Updated: Apr 4
“Music is linked to our origins as a species… Music is about life, emotion and the spirit. That what pours out of music can’t be pinned down to the notes. That music is essentially human, and that it makes us human,” Michael Spitzer writes in, The Musical Human.
It’s known that humans have been using music to destress for at least 6,000 years. We all can likely recall instances where listening to the right music was therapeutic. There’s no one that still opposes the idea that music has benefits, but have you realized the myriad of benefits there actually are? Music is truly a holistic health tool to nurture the entire self every single day across a lifetime. Music provides the opportunity to grow at every stage of life by helping to connect to the vibratory nature of everything, to be able to recognize the harmony in yourself and the environment, and provide a joyful activity that grows with you as you continue to learn and play. Music helps babies' brains develop. It helps kids discover themselves, teens develop self-regulation skills, and adults to process their emotions, better express themselves, and maintain healthy brains and sharp minds.
The benefits of music come across three pillars.
The 3 Pillars of Music:
Increasing Quality Time
Enhancing Your Life
Music is a great way to clear the way for growth by removing the blockages that keep you from growing. It also provides opportunities to keep growing throughout life because music has exponential room for progress in technique, theory, performance, and composition. Your musical growth path also instills skills that can be applied to progressively grow through life. In order to learn to read, write or play music, you have to learn foundational ideas and then expand on them.
Music is something that grows horizontally and vertically. The vertical aspect is that you can learn to play an instrument and continue to grow and improve over a lifetime. There’s no ceiling on continuing to learn as a musician and you can find new things about your instrument, whether it’s voice or another instrument, to inspire you to play and improve throughout your life. The natural plasticity of the human brain to grow new connections will keep you improving and discovering new things even if you only stick with one instrument. Ask anyone that’s played an instrument their whole life and they’ll tell you about the importance it’s played in their life.
Plus, you can get even more benefits if you add other instruments and areas into the mix. This is the horizontal aspect of musical growth. I’ve seen many times how a person will learn one instrument, then want to add in another because the first one has brought so much joy. The landscape then opens up with other things to be empowered by when you add in aspects of theory, technique, composition, songwriting, performance, recording, attending concerts, teaching others, and discovering new music.
Music helps to eliminate those things holding you back or standing in the way of your goals when you apply its growth concepts to your life. Let’s say you want to get a better job, your ideal job. This could be compared to wanting to learn to play your favorite song on guitar. In order to learn the song, first you have to break down what are the parts or steps necessary to achieving the goal of playing the song. This includes knowing how to use the right ingredients to cook up the song. You have to know what chords to play, what rhythm and dynamics to play them, and what melody is sung or played. Once you identify the ingredients, you can organize them into a plan to execute the playing of the song, thus achieving your goal. This same process can be applied to getting your ideal job. First, identify what steps and ingredients are necessary. What skills, knowledge and experience do you need? Who do you need to contact and network with? How do you present and demonstrate the value you can bring to the job? How do you communicate effectively and deliver results? When you know how to answer these things you can then make a step-by-step plan to execute and achieve your goal.
But what about the fear of the unknown? Humans have evolved to prioritize safety and familiarity. It can be overwhelming at times when emotions arise during the path of achieving a goal. Music is a great tool for managing your emotions and purging feelings of fear through the process of setting and achieving goals, because it conditions you to experiencing growth and success in your endeavors. This confidence helps you to stop doubting yourself and alleviates the pressure to compare yourself to others, which is vital in the modern age of social media. Music helps you get out of your head and stay physically and mentally healthy, as well as provides coping tools to stay emotionally healthy.
Learning music from the right teacher opens you up to a new level of growth, bonding, creativity, satisfaction, and adventure in life. Having an effective music mentor in your life shows you how it’s NOT too hard or too time consuming to learn music and incorporate it into your life without wasting time or money.
Increasing Quality Time
The first area you’ll notice an increase in quality time is in your relationship with yourself. Music is a way to create warmth, comfort, conversation, and companionship inside the space of your own mind and body. It stimulates and soothes the experience of life. There’s a calm, collected composure that settles in as you pursue your musical path. You become more present, centered, at peace, and in control of your path. This same composure can be brought to the rest of life. The confidence and creativity you develop through goal achievement encourages you to keep challenging yourself to advance your skills.
Music is a true universal language and a doorway into the spiritual realm and quantum framework that makes up everything, including humans. It takes a sort of “composer’s mind” to understand and orchestrate how to express the depth of human ideas and emotions. Since music is a universal language, it's like being multilingual and having access to more words and inflections that allow for more nuanced expression. Music gives you more tools to communicate. The more you play and write music, the more you understand your mind and emotions better. Better understanding and more tools leads to better interactions and more positive consequences from them, plain and simple.
These positive interactions include with your family. Sharing aspects of music with your family provides more opportunities for bonding and making great memories. When you pay attention, it’s really inspiring to watch children find joy in music. Seeing their face light up with a wide-eyed smile as they discover how much racket they can make. Just like babbling as a baby, kids also use music as a way of honing their communication. When a 4-year-old thunderingly smashes the keys on a piano, it’s actually helping the kid to become a better communicator, as annoyingly cacophonous as it can be for you as the parent.
Encourage your kids to be in music and you might get to see them play a concert or recital someday, which brings a similar satisfaction as watching them play a sporting event. And it’s not about a competition of “music vs. sports.” Both provide benefits for a growing kid.
Pursuing your own relationship with music helps you to be more true to yourself, as well as show up better for your partner. Sharing music with your partner then opens you both up to more connection and understanding.
Now imagine being able to share music with your whole family as you all ride the adventure of life. The more music you have in your life, the less fights you have with your kids, spouse, boss, coworkers, family, and friends. Music provides many opportunities for bonding with family, friends and others through creative, expressive, and growth-centered activities, like music lessons, concerts and jam sessions. More music means more satisfaction in life.
Music is the elixir that can make anything better. It makes life more enjoyable. That’s why one of our society’s most sought after experiences is going to a concert. Amplified music has extra power to boost the emotional release and communal connection during a concert.
“That’s why music is so meaningful, all the instruments are doing different things at different levels but they all flow together harmoniously, and here you’re right in the middle of this as a listener; and it fills you with a sense of, it’s almost like a sense of religious awe, even if you’re a punk rock nihilist. The reason for that is the music is modeling the manner of being that’s harmonious. It’s the proper way to exist,” said author and professor, Dr. Jordan Peterson on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Think about your favorite bands and musicians. How the music makes you feel is among the reasons you like these artists’ music. These musicians were able to create this music by spending years working on their craft and putting out the most meaningful, honest music possible. They worked toward goals and honed their creative expression into something that you could experience and be moved by.
You can apply this same type of musical growth in your own life to achieve goals, get a better job, enhance your career, have better communication and relationships, and be more authentic. Music is a great example of how learning one thing makes it easier to learn something else. Everything is connected in music, as in life. Learning to play musical instruments makes it easier to learn other instruments and other things in life. Embodying music in your life makes it easier to pursue your passions with more ease and ambition. Sharing music together with your family then builds a foundation for family success by reinforcing bonds and more harmonious cohesiveness. These daily benefits of music give you more time in the day by helping you feel less rushed, more in control and relaxed. Doesn’t this sound like a nice life? The tools are within reach.
Here’s the beginning of a model of how to use music in a holistic way to benefit from the 3 Pillars of Music daily, from birth to death, through engaging in the 7 Uses of Music. This model is detailed thoroughly in my forthcoming book, Music Wellness: Harnessing the benefits of music for the family through the 7 Uses of Music.
Pregnancy to Age 1: Premature Babies and Infants
This stage is about keeping the growing baby and mother in the most healthy state possible throughout pregnancy and giving birth. While still pregnant, playing and learning music are effective ways to occupy the mother’s attention and keep her in a more present, creative state while the fetus is developing.
Perhaps the biggest use of music will likely be in listening to the right soothing music that will keep the mother in the most relaxed state to be able to activate her parasympathetic nervous system and allow a state of nurturing. Mothers can also use the plasticity of the brain to reinforce neural networks through music that will help trigger these parasympathetic responses in her body. The mother can create a playlist of her favorite soothing songs and listen to this playlist regularly throughout pregnancy, further embedding this neural network of relaxation. With enough repetitions and the right body-mind practice while pregnant, the mother could effectively go into labor and feel minimal to no pain by using her breath, mindset and the power of the music on her playlist to activate her parasympathetic nervous system, as well as a collection of natural pain killers the body is capable of producing.
After the baby is born, music can be used to promote bonding between the parents and child by listening to soothing music and singing to the baby while providing contact comfort and during feeding. Singing to the baby is also especially important to help it develop language and the perfect pitch ability it has to recognize its parents’ voices. Singing helps to soothe the baby and can help trigger its rest and relax biological systems encouraging a healthy attachment to the parents.
Feeding and sleeping patterns can be troublesome for newborns, and once again, music can help. There’s a musical instrument called a gato box that is a small percussion instrument with two notes in a major third interval, which is a very soothing pair of notes. Playing this instrument can be used to condition the baby’s body to respond by developing healthy feeding and sleeping habits.
Ages 1-7: Toddlers and Young Children
Kids should be introduced to music as early as possible, because the first three years of life are when the brain develops the most. A baby’s brain is capable of making over a million new synaptic connections per second, and it's said that 95% of our life's results are based on how our subconscious mind develops in the first seven years of life. So, it's important to give the mind, body and spirit the most nourishment as possible. Music benefits health across all areas: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. By giving your kids music you're helping them to get a multitude of benefits, including coordination, whole-brain activation, sound and pitch recognition, spatial awareness, language skills, a smarter mind, skills to manage and express emotions, a boosted immune system, skills to make more money later in life, and an expanding connection to the world around us and how we make vibrations that everyone can feel.
Kids should have music starting in the womb, most importantly from you singing to them, and it’s never too early to start exposing them to music. You can help your kids get the most benefits from music by engaging the 7 Uses of Music, which are: Listen, Learn, Play, Perform, Write, Teach, and Record music. Being exposed to music early on helps kids develop a comfort around music, which is important to them wanting to continue growing with it. Kids are naturally attracted to music and with the right nurturing they will develop a love for music that continues through adulthood.
Be spontaneous and have appropriate music available to listen to, especially classical music because it activates more parts of the brain than any other style of music. Sing to your kids often. Model how to play instruments. Kids learn the most by watching you and others. Good instruments for babies and toddlers are their natural singing voice, shakers, roll-up toy pianos for the floor, harmonica, ukulele, tiny hand drums or any appropriately sized drum or percussion instrument, provided there’s nothing small enough to choke on or pointed enough to cause harm.
Babies’ and toddlers’ brains are dominated by slow delta and theta brain waves, meaning they’re in a continuous waking dream state, a world of “continuous dreamlike imagination,” as described by cell biologist and lecturer Bruce H. Lipton, PhD. Kids’ subconscious minds are recording every experience that happens and forming the core beliefs of their life. It’s important at this stage to give kids positive, growthful experiences so they build a healthy subconscious belief system, and music is a great way to accomplish this. Music is a doorway into the vibrational nature that makes up everything and can be used powerfully to help kids become aware of this vibrational energy, this “field” in which everything exists. Developing awareness of this energy helps kids build skills to be able to create with it and start the path of self-mastery. As they grow, kids can use music also as a backdrop, a metaphor, for continuing the path of growth. Music teaches kids how to build goal-achievement habits by how they set and achieve musical goals, which can then be applied to helping break down and achieve goals in school and the rest of life. Musical accomplishments are among the highest that can be achieved because they involve the intersection of creativity, emotion, healthy ego expression, spirit, physical skills, and personal agency, all harmonizing in the cosmic vibration of the present moment. Music gives kids the opportunity to witness cosmic vibrations and learn how to command and create with them, boosting confidence and imagination as they learn to be conscious manifestors.
This age group has also been notoriously neglected from music education throughout recent history. The Jackson Music Program provides opportunities for free music lessons for kids ages 1-7 through the Toddler Tunes video series, on the Jackson Music Program YouTube channel. The Toddler Tunes series teaches music fundamentals in a fun, intuitive way so kids develop a natural love for experiencing and creating with music. The series is also made to be watched as a family and encourages participating in learning and playing music together as a family promoting more quality bonding time. All this is designed to help babies, toddlers and young kids get the most benefits from music during the important developmental years, including whole brain activation and development, pattern and symbol recognition, coordination, language, memory, and listening skills like perfect pitch.
Music lessons for kids are about musical exposure during these initial, formative years. Modeling will be their main avenue of learning at this stage. Show your infants and toddlers many different instruments and how they work. Be spontaneous and model a curiosity and embrace toward the instruments. Play for them and most importantly, SING to them! Even if you don't think you have a good singing voice. Singing to babies helps them develop language skills and retain the ability for perfect pitch they’re born with in order to recognize your voice. Singing their name to them can help them learn to recognize their name, too.
Music lessons as a family are the best for kids ages 1-3, as the curriculum is more about teaching the parents how to play games and songs at home that teach music fundamentals. And writing music is crucial at every age to help boost cognition, emotional expression, brain hemisphere coordination, and help manage the psyche. Composition is a part of the Jackson Music Program for all ages, including toddlers.
Babies and toddlers are naturally drawn to music and classical music has been shown to engage the most areas of the brain simultaneously out of any musical genre. This is why “push-and-play” music books and kids Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel albums are so popular among parents with young toddlers, even though new research claims to debunk the so-called "Mozart Effect" that states listening to classical music makes an infant smarter. What is known, though, is that a baby’s brain can form over a million new synaptic connections per second, according to Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, and music is a mighty helpful tool in the overall vision of wellness because of how it activates the whole brain and promotes plasticity and harmony in the brain, which aid in learning.
For babies, toddlers and young kids, music education is about developing coordination and dexterity, creating neural networks in the plasticity of the brain, becoming familiar with music fundamentals, and retaining the perfect pitch listening skill we’re all born with. It’s not about expecting them to play a song. They’re developing a foundation to always continue growing as dynamic, energetic, aware, and expressive human beings. So start them in music early.
Have fun and go play!
Jackson Music Program