Musical talent is largely innate

Brain research: does music make you intelligent?

Social sensitivity

The claim that making music makes children more social can also be traced back to the effect music has on the brain: The American neurobiologist Nina Kraus and her colleagues have shown that more precise temporal processing in the brain stem also reproduces the speech melody better - that one Factor of language that transports feelings. Kraus' studies show that children and adults making music perceive subtleties in the speech melody more precisely and are thus better able to recognize emotions, which should go hand in hand with advantages in social interaction.

And there is a much more obvious assumption why music makes you social: it brings people together. "When people make music, they come into contact with others," says Stefan Kölsch from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. "A successful musical performance also requires cooperation," said Kölsch: That strengthens trust and is a source of joy. Making music together also promotes "co-pathy", a cross-group form of empathy in which the emotions of a group align. This leads to a feeling of togetherness, reduces conflicts and increases the wellbeing of the individual. In addition, many studies have shown a neurological and cognitive connection between language and music. "For children, musical communication while singing with their parents seems to be important for their social, emotional and cognitive development."

If you want to become excellent in your subject, you have to practice 10,000 hours

The following result of the study by Seither-Preisler and Schneider is also particularly exciting: Schneider had already examined the brains of adult musicians in 2002 and found an enlarged Heschl cross-winding. "So far, however, it was not known whether this was a talent or a training effect," says Seither-Preisler. In their current study, the researchers were now able to follow exactly how the size of this structure predicted the children's motivation to exercise: They noticed differences in volume right from the first measurement. Children with a larger structure developed into more motivated musicians over time. "So the causality is the other way around than expected," says the psychologist: "We see more of an influence of talent here." Or to put it more courageously: one can obviously measure musical talent.

The extent to which predisposition influences the success of a musician and what effect diligent practice has has been discussed in research for years. In fact, the age at which you start practicing seems to have a big impact on your later success as a musician - and especially how many hours you practice each day. Early practice preserves the nerve tracts required for this, and their conductivity in the brain is improved. Unused nerve tracts can irretrievably disappear into adulthood, and the corresponding brain regions become thinner. A study by the Swedish Karolinska Institute in 2005 found that the corresponding nerve cords in pianists were thicker the more they practiced up to the age of eleven. In particular, the trajectories of a region, which is associated with the voluntary movement of individual fingers, were more pronounced than in pianists who had rehearsed less often in childhood. But whether a pianist still practiced a lot as a teenager between the ages of 12 and 16 changed the nerve pathways - albeit to a lesser extent. At the age of 17, musicians have to practice four hours a day to change the nerve pathways that network different parts of the brain. So it's worth starting early!

Practice creates masters

A famous study by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson from Florida State University in 1993 already seemed to prove that exercise is the decisive factor for a musician's ability overall. He asked 20-year-old violin students at a music academy, who had all started playing the violin at the age of five, how many hours they would have practiced in total in their lives. At the same time, he asked the faculty for information on how good the players were. At the age of 20, the best players had accumulated more than 10,000 hours of practice, those players who only performed "well" just under 8,000 hours. The least gifted students didn't even have 5000 hours in their rehearsal account. Ericsson's conclusion: Practice makes perfect. Intelligence, on the other hand, is secondary. If you want to become excellent in your subject, you have to rehearse 10,000 hours.

"Sorry, you nerds: Talent counts!" Was the headline of psychologists David Hambrick and Elizabeth Meinz of Michigan State University after their 2010 study, which found that a strong working memory in pianists is crucial for the ability to read from the sight play. Just like intelligence, our working memory can only be partially influenced.