15 Reasons Why Music Is Important

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” He most likely imagined a specific kind of music system, but the sentiment still rings true. Every culture in the world has some kind of musical tradition. Why is music so important to humans? How can music make life better? Here are 15 reasons:

#1. Music may help you learn better

Learning how to make music has a physical effect on a person. Musicians have more brain grey matter volume in their auditory cortex (which processes sound) and other parts of the brain necessary for playing an instrument. This leads to better auditory attention. If you have trouble focusing while reading a book or studying, music can provide a pleasant background sound that increases alertness. Calming music can also help reduce anxiety and stress, which affect your ability to learn.

#2. Music can improve your memory

Have you ever listened to a song and instantly remembered a moment from your past? Perhaps you associate certain songs with certain people. This is known as associative memory. Studies show music may improve your memory, as well! Musicians tend to have a higher working-memory load and better auditory-verbal memory. Music can also help with memorization. That’s why there are so many songs in children’s education. Adults can also benefit from simple songs paired with facts and other data.

#3. Music isn’t always helpful with learning and memory

We just discussed how music can help your learning and memory, but there’s evidence suggesting downsides, too. The type of music most likely matters. If you’re listening to music with words while you study, your brain is being pulled in two different directions. Humans can’t actually multi-task; we switch back and forth very quickly between tasks. Distracting music also makes it harder to focus and therefore harder to learn. Music without words or music you’re very familiar with won’t be as distracting. Everyone is different, though. If you find listening to music helps you focus, it’s perfectly fine to keep listening!

#4. Learning an instrument improves fine motor skills and development

If you want to improve your fine motor skills (or help a child improve their motor development), consider learning an instrument! In one study, a researcher compared the fine motor skills of kids who took 2-year piano lessons with the skills of kids who didn’t have a musical education. The study found the kids who took piano and received consistent feedback improved their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are important for a child’s development, but adults can benefit from learning an instrument, as well. It could even help people recovering from strokes!

#5. Music education has many benefits for kids

There’s a mountain of research on how music benefits kids. Studies show that music training develops the left side of the brain, which processes language. Language development is key for learning and social interactions. There’s also evidence that music education can raise a child’s IQ and improve their test scores. Learning an instrument or taking singing lessons could also boost a child’s confidence and self-esteem as they receive constructive feedback, improve their musical skills, and practice performing in front of a group.

#6. Music can improve brain health

Researchers have studied music’s effect on the brain for years. When we listen to music, it activates the auditory cortex, but it also activates the brain’s motor system and synchronizes it with the parts of the brain involved in emotion. Activating the brain strengthens it and keeps pathways related to learning, cognitive function, and happiness alert and connected. What if your brain health is already suffering? Many of the studies are small, but there’s a growing body of evidence showing that music is good for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Benefits include stress relief, reduced depression and anxiety, and reduced agitation. Music therapy can benefit caregivers, as well, and help dementia patients connect with loved ones.

#7. Music can improve heart health 

When music triggers chemical reactions in the brain, it can lead to cardiovascular benefits, as well. Over the years, research has found that music could help blood pressure levels and heart rates return to baseline more quickly after exercise. Music could also relax arteries, which improves blood vessel function. For people recovering from heart surgery or a heart attack, music can also ease anxiety and help with pain management. For the most benefits, research suggests patients should choose their music. Familiar music will increase a patient’s feelings of security and safety.

#8. Music can improve athletic performance

If listening to music improves heart health, it makes sense it would help when you exercise! Studies show fast-paced music can improve performance during low-to-moderate level exercise. A 2006 study showed that when playing fast-paced music, people using a treadmill increased their pace and distance without getting more tired. The tempo of the music matters. In another study on 50 young adult subjects, researchers found playing music increased how long boys and girls between 19-25 years old worked out. There are a few possible reasons for this, including the fact that music can motivate someone or distract them from discomfort and fatigue.

#9. Music can affect sleep (for better or worse)

Many people struggle with relaxing before bed and falling asleep quickly. Music could help! In a 2019 study, 27 female subjects listened to a control text or music before a 90-minute nap. Researchers concluded that listening to music could improve sleep in some participants. It doesn’t help everyone. In another study, 50 people listened to either a lyrical or instrumental song before bed. Those in the instrumental group actually experienced worse sleep quality and complained about the song getting stuck in their head. This suggests that music could be too stimulating for some people trying to relax.

#10. Music can help with pain management 

Pain is a complex medical issue. Physical, emotional, and even social factors are at play. Could music therapy help with pain management? In a 2016 study in Florida, researchers studied a group scheduled for a lumbar RFL, which is an outpatient procedure for lower back, hip, groin, and buttocks pain. Some patients received music therapy during their procedure. 87% of participants in the music group said it helped with their pain and anxiety. While the researchers determined that the difference wasn’t statistically significant, they wondered if it could be clinically or practically important. Other studies support music’s effect on pain. Why does it help? There are a few possibilities, such as music’s ability to help a person breathe rhythmically, relax more easily, and focus on something other than pain.

#11. Music releases the happiness chemical

Research shows a link between music and mood. Upbeat, positive music is more likely to boost your mood while sad, slower music can increase strong emotions or sensitivity. What if you’re already sad? Sad music can actually help! Dopamine could be the reason why. Studies show that listening to music you like – even sad music – triggers a release of dopamine in the brain. This happiness chemical is also released when you eat, exercise, have sex, pet an animal, or do something else pleasurable.

#12. Music can help relieve poor mental health symptoms

According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the leading cause of death among people 15-29 years old. It’s difficult to pin down exact numbers on reasons why, which include mental illness. Conditions like depression are often misunderstood and stigmatized, but it’s a global issue. While music is not a cure and doesn’t address the root causes of poor mental health, it could help ease some of the symptoms. One 2015 study found “music-based activities” helped improve emotional expression, communication, and self-esteem in neurological patients. A 2017 review found “highly convincing results” for music as a potential treatment option for depression symptoms and better quality of life. More research is needed to identify what types of music activities work best and how significant the benefits are.

#13. Music preserves culture and history

While music traditions look very different across the world, many of them go beyond entertainment. Music also protects culture and history. Consider the region of western Sahel, which is part of West Africa. The narrators of oral traditions, who are known as griots, are responsible for passing down stories. They’re poets, historians, genealogists, and musicians. Instruments like the kora (similar to a harp) and the balafon (similar to a xylophone) accompany the griot’s spoken word stories. This tradition has gone on for hundreds of years.

#14. Music strengthens social ties

Music traditions (like the history of griots) are traditions of social connection. By sharing history and values through song, a social group is bonded together. All music is capable of forging bonds. Live music is especially powerful as musicians need to coordinate and cooperate. When this coordination occurs, the brain releases endorphins, making the shared experience pleasurable. Even just listening to music together can forge a social bond as people experience a release of oxytocin, a hormone also present when mothers care for their babies. Studies show that families and peer groups enjoy stronger social cohesion when they listen to music together.

#15. Music is an important part of social movements

Considering music’s importance to social cohesion, happiness, and good health, it makes sense it’s played an important role in social movements. Enslaved people in the United States passed down spirituals, which grew into the gospel and folk music of the Civil Rights Movement. Music has always been a powerful motivator, mode of self-expression, and a way to share emotions within a community. Today, many protests and other social change events feature recorded music, concerts, and group singing.


Emmaline Soken-Huberty. "15 Reasons Why Music Is Important." The Important Site, 2022-02-12, available at: https://theimportantsite.com/reasons-why-music-is-important/.