Does the way we teach music matter to brain development?

Well of course it does!

This is a great study, not just because it is about jazz learning and improvisation, but also because it is asking the very important question – is all music learning beneficial for brain development or only some types of music learning.

Get your students talking about the affects of their brains on music with our poster sets! Check them out here!

There are many important distinctions to make in this study. The first is that the researchers used a specific genre of music which is jazz. The second is that they only had one variable in the teaching – both groups learned the jazz phrasing, scales, and vocabulary but only one group learned how to use these concepts to improvise. The third thing is that they tested two different age groups who often get grouped together in research – 7th and 8th graders (12-14 year olds).

What did they find? They found that on the two types of tests they were doing, both of which were executive function tests (one on cognitive flexibility and the other on inhibitory control), the improvisation group performed better than the control group (surprise, surprise). Here is the interesting part – the 8th grade improvising group performed better on the cognitive flexibility test while the 7th grade improvisation group performed better on the inhibitory control test (but only by a little).

Could this mean that:

a) teaching music improvisation could enhance some executive function skills?

b) teaching music improvisation may have revealed that different types of executive function (in this case cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control) could develop or be enhanced at different ages?

You can read the full article here


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