Does Your Child Play an Instrument? What Are the Long-term Benefits?

Updated on February 13, 2016
J.J. asks from Lancaster, NY
18 answers

My dd has played the violin going on 3 years. She may be starting to lose interest, so I'm not going to push it. I just wonder about the long term benefits (if any) of playing an instrument. I'm sure it won't ever be a profession for her! I played the piano when I was younger but hardly ever play now.

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answers from Detroit on

My oldest son (26) could not wait to start to play trumpet in 4th grade, and never stopped. It helped his reading, writing, math, and discipline. As he went on to middle and high school he grew into a talented musician. He joined the Symphony Orchestra and Marching Band. Many, Many awards, honors, parades. After graduation he is still invited as a mentor, tutor, and volunteers for fund-raisers. In his spare time, he plays taps at veteran's funerals. Best of all he made life-long friends...and married his high school sweetheart and band-mate.

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answers from Washington DC on

ETA: Beaver Canoe - I would agree with that - both my boys excel at math!!


My daughter didn't play an instrument for longer than she "had" to.

My oldest son plays the violin. He has played the Euphonium and Trumpet and keeps coming back to the violin. He has played it since the 3rd grade. He's now a sophomore.

My youngest son? Played the violin for 2 years. That's it.

My oldest son? Says that when he plays, he feels calm. He feels like he can change a person's mood by playing....he's a great student. Not sure if that's because of the violin or

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

In our house - clarinet (no longer) and piano. I played piano up until high school (enjoyment only now).

I agree - lots of studies done, just Google. It develops areas of the brain that don't get used by other things. This in turn can help kids pick up math more easily, etc. Learning music is in itself quite a feat - to see a little one go from not being able to play a note to playing a 3 sheet piece of music in a few years, pretty amazing.

I think it develops confidence. Mine play in recitals and take exams so it's also a sense of accomplishment for them. An appreciation for music and creativity. Mostly enjoyment ..

I think when they start to lose interest (as we are in our house) it's a good idea to check with teacher to see if they can focus more on styles of music the kid likes. I need to talk to our guy soon. My sisters kids were all losing interest until my sister got together with their teacher. Then one kid chose books of movie themes, another jazz, another liked classical .. and they stuck with it for another few years.

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answers from Norfolk on

Our son began recorder in elementary school, and has played clarinet since middle school (he's in 11th grade now).
He can read music, and LOVES being in band!
He's an engineering student and we see his band as being a release from some pretty intense mental concentration - it gives him some balance in his activities.
The other kids in band are great, the band instructors have all been wonderful, and I've never had to make him practice - he enjoys it so he practices without anyone telling him to.
We all love the music band plays - there's a great variety (and I love the marches the best).
Clarinets can be in either band or orchestra or marching band (the competitions make marching band pretty much like a fall sport season - a lot of traveling and work!), and pep band (plays at sporting events and pep rallies).
If I were you I'd see if she might be interested in switching instruments.
Flute, clarinet, sax, brass (trumpets or other horns), even percussion - are all very versatile - and she'll have many options considering what groups she wants to play in.

Our son will be going off to college fall of 2017.
He's looking for engineering schools with good band programs - he still wants to play while becoming an engineer.
Everyone needs a hobby!

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answers from Chicago on

Ohhhh, the benefits are many...And the research is aplenty. A couple years back, National Geographic put out a wonderful article. Try doing a Google search and see what you come up with. We have a few very accomplished, Ph.D level musicians in our family. They don't push their children to take lessons with the intent for them to become professional performers or composers, but for the sheer enjoyment and meaning of knowing how to play

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answers from Baton Rouge on

My kid played piano, hand bells, and recorder and took ballet and tap when she was younger (all by her request - I did not require that she participate in any EC activities - those were her decision and she was free to quit any of them if she decided she no longer wanted to pursue them). She doesn't play anything now. Were the music lessons a waste of time and money? Hell no! She got joy out of it while she was doing it. What other benefit does she need?

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answers from Los Angeles on

Music improves math skills.

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answers from Beaumont on

My son with zero musical talent started the sax in high school and hated it. He later decided to join his youth band and learned the bass guitar, drums and the violin and absolutely loves it. The benefits that I see are an amazing increase in self-confidence. He actually plays to relax on the weekends. If the present is a clue to the future, I think he's gotten a lot of long-term benefits. Never would have guessed that he would have enjoyed it this much. I guess you never know. It takes or it doesn't.

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answers from Boston on

Music makes you use a different part of your brain, and it helps with eye/hand coordination. It makes kids realize that things aren't always easy and that working at something is worthwhile. You don't play now, but that doesn't mean you derived no benefit. However, a LOT of things do that - the main thing is to let a kid explore different options. You wouldn't want to wear one outfit all the time - you'd like to try on others sometimes. So I think, if a kid signs up for violin, she should make a stab at practicing and should finish out the semester/year if it's paid for and if she's part of a group (orchestra, etc.) that depends on people being there. But I don't think it's horrible to quit after 3 years and try something else. Maybe it's chorus, maybe it's dance, maybe it's community theater. Maybe it's not music - maybe it's soccer or a cooking class. The point is to expand their horizons, and have them try a variety of things with absolutely no thought to whether it will be a career choice for them. Kids have to be allowed to play and learn by playing. That doesn't mean an expensive activity every week so that Mom and Dad throw away precious dollars for a kid who quits after 2 sessions of whatever. It doesn't mean that they quit if it's difficult. But the arts in general are really neglected in today's budget-conscious schools, and it's a real deficiency. EVERY child can and should do something musical - play an instrument, sing in a chorus, attend the junior symphony, perform with the rhythm team that accompanies the marching band, go see "Annie" or "Frozen", play rhythm instruments in music class, or sing along to The Beatles or Demi Lovato when you're driving in the car. It doesn't matter what it is - it just matters that they do it.

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answers from Washington DC on

i'm glad you're not thinking about forcing her to continue. i'm always sad at how ferociously so many moms here are about making their kids 'follow through' on something they've tried.
i'm a 'strew the path' parent. i think that if everything a child picks up then has to be 'followed through' to some indeterminable goal it severely curtails the desire to be curious and bold about trying new things.
i'm sure there are benefits to playing instruments long term. i'm also sure there will be benefits to whatever she gets into next. sometimes the only benefits are the experience of trying something new, and what one learns about oneself whether it turns out to be a 'real' interest or not.
and i think that's a pretty huge benefit.
my older could not have been less interested in music. in fact, as a tween i went to bat against the board of ed who were insisting he 'had' to take music in homeschool because his PS peers were. i had him write an essay about mozart's life to satisfy the stupid requirement. his passions were basketball, baseball, skateboarding and art.
he picked up the bass guitar as a teen, and now has a bachelor's in music and plays with a symphony.
let us know what your daughter picks up next!

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answers from Las Vegas on

In my son's case, he was the one who chose to play an instrument from the age of seven until now, his teens... The benefits for him have plenty as he will tell you. One, he was a bit of an introvert (at least around kids) he's always been comfortable around adults, but around kids his age, he didn't always interact as much... Since playing an instrument and because he does it well, he's joined TWO orchestras and because of this, he's met more people his own age and now interacts more with them. Also, he will tell you this, its allowed him to make some money... he's actually gotten MANY gigs and plays in popular neighborhoods outside different restaurants, because of this, he has earned 1,000s of dollars... I NEVER make him play, it's always been his choice. but because he sees benefits that HE thinks are worth it, he keeps it up.. I will say, he is also VERY good at Math ... and if you believe the studies or not, some say that learning music and reading it, help with one's math skills, then it's made me a believer...
Now, If he asked to stop playing, I'd say ok... but I would feel it a shame since he's come this far.. I will say, he did take piano for about 2 months and didn't enjoy it, so he stopped that... but the other instruments he still plays on a daily basis..

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I think it's a lifestyle thing. Either this music is part of that life or it's something they'll grow out of.

Kids who like being in the school band, marching in homecoming parades for every college team, performing in halftime shows, going to competition, and playing concerts then an instrument is something they would likely enjoy.

If you go to church where they can play their instruments throughout the year in services or they get to do recitals and shows a few times per year or something like that then they'll enjoy their skills after high school but if they don't get to use them afterwards they won't last long.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My oldest played piano for 4 years and started violin two years in which she still plays and has for 4 years. She dropped piano. My middle child plays piano going on 3 years. My youngest grinded away at piano for a year but was NOT cut out for it at all. She's in ballet.

All of them are great students. Has having music lessons and practices since age 4 helped? Maybe! They are certainly better than I was at math, and both their father and I are math challenged big time. They also love performing after overcoming fear of first few recitals etc..They'll get up and play at crowded parties and stuff, things I was always too shy to do. They play a few times per year in a nursing home..Now my oldest started school band and added French horn to her repertoire, and she's ahead of other kids.

Everyone is different. The benefits are huge for those privileged enough to get lessons and prone to musical ability. Everyone will differ on how long they play it, how good they get, or if they play as adults. I took lessons for several years as a child and I'm "ok" now, but I wish I was better. When adults can sit down and play beautiful music on a whim when they run across a piano it's a timelessly wonderful skill. And kind of a dying art with T.V. being the pastime of choice for most and other busy most people don't have pianos and parents willing to invest time and money to take them to modern parenting is more child-led and people are urged not to force's much easier NOT to practice and go through with lessons over a long span of time.

Not everyone has to play an instrument, but like any skill, it's good to learn if the stars align...there are lots of skills I wish I had!!! If your daughter isn't jumping up and down with glee to play, I'd have have her put in a little more time or switch instruments...but if she HATES it and has no knack, use your gut...

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answers from Jacksonville on

I'm fairly certain it is a simple thing to google the benefits of musical training on the human brain. It's pretty incredible.

That said, if she is losing interest, perhaps a temporary break, or branching out into another instrument is warranted. Whose idea was it for her to take lessons originally? Did she choose the instrument? Did she ever take ownership of it?

I played in the band starting in 6th grade. My parents couldn't afford a piano or lessons, which is what I would have preferred earlier than 6th grade even. But I took band class at school and kept with it through high school. It was a beautiful experience and provided an additional network of people in my life.

My own daughter began piano lessons in first grade. She enjoyed it and really took off with it. She had a break (due to difficulties finding a replacement teacher when hers became ill), and then her subsequent teacher was not the best, so she didn't stay as excited. But, she entered school talent shows (4th grade) and won. She played a bit at church. etc

We took a break when that subpar teacher moved. But daughter continued playing at home and at church. We took up lessons again a year or so later, and had a fantastic teacher who really challenged her, and she blossomed. Now she prints music from the internet and browses piano books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online frequently. She plays because she loves music.
She also is in band at school (first clarinet, in 9th grade), marches with the band, asked for and plays on the flute as well, and just recently purchases (with her own money) a ukulele which she is teaching herself.

You just never know. How old is your daughter? Maybe she needs a short break. Maybe she needs a different teacher. Maybe trying a different instrument will get her excited again.
It doesn't EVER have to be the expectation that it become a profession. Just for the love of it is enough. The older you are, the more difficult learning these skills becomes. I would LOVE to be able to play the piano. I love listening to my daughter in her room playing for fun on her keyboard. And she goes annually to play at a local hospice for the residents during the Christmas season. It's a skill not everyone has. So she shares it. :)

Oh, and yes on the mathematics connections. For whatever it's worth (probably not causal, but definitely related, in my opinion), my daughter is ranked 1st in her class, and is taking double math classes. She currently has a 100 average in her Geometry class, and her Algebra class last semester she made a perfect score on the final exam (finishing the semester with a class grade of 99).

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answers from Washington DC on

Kind of a biased response here, since my husband plays both piano and tuba and started as a kid, plus our daughter takes violin lessons and is in the high school orchestra, and also takes piano lessons (though definitley it's violin and not piano that's her "thing"!)....

My husband would tell you that there have been plenty of studies showing that there are links between musical and mathematical abilities. Our daughter's piano and violin teachers both say they see that the process of learning to play an instrument and read music helps teach children and teens discipline and creativity, two things that often don't seem to go together but which do when you study music.

Most of all--you note that "it won't ever be a profession for her" but that doesn't matter -- if she keeps playing she can play for the rest of her life purely for her own enjoyment and enrichment. My husband kept up his instruments and plays in community concert bands, does some substituting with other ensembles who need him to fill in at times, all of which is just for fun and not pay -- it's because he (and other people in our town who play instruments) just like doing it as their hobbies. Playing as an adult also means he can accompany our daughter when she plays violin sometimes, and he can occasionally play for church either for fun or to help out the music director when he's away. None of this is professional, and he's not perfect on either instrument, but it's just for his pleasure and is a large part of his life.

If your daughter seems to be losing interest in violin, consider upping the game by asking her teacher to find her new and fun things to learn to play. If she only does violin in school, consider finding her a private teacher -- having a teacher who is fun and who really clicks with the child or teen is important. Or give it more time and see if maybe she wants to try another instrument instead. And of course, she doesn't have to learn any instrument or keep up the violin, but I do know that if she does, she'll have that skill for life and might enjoy doing it when she's older.



answers from Los Angeles on

I heard playing an instrument helps with math and emotional/social skills.



answers from Amarillo on

I was that child once. When in fourth grade I asked to play the flute which I did for about five years. There is a time commitment involved but you learn how to count (math), be in a group, learn confidence, and enjoy the experience.

Talk to your daughter about what she would like to do with the violin. There is a young man on Facebook who is an accomplished artist that went to Julliard and plays modern contemporary songs. He has a rendition of "Hello" out that is great. The artist's name is Damien Escobar. Perhaps this will show her a side of music that might spark her to continue.

I still enjoy music to this day. My flute is over 60 years old and needs to be re-padded in order to play the notes. I still bring it out of the closet, blow off the dust and play a bit.

the other S.



answers from New York on

I took piano and organ for 10 years when I was a kid and played the trombone in band. One area I think it really helps is memory and mental focus. I had to memorize several pieces and I still find learning how to do that helps me to this day.

I can't tell you how many adults have told me they wish they learned an instrument when they were younger. I still play once in a while to this day, but not as much as I would like.

My son started piano two years ago. He didn't care for it too much until this year. Now I catch him opening up the piano and just playing once in a while. His piano teacher also teaches drums and guitar, so we've started branching off into those areas too. Maybe your daughter would like to try another instrument?

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