I grew up in a musically inclined family. My mom played the piano and my dad was a self-proclaimed “audiophile”. Sundays in our home were spent discussing, dissecting, and of course, listening to music.
As I’ve become older, I’ve realized the powerful positive effects this musical education had on me. Science agrees with this conclusion as well. Numerous studies have shown that listening to or playing music improves everything from cognitive function to symptoms of depression.
For any parent, cultivating this habit of music – both playing and actively listening to it – can be one of the greatest gifts they give to their children. In this article, I’ll show you how.
Keep a Musical Instrument Within Easy Reach
I learned to play music not because I was told to, but simply because it was there. My mom’s piano occupied the central place in our living room, so you couldn’t miss it even if you wanted to. And the covers were always off, so you would always brush your fingers on the keys when you walked past.
This easy availability meant that even as a child, I had an immense curiosity for this instrument. It made sound and it was always there. I started playing a few minutes every day, and before I knew it, I was hooked.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of learning music: how physically easy is it to find and pick up the instrument. If you have to drag the instrument out from storage, haul it out from the case, then check for tuning, you’ll never encourage your kids (or any adult) to actually play regularly.
Essentially, the less friction there is to pick up the instrument, the more likely you are to practice regularly.
One way to do this is to buy an instrument and keep it within easy reach in your home. You could buy a cheap digital piano and place it in your living room. Since it’s an electronic instrument, you don’t have to worry about tuning either.
This will make it much easier for your kids – or yourself – to spend a few minutes with the instrument.
Invest in Good Quality Audio Gear
There are few things that can kill enthusiasm for music faster than listening to a wonderful track through sub-par equipment. If your speakers or headphones are no good, you’ll never catch the nuances that separate an okay track from an astounding one.
I was lucky in that my dad was an audiophile and introduced me to high-end audio gear early. It wasn’t until college that I realized not everyone listens to music the way I did.
Bass that eats up all the mids and highs, tinny speakers that overemphasize the trebles, uncomfortable headphones that make listening to music a chore – these are surprisingly common for most people.
If you want to make music a habit in your family, try investing in quality audio gear. You don’t have to splurge on a $3,500 Anthony Gallo speaker, but you should at least strive for a decent quality amplifier-speaker combo.
Try picking up a pair of studio monitors over standard commercial speakers. Since these are meant to be reference speakers, they have much better fidelity. You’ll hear the track exactly the way it was meant to be played. KRK, Mackie, Edifier, PreSonus, JBL, and Yamaha are some of the top brands in this category.
Think of it as an investment, not an expense. Your ears will appreciate it.
- Start Early
From Mozart to Michael Jackson, there is a long history of young musicians out-doing their older counterparts.
This wasn’t just accidental; there is growing evidence that music is best learned young. Research shows that there is a “window of opportunity” from birth to age 9 when you can develop deep musical sensibilities in a child. You can still learn music after that (and millions do), but the process becomes harder.
Although we don’t fully understand it yet, scientists believe this is because a child’s neural pathways are still under development. Music – listening to it, and more importantly, playing it – changes these pathways. Simply put, children who start practicing music early show better musical abilities and faster neural processing in all tasks.
You don’t have to force your kids to practice music (that will just cause them to resent it). But it is never a bad idea to send them to music classes early. Make it an option, not an obligation.
If you have musical instruments and high-quality audio gear around your house, chances are, your kids will be more than happy to learn music.
Over to You
Helping your children play music is one of the best things you can do for them. Not only will they develop a rewarding hobby (that can turn into a vocation), it will also improve their cognitive functions, sleep, and mood. Try these three tips to cultivate a habit of music in your family.