smarter?”

  1. A (@beurre_blanc) says :

    I had piano lessons for well over 10 years and I was a precocious smart-arse at school but I don’t think that was a matter of cause and effect 😉 My feeling is that having music lessons alone won’t make you any smarter but it’s the discipline and motivation that having regular lessons bring that you can transfer across to the class room environment. Being able to play an instrument generally requires a lot of dedication and practice, being able to read music, good hand-eye co-ordination etc, all skills which MIGHT put your IQ up a few notches (if that’s how we’re going to measure intelligence, anyway.) I’m assuming here that music lessons are extra-curricular – maybe it’s by having something else to do outside of school, be it music lessons or chess or what, that might make you perform better at school..?

  2. Chane says :

    My best friend of 21 years played piano throughout her childhood… and she really excelled both at school and university.
    Her grades are practically ridiculous (80% +) – to the point where I sometimes wonder if she was abducted by aliens and implanted with some magical-intelligence device.

    Not sure if this has any relation on her (sometimes forced) piano playing, but I’m sure it taught her discipline and dedication from a young age.
    Good blog!

    On an unrelated note, I don’t think women love pianists.
    But, they sure do love a guitarist 🙂

    • krisfarrant says :

      There seems to be a lot of evidence that links intelligence and musical ability. Maybe there is a link between the two! I have just read an interesting article about unreliable neuroscience – the importance of scientific power. (I know this was a psychology experiment but the principles are the same):

      I think another big issue with research like this is that the money doesn’t seem to be there. Unlike genetics and recently neuroscience. I’m sure there will be other studies that come through which can support or refute this claim.

      p.s. After my childhood dream of playing the piano was shattered ;-)! I learned guitar a few years ago… I’m not sure what it is but creating something yourself has always interested me. Maybe neuroscience was the wrong career move!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: