Want a Smart Kid? Give Them a Guitar

The following is a translated excerpt of a piece we found in El País, Spain’s #1 newspaper. You can find the entire piece in its original language right over here. It’s nothing exceptionally new and it reinforces much of what we already say in our Your Kids’ Brain on Music infographic – but it does throw new light on how powerful learning to play music can be, especially at a younger age than we assumed.

Want a Smart Kid? Give them a guitar

"Want a smart kid? Give them a guitar" -  

Music classes boost intelligence levels in kids – unlike technology, which only helps out with certain qualities

Babies are born with practically all of the 86 billion neurons that they’ll have during adulthood. The main difference between their and older people’s brains is that our neurons will already have developed trillions of connections amongst themselves. Each one of these connections can translate into something the kid’s brain has learned. The first six years of kids’ lives are very important – that’s the age in which kids start to lose part of these connections, the ones he or she uses the least.

So knowing this, what can us parents do? Our everyday lives offer a lot of things to do to stimulate our little ones’ brains – and while many of these have built a very good rep, some aren’t really all that useful. Let’s go through them:

Signing them up for artistic activities: Go for music instead of theatre
Much research has been made showing a correlation between cognitive development and learning music (not just listening to it). A study from the University of Toronto published in Psychological Science compared four groups of six year-olds. One group learned how to play the piano for an entire year; the other one studied singing; the other one theatre arts; the last group did absolutely nothing apart from attending regular school. All kids took intelligence tests before and after the year was up. Intelligence levels went way more up in both groups studying music-related fields. Those studying theatre also improved at the end of the year, but mostly in behavior and social adaptation instead of cognitive development. The group doing no extracurricular arts classes showed the least increase in intelligence according to the tests.

Tech devices: only for kids 3 years old and up
“This kid sure is smart! So young and look at how she uses a tablet or cellphone!” Grandparents and aunts and uncles say this often. But a study from the University of Boston, published in Pediatrics magazine, shows that frequent use of these types of devices by kids between the ages of one and three can affect not only their brains but also their social development and emotional abilities. Smartphones and tablets generate stiumli that are so fast and intense, that tiny kids’ brains can’t handle them all that well. “Technology will never improve one’s basic intelligent capabilities. It can help out and drive certain qualities, but it will never improve the underlining pattern”.

So, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Loog Educator Spotlight: David Mills

Many music teachers are slowly turning toward the Loog to teach kids how to play guitar – the instrument holds easy learning and kids at the heart of its design and we’re psyched that so many educators have caught on. David Mills is one of precursors of this movement.

David Mills

We’ve talked about David, our favorite music teacher, over and over and over again – but most of you probably don’t know him that well. That’s why we thought it’d be cool to launch our new Educator Spotlight feature sharing a bit more about it.

David is a high-profile music educator who decided to use singing, strumming and song writing as a vehicle for teaching music fundamentals to young children. He started out by using ukuleles with 3-strings tuned GBE like the highest 3-strings of the guitar. He later discovered Loog Guitars which, according to him, have much better spacing and string length than ukeleles. “The colored dots on the Loog Guitars have been extremely useful when creating neck diagrams for chords and scales,” he tells us.

Using an amalgamation of concepts found in Suzuki, Orff, Dalcroze and Kodály -and a repertoire of popular music from around the world- David named the program “The DoSo® Guitar.” The program was first piloted at the Neighborhood Music School (NMS) in New Haven, CT, one of the oldest and largest community arts schools in the US. With this method, children discovered that they could play music within the first 10 minutes of their 1st lesson as seen in this video of a 7-year-old performing at the start of his 2nd lesson:

Amazing, right? And that’s not the end of it: using the Suzuki format of teaching individual students a common repertoire, David could create a DoSo® Band with just one rehearsal. Seriously:

David then looked to pilot the DoSo® Guitar in other renowned afterschool programs that offered little in the way of instrumental instruction, such as, The Boys and Girls Club of New Haven, an organization founded in 1871 by the wife of Eli Whitney:

In New York City David has also been working with Wingspan Arts:

In the summer of 2015 the W.O.Smith Music School in Nashville asked David to incorporate the DoSo® Guitar into a week-long camp for students who had little or no experience playing a musical instrument. In just four days 36 children had lessons on guitar, piano, recorder and percussion. In many music programs, students often start out by playing “Hot Cross Buns.” In a DoSo® Guitar class they play “Low Rider,” a song that many children recognize as theme song from the George Lopez Show. At W.O.Smith, they found a way to combine the two.

Be sure to check out www.DoSoMusic.org to see more of David’s inspiring work.