Music and the Brain

Neuroscience is the new frontier of twentieth-first-century learning, and we are in the midst of an explosion of brain-related research. This has been made possible due to new brain-scanning techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging. Much of this research involves music. How does making music, and to a lesser degree listening to music, impact the brain?

On Saturday May 31 2014 I attended a conference in Adelaide on ‘Music and the Brain’. What seems clear from a large body of neuroscientific research is that quality music training improves all cognitive ability. One of the most significant, recent findings is this:

Children who learn an instrument before the age of 7, and sustain this learning for a period of 6 years (one-hour per week) gain an IQ increase of 6 points.

Children who learn an instrument after the age of 7, and sustain learning for a period of 6 years (one-hour per week) gain an IQ increase of 3 points.

This might not sound like much, but an increase in IQ has numerous benefits. One US study found that beyond a relatively low threshold, an extra IQ point increases earning power by about $6000 per year.  Therefore, an IQ that is 6 points higher than another will likely earn about $36000 extra per year. Furthermore, higher IQ relates to a healthier life and longer life expectancy.

What if your child is not musical? The good news is that all children are born with a predisposition for music – except for the 3% of the population who have amusia. Those who suffer this disability usually have a host of other learning disabilities as well.


‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin

Latest review

“A must read for all music educators” – Robert Adams, Music Educator, New Haven, USA.

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Teacher of Strings, UK.

“A deeply impressive work, the breadth of research is fascinating!” Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

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Also by Michael Griffin


Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy, the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at

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Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at

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‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 84 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“This is really good for all kinds of vocal groups, choirs, conductors. Bravo!!”

“The thinking person’s guide to training a choir. Love it!”

“It’s great to have some fresh warm-ups to add to the repertory. The tips for actions and techniques are really useful, and the advice at the back of the book has made me review some of my strategies.”

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Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at


Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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