Music and Children’s IQ Scores

When a parent is looking for extracurricular activities for their children, music can be a fun and rewarding option. But can music lessons also help a child’s overall learning and cognitive function?

Recent scientific research has discovered that a musical education can actually help develop better performance in school, achievement testing, and even increase IQ over time!

One study conducted in 2004, led by Dr. E. Glenn Schellenberg, examined the effect of extra-curricular activities on the intellectual and social development of six-year-old children.

The test groups were given either keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons for 12 months. After the yearlong study concluded, it was found that the children who were given music lessons had a higher IQ than all the other children!


Because of these exciting results, Schellenberg led another similar study in 2006 to find out if the observed IQ boost would be greater with a longer period of music lessons. This time, the test groups were given music lessons for six full years instead of just one, and again the researchers found that the lessons had a positive and cumulative benefit.

“The study involving the younger children found that each additional month of music lessons was accompanied by an increase in IQ of one-sixth of a point, such that six years of lessons was associated with an increase in IQ of 7.5 points, compared with children who did not have the same amount of musical instruction.” – C. Munsey

Schellenberg and his team also found a positive association between music lessons and higher grades in school, and higher scores on achievement testing in mathematics, reading, and spelling.

But why does music have such a positive effect on the brain and learning? What is it about music that enhances our cognitive functions and IQ?


In a recent 2014 study, researchers from Northwestern University set out to gain more understanding on this subject.

Led by Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, researchers tested whether the level of engagement a student has in musical education matters.

What they found was that children who regularly attended music classes and actively participated showed larger improvements in speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers after two years, concluding that their brains processed the information better.

Additionally, the neural processing of students who actually played instruments in class improved more than the children who simply attended a music appreciation group.

According to Kraus, active participation in creating music seems to be the key.


“We like to say that ‘making music matters,'” said Kraus. “Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain,” said Kraus. “Spending time learning to play a musical instrument can have a profound effect… We don’t see these kinds of biological changes in people who are just listening to music, who are not playing an instrument.”

The facts are in: music lessons can strengthen one’s cognitive abilities and mental capability.

And as the science has shown, the longer one takes lessons, the greater the boost!