Effects of Classical Music on Cognitive and Language Development

Effects of Classical Music on Cognitive and Language Development

Name: yousuf Alhrby

CSUN ID: 104385968

Course Name: Communication Disorder

CD 361

Prof. Edward Ha




Classical music is a complex genre of music that is influenced by western traditions. This term was first used to define the period of Beethoven and Johann Sebstain Bach; both of these musicians are considered musical geniuses. As a result, their period is regarded as a golden age in the history of music. Generally, performing classical music requires sight reading and ensemble playing, as well as a good grasp of tonal and harmonic principles. As a result, it is associated with high intellectual ability. This has led to a belief that exposing children below the age of five years to classical music enhances their cognitive and language abilities. In this discussion, three articles are used to test the truth value of this hypothesis.


 Effects of Classical Music on Cognitive and Language development


Each child can grow up to be a doctor, teacher, musician, and athlete, or get any other existing profession. However, parents and other caring adults have the ability not only to shape their world-view and the character of their child, but also to  increase their chances of achieving those things. In fact, during the first five years, the people around the child have an opportunity to shape the kind of person they will grow into.

The Mozart Effect: Fact or Fiction?

According to the concept of ‘The Mozart effect’, classical music cannot only increase individual performance, but also improve their IQ (Zinka, 2014). This may be attributed to how music and spatial imaging are processed in a young child’s brain. The popularity of this theory has led to the allocation of free classic music CDs (Zrinka, 2014). However, there is no consensus on the subject. This is due to the fact that this belief is largely based on anecdotal evidence as opposed to factual information. Moreover, despite the studies that have been done on the subject, there is still no tangible evidence to support this statement.

The connection between rhythm and reading abilities is a testament of the vital role that rhythm plays in music and language production and perception. As a result, it is clear that music is important for the development of language skills. However, it is neccessary to note that this is a general reference to music as opposed to classical music in particular. There is a strong body of evidence that shares the belief that a consistent exposure to class musical can  improve the academic performance in young children (Zinka, 2014). This is supported by a Canadian research group from McMaster University. Their research involved a comparison of two groups of children under 6 years. One group received music lessons, while the rest did not. The results showed that children who received musical instructions performed better in cognitive skills as opposed to those who did not (Zrinka, 2014). According to Hamlin (2012), generalizing these results to children is one of the first things that went wrong.

The notion that classical music contributes to the intellectual development of an individual was a consequence of the simplification of research on the effect of listening to music composed by Mozart (Hamlin, 2012). For example, the media oversimplified a research project which showed that listening to Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos in D major leeds to a higher score in the spatial-reasoning IQ test scores (Hamlin, 2012). In this light, politicians and some individuals popularized the notion for personal interests.  For example, Don Campbell trademarked the Mozart effect and made a fortune selling books and CDs; he stated that listening to this genre of music would improve the intellectual abilities of an individual.  However, authorities on the subject have distanced themselves from such claims (Hamlin, 2012). This casts a doubt on the ability of classical music to enhance the cognitive and language development skills of any person, especially young children.

The Relationship between Music and Cognitive Abilities

However, it is increasingly becoming clear that classical music has a positive effect on the cognitive abilities of young children (Hamlin, 2012). Moreover, it enhances their reading skills which helps contribute to their language development. According to a recent Canadian study, preschoolers who took part in a registered computerized music program registered a significant verbal intelligence scores after only 20 days (Hamlin, 2012).         According to Hamlin (2012), memorization of sounds and patterns leads to improvement in the processing of language and music. In addition, consistent exposure to music results in a change in the way that a nervous system responds to sounds. Musicians are better at hearing spoken words in a noisy environment (Hamlin, 2012). This means that children who have been exposed to classical music will be able to learn well in kindergatens which are often characterized by bustling environments (Hamlin, 2012). Therefore, schools should introduce music into their curriculum in order to engages the attention of young children and memory skills (Hamlin, 2012). This not only strengthens their ‘phonological processing’, but also enhances their reading skills (Hamlin, 2012). In the study Music Perception, titled ‘Playing Music for a Smarter Ear: Cognitive, Perceptual and Neurobiological Evidence’, it is stated that  listening to classical music helps an individual be smarter by enhancing their hearing skills (Hamlin, 2012).

The Effect of Classical Music

It is also important to note that classical music requires a lot of discernment on the part of the user. For example, children as young as seven moths can distinguish between timbre and melody. Moreover, they can recognize a melody that is played on a single musical instrument (Batema, 2014).  Due to exposure to music, most part of the brain in wide circuits produces neuroplasticity enabling the children to learn other subjects as well  as language development. Moreover, music stimulates the nucleus accumbens, the brain center related to reward and addiction.

Unlike other music genres, classical music is characterized by a more complex structure, the use of instruments,  and the presence of harmony.  Classical music provides auditory stimulation which results in not only cognitive skills, but also math ability. Moreover, it fosters the development of critical thinking skills and provides an auditory means of stimulation that aid in the development of language skills.

In childhood, one can also transfer cognitive abilities from one cognitive skill to the other one. A study titled ‘Short-Term Music Training Enhances Verbal Intelligence and Executive Function’ supports this claim. It involves the observation of 48 children aged between 4 and 6 years. Half of the participants were engaged in a computerized music program, while the other half took part in a similar program about visual art. The former group learnt about singing, basic theory, pitch, and rhythm, whereas the latter one studied dimension, shape, color, and perception. The program involved a two hour session that lasted over a 20 day. Testing both groups showed that 90 percent of the music students had better verbal skills as opposed to the art students who demonstrated little improvement on the same. Moreover, the music kids had significantly higher spatial ability as compared to the art group.

It is evident that children respond more to classical music in comparison to other genres. Furthermore, the complexity of the structure, instrumentation,  and harmony helps the brain develop pathways that can be used in other cognitive tasks (Batema, 2014).  In addition, any kind of music not only helps children relax, but also assists in building musical pathways (Batema,

2014). However, according to the New York Times report, the genre of the music does not matter as much as its complexity (Batema,  2014).

                                                 Conclusion and Recommendations       

In conclusion, it is clear that exposure to classical music has a positive effect on the cognitive and language ability of a child. Therefore, children should be exposed to music during their formative years. However, there should be an increased research in this area to determine the effect that classical music has on the intelligence of children and their language skills. In addition, there is a need to reinforce the pathways built in infancy by attending music and dance classes.  Athough not all intelligent people attended music lessons at a young age, it is good for parents to expose their children to any art that has a positive effect on their auditory skills.




  1. Batema, Cara. (2014). How Music Helps Brain Development in Infants. Retrieved from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/music-helps-brain-development-infants-1600.html

This is a secondary source that was found by searching the “effects of classical music on cognitive and language development’. The aim of the article is to demonstrate the effect of music on the brain development of children. Moreover, it shows why classical music is preferred in enhancing the cognitive and language abilities of children. The article was found on a health website.

  1. Hamlin, Jesse. (2012). Music and Cognition: The Mozart Effect Revisited Retrieved from https://www.sfcv.org/article/music-and-cognition-the-mozart-effect-revisited

This is a secondary research source that was found by searching ‘the effects of classical music on cognitive and language development’. The article aims at debunking the myths and the misconceptions that have arisen from the Mozart effect which was popularized by Don Campbell, who wrote two best-selling books on the subject. The article was found on  San Francisco music website.

  1. Zrinka, Peters. (2014). Can music help your child learn? Retrieved from http://www.babycenter.com/0_can-music-help-your-child-learn_3656154.bc

This source is a secondary research obtained by searching ‘the effect of classical music on cognitive and/or language ability’. It was a secondary research sought to establish the effect of classical music on cognitive intelligence. It also shows that both the cognitive ability and the language skills are affected by classical music. The article was found on a news website.


Batema, Cara. (2014). How Music Helps Brain Development in Infants. Retrieved from                            http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/music-helps-brain-development-infants-1600.html

Hamlin, Jesse. (2012). Music and Cognition: The Mozart Effect Revisited. Retrieved from                        https://www.sfcv.org/article/music-and-cognition-the-mozart-effect-revisited

Zrinka, Peters. (2014). Can music help your child learn? Retrieved from



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