Baroness’ John Baizley on Communicating Through His Guitar

The metal master gets more than just twang out of his Telecaster.

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John Baizley looks at the guitar in different ways than most, as he endeavors to make his Telecaster do things that others might not when fronting his metal band, Baroness.

As he puts it, a Telecaster is a “tool of precision and expression,” no matter what music you’re playing.

“When I began to play Telecasters, it was like the glove that fits, and I realize now the expression that that flows through me into my fingertips, and then somehow finds life on this fret board is clearer,” he said. “It is more articulate, and it is more nuanced. I can make loud parts feel loud, I can make heavy parts feel heavy, and I can make delicate, delicate parts feel incredibly delicate.”

For nearly a decade, Baizley has made his case through Baroness’ colorful and heavy hitting records, Red Album, Blue Record, Yellow & Green, and 2015’s Purple, all of which have garnered critical and commercial success, not to mention established the band on the forefront of the metal scene.

Baizley recently checked in with Fender to talk about his approach to the guitar and how it helps him communicate with the audience when he’s wearing his Tele in front of fans nearly every night.


“When Nevermind dropped, it struck me that I had a love for playing music, and I could do it.”

“It was mixed with the absolute absence of talent that I had. But with seeing and hearing those loud guitars, it seemed like everybody was having a blast. It spoke to me. When grunge was really big, and we discovered a way to get music that only we would like, and we knew nobody else would like it.”

“We didn’t know anything about instruments or effects pedals or all the expensive stuff.”

“We had to borrow our parents and our friends’ parents old gear from the ’70s when they were into rock. We’d get these just massive walls of beat-up, busted speakers and plug into everything and just see how loud you could get without many loud amps. So, it would just be a lot of these like small practice amps that we could kind of stumble across, in pawn shops and whatnot. We just figured out ways to plug into everything and make a racket.”

“There were so few of us that we would learn all of the songs that we were interested in, but everybody had to know the drums, the bass, the guitar, the vocals … “

“We had to make up a lot of the rules. If the drummer didn’t show up, you had to be the drummer. If the bass player didn’t show up, you had to be the bass player. That period of my life was all about loving the fact that we had no idea what we were doing.”

“I learned quite a bit of theory, but it wasn’t looking for it.”

“It just kind of happened onto my plate. Theory’s a tool. It’s a language. It allows us to speak fluently with other musicians in other bands and from other cultures. There’s still room to discover music on these instruments.”

“I think in the music industry, there were people saying, “Rock’s dead.'”

“I think that was just as a method to say, ‘Look, electronic is taking over. Your cute little six-string instruments are becoming more and more like toys. But I’m a huge Queen fan, and Brian May, if nothing else, taught me that you can make your guitar sound wildly different.

“It will enrich and embolden the music that you make. So, a lot of times in a recording studio or in rehearsal and oftentimes on stage, my whole objective is to make this instrument sound anything other than what it actually is.”

“Being in front of lots of people isn’t that easy for me. But when I have this guitar in front of me, it becomes far simpler.”

“I know my place in the universe, musically speaking. It’s a tool for me to emote and to communicate with people without having to verbalize it, without trying to figure out some articulate way of taking this very nebulous idea. Music a communal thing, and when we play on stage, the more energetic the crowd is, the more energetic we are, and the better the show is. This is just this bizarre instrument that allows me to say things that I would probably be very uncomfortable saying to huge crowds of people.”

“I think if you’re going to find your personality in an instrument, these are the instruments that exhibit the most personality. For me, that’s the goal.”

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JD McPherson Talks Telecaster, Troubadours and the Golden Age of Guitars

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JD McPherson is nothing if not determined.

Growing up in rural Oklahoma – on a cattle ranch, no less – McPherson’s interest in music was initially piqued with ’70s classic rock and punk, with much of that indoctrination coming from his older brothers.

But as he got older, McPherson dove headfirst into the even more classic sounds of ’50s rock and roll, country, soul, and Delta blues, going to great lengths to feed his passion.

“The hard part [of living far from big cities] is that if you have like this all-consuming passion and need to read as many rock magazines as you can get your hands on, you can’t actually get them,” McPherson said. “So you have to plan that out way in advance. I would call a month ahead to the Fort Smith mall in Arkansas and order CDs.

“We would make the one trip there, I would pick them up and grab rock magazines and read them, and that’s how I would plan my next CD purchase.”

That resolute mentality also guided McPherson as he began to create his own music. Instead of farming, he spent much of his childhood navigating the guitar and playing in bands before studying film at the University of Tulsa. Upon graduation, he became a high school art teacher for a couple of years before he was let go.

That news was a blessing in disguise. McPherson dug deeper into his love of retro-sounding music and began to shape his own sound, culminating his 2010 debut album, Signs and Signifiers, which was followed in 2015 by the critically acclaimed Let the Good Times Roll.

In 2017, McPherson took yet another step in his march carrying the banner of rock and roll with Undisputed Heart & Soul, an excellent third effort that draws from even more influences than the likes of Buddy Holly and Sonny Curtis that shaped his earlier work.

“I remember reading an article about Black Flag’s Damaged. It got like a tiny corner in a guitar magazine.”

“It said, ‘When I listen to Black Flag, nothing in this world can hurt me,’ and at 15 years old, that sounded right on. I got my hands on that and the whole idea of punk rock music was the thing that enamored me at that point.”

“I kind of discovered early rock and roll through a girl that worked at a CD store in McAlester, Okla.”

“She gave me a Buddy Holly box set they were going to throw out, and it totally changed my life. That’s the Sonny Curtis stuff that he was playing on, not just the pop stuff. That is great, but the early Sonny Curtis stuff is really killer guitar music. And it was like what I liked about punk rock … it was like kind of short songs, immediate, visceral, but also it had really good playing.”

“The first guitar I had was a little no-name brand that was a short-scale student model, and I played it until it broke.”

“And then one Christmas, everybody had opened all their presents. I remember my brother came in, and he said, “Santa forgot, forgot one present.” I opened it up, and it was a white Stratocaster. There’s video of me somewhere just completely going bonkers, rolling around on the floor screaming because I had a real guitar at this point.”

“The thing that was probably most attractive to me about the Telecaster was that it was sort of the anti-hero’s guitar.”

“If you were a, a singer-songwriter, a revolutionary type or like a troubadour that wanted to say something, but you want electricity, they always had a Telecaster. Bruce Springsteen, Chrissie Hynde, Joe Strummer from the Clash, Wilko Johnson, all these people always had Telecasters. It struck me like, ‘This is like the working troubadour’s guitar, the us-against-the-world type of thing.’ There is such a wide range of people that would play a Telecaster, and it speaks to how perfect an instrument it is.”

“A guitar from the 50s, that’s the golden age of guitars.”

“There were designs introduced in the 50s that haven’t changed since, and those if you think about it, those are like the Fender Stratocaster, the Fender Telecaster. Those are guitars that popped up out of nowhere, and they’re still here. They were simple and beautiful and worked well, and that’s all everybody needed them to do.”

“Recording at RCA Studio B was a life-changing thing, for sure.”

“You’re talking like years and years of being completely obsessed with the music that came out of there, and suddenly we find ourselves recording there. That was a really heavy thing to deal with, but that was a thing that I will always sort of mark down as a big moment.”

Naperville Music, your home for everything Fender!


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Chasing the Dragon: The Magical Mystery of Jimmy Page’s Painted Telecaster

How one ’59 Telecaster powered the Yardbird’s final years, Led Zeppelin’s debut and one of rock’s most iconic solos.

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It’s no secret that Jimmy Page has long had a thing about dragons.

He was well known for wearing flashy black and white dragon suits and the ZOSO symbol he used to represent himself on Led Zeppelin Four comes straight from the 1972 occult text Grimoires et Rituels Magiques by Francois Ribadeau Dumas and, in specific, a chapter titled, “Dragon Rouge – The Secrets of the Scientist Artephius.” But perhaps the most interesting tale about Page slaying a dragon is the one about his “Dragon Telecaster,”

In its most recognizable form, the Dragon was a 1959 Telecaster with a stripped Ash body that Page partially painted over with darts and curls of green, orange, yellow, blue and red in a pattern that formed something of a swirling, psychedelic dragon done in a vaguely Japanese style. The beast’s flaming red horns and green head rest inside the blunt upper horn, green scales run down its neck as it breaks into a colorful abstraction that could include a cracked egg near the control panel and a tail that snakes into the upper bout from the lower.

But there’s more to the Dragon Telecaster than a splashy paint job. It was first owned by Jeff Beck’s school friend and Deltones bandmate John Owen, who bought it for 107 British pounds in 1961. The precise date of the Tele’s birth is not known, but the guitar was originally painted blonde and featured a maple neck, a slab rosewood fingerboard and a top loader bridge, which was common for Telecasters produced in 1959 and 1960. Also, Fender introduced the slab rosewood fingerboard to the Tele in mid-1959 after bowing them on Jazzmaster models the previous year.

Since Beck was the lead guitarist of the Deltones and was playing a Burns “Tri-Sonic” that he felt was harder to control during solos, he convinced Owen to trade instruments with him, which worked. Briefly. “For a while, Owens agreed to swap, though when confronted with the difficulties of controlling the Burns’ seemingly endless knob configurations each night, [he] soon asked for his Telecaster to be returned,” wrote Martin Power in Hot Wired Guitar: The Life of Jeff Beck.

It’s unclear how Beck eventually regained possession of the instrument following the dissolution of the Deltones, but he used the Tele as a backup to his go-to 1954 swamp ash Fender Esquire during his stint with the Yardbirds in 1965 and 1966. “The original white Bakelite pickguard and switch tip of the Telecaster crumbled off and Beck had it replaced with a homemade black pickguard,” wrote Jeff Strawman in Led Zeppelin Gear: All the Gear From Led Zeppelin.

In 1966, Beck gave the guitar to Page as a gift for helping him throughout his early career. In addition to recommending Beck for studio sessions and mentioning him to several London producers, Page endorsed Beck to fill the slot in the Yardbirds that opened up when Eric Clapton left the band. Originally, Clapton had recommended Page for the position, but at the time he was working as a successful session musician.

The Telecaster was undecorated when Page received it and it remained that way until February 1967 when he added eight circular mirrors to the body of the guitar. It’s possible that he got the idea from Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett who embellished his Esquire with 15 mirror-style metal discs in January 1967 to use for a recording session of the film Let’s All Make Love.

Page played his mirrored Telecaster only briefly. By mid-1967 he had grown unhappy with the look and he removed the mirrors, completely stripped the paint and repainted the instrument himself. Then he replaced the black pickguard with a transparent acrylic one and inserted a sheet of diffraction grating film, which created a spectrum of colors when hit by light.


“I really made it my own, so it was like no other Telecaster,” he said in a 2014 interview with Wondering Sound. “I felt that it was like a consecration. It’s quite a magical guitar.”

When he formed Led Zeppelin in 1968, the Dragon Telecaster became Page’s go-to instrument and he played it onstage and in the studio until 1969, wrote Brad Tolinski in Light & Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page. The instrument was the main guitar used on Led Zeppelin and was later used to record the iconic solo for “Stairway to Heaven.”

There have been reports that Page was having problems with one of the pickups in the Dragon Tele in early ’69, and in April of that year he replaced the “magical guitar” when he purchased the Les Paul, and it’s unclear if he planned to return to the Dragon with any regularity in the future. He used it for the solo of “Stairway to Heaven” in 1970, but while he was touring America in the Dragon Tele was ruined.

“I still have it,” he told Guitar World in 1998. “But it’s a tragic story. I went on tour with [a] ’59 Les Paul that I bought from Joe Walsh, and when I got back, a friend of mine had kindly painted over my paint job. He said, ‘I’ve got a present for you.’ He thought he had done me a real favor. As you can guess, I wasn’t real happy about that. His paint job totally screwed up the sound and the wiring, so only the neck pickup worked. I salvaged the neck and put it on my brown Tele string bender that I used in the Firm [in 1985 and 1986]. As for the body, it will never be seen again!”

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Dear Emily: What Do You Consider When Purchasing A Guitar

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Dear Emily,

I’m considering purchasing a new guitar. What do the professionals thinks about when adding a new guitar to their collection? —On The Hunt


Custom Shop Administrator-Emily

Dear On The Hunt,

I seem to fall in love with a different guitar each year. I’m a polygamist like that – which is totally legal with guitars! Here’s my secret formula for picking the perfect guitar-find one you can’t put down. That’s it! It either brings songs out of you or it doesn’t.

If I was on a deserted island and I had to pick one guitar to play for the rest of my life it would be a Rosewood OM. Rosewood works so well in an OM body size and makes a super balanced but powerful sound. That was the first guitar I bought and I’ll own it forever. But I’m not on a deserted island and I can have more than one guitar!

A good question to ask yourself is what are you getting the guitar for? Playing out with a band, couch picking, or a song-writing tool? For playing out with my band, I have a sapele GP with a Matrix Infinity pickup. It’s satin finish, no pearl, no frills. I purposely got a plain-Jane guitar for playing out so that I wouldn’t cry if beer got spilt on it or it got dinged. I’m actually looking forward to putting wear and tear into that thing. There’s something irreplaceable about guitar that people have played the hell out of.

And although I put sound first and foremost, I’m a sucker for an aesthetically beautiful guitar. I absolutely love figured wood, the funkier and more dramatic the better. Enjoy some of these photos I’ve snapped of the coolest woods I’ve seen. Good luck in your guitar journey which you can start by finding an Authorized Martin Dealer here!


Premium Madagascar Rosewood

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Guatemalan Rosewood

Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 9 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. Dear Emily is an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.

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Martin Guitar Uses the Plek® Process to Perfect Quality and Tone

NAZARETH, PA – Martin Guitar sets itself apart by providing its consumers with the best instruments focusing on innovation, responsible guitar building practices and best in class craftsmanship. A distinguishing characteristic of a Martin Guitar is playability and tone. Through the use of a Plek® machine, which is used in guitar production to perform precise fret dressing and optimal string action, Martin Guitar believes they are producing the best acoustic instruments.

The Plek Pro has been developed for use in guitar production factories as a tool that not only does precise fret dressing but also helps with quality control and R&D. This computer controlled device scans and dresses a guitar under actual playing conditions, strung and tuned to pitch or using precise string tension simulation. The Plek Pro identifies precisely what needs to be done for perfect fretwork, executes this rapidly, and delivers perfect results on the instrument when strung.

“There is nothing more important than the quality of the sound and tone of our instruments,” said CEO and Chairman Chris Martin IV. “This is why Martin Guitar has been utilizing machines for almost a decade on all of our instruments, to provide guitar players with unparalleled craftsmanship and playability.”

“For 183 years, the Martin Guitar Company has been manufacturing the world’s best acoustic guitars. The Martin tone is legendary and one that we do not take for granted. Playability does not start at the end of the process,” says Fred Greene V.P. Domestic Manufacturing. “The level of expert craftsmanship that goes into every instrument produced in our facilities is perfected through the use of the Plek machines. Basically, it’s the cherry on top of the sundae.”

Learn more at

About Martin Guitar & Strings

C.F. Martin & Co.® ( has been creating the finest instruments in the world for 183 years.  It continues to innovate, introducing techniques and features that have become industry standards, including X-bracing, the 14-fret guitar and the “Dreadnought” size. One of the world’s leading acoustic instrument makers, Martin guitars are hand-made by skilled craftsmen and women, who use a combination of new design and techniques, along with those introduced by the company founder.

The company is also known for producing high-quality, popular acoustic guitar strings.  These include the successful Martin SP® LIFESPAN™ the fastest-growing treated string in the industry, the exciting new Retro Strings line played and loved by Tony Rice and Laurence Juber and the Martin SP line, which uses an industry leading core wire to hold tunings better.

Martin guitars and Martin strings are the instruments and strings of choice for musicians around the world, from the icons of rock, pop, country, folk and bluegrass to those just beginning their careers.  They can be seen across all segments of pop culture, from television to movies, Broadway, books, online, and gracing the covers of popular magazines on newsstands everywhere. Connect with Martin and Martin Strings on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and via and

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Media Contacts

Aliza Rabinoff
DKC for Martin Guitar

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Martin Guitar to Debut Fifth Collaboration with Grammy Award-Winning Artist John Mayer

Nazareth, PA (Winter NAMM, Booth 5602) – January 4, 2018 – C.F. Martin & Co.® (Martin Guitar) will unveil the D-45 John Mayer Custom Signature Edition at Winter NAMM in Anaheim, California on January 25, 2018. The model honors both the artist and one of Martin’s most prestigious models, the D-45. The model will be limited to just 45 guitars.

Mayer’s collaborative relationship with Martin Guitar goes all the way back to 2003 with the release of his first signature edition, the OM-28 John Mayer, followed by the OMJM John Mayer (a staple in Martin’s guitar line), the 00-45SC John Mayer, and the 00-42SC John Mayer.

The D-45 John Mayer is crafted with Guatemalan rosewood back and sides and an Engelmann spruce top with aging toner and forward shifted Adirondack X braces. This tonal masterpiece was designed by John Mayer and created by the master craftspeople in the Martin Custom Shop. Boasting a full thickness neck with hexagon inlays, bone nut, and saddle, and gold open gear tuners, the D-45 John Mayer also features an interior label personally signed by the seven-time Grammy Award-winning artist.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be John’s acoustic guitar of choice for nearly 20 years,” said Chris Thomas, Martin’s Director of Marketing. “As in the past, John remained very involved with the design and creation of this guitar, his fifth collaboration with Martin. The D-45 John Mayer is the largest in John’s collection of Custom Signature guitars and is sure to be a hit. Considering the robust sound and level of appointments on this instrument, along with the limited run signed by John, I expect them to be completely spoken for before the close of the NAMM Show in January. The D-45 John Mayer model is exquisite, a very special guitar indeed. John is a song-writing, guitar-playing icon around the globe. It warms our hearts to know that we have been, in any way, a means by which his inspiration becomes a song.”

For further details on the D-45 John Mayer Custom Signature Edition please visit

About John Mayer
John Mayer is a Grammy Award-winning guitarist, singer-songwriter, author, and producer. Starting out as an acoustic rock performer, Mayer later turned his focus to blues, his first musical inspiration, and collaborated with blues legends B.B. King and Eric Clapton. Mayer went on to form the John Mayer Trio who’s first two album releases received critical acclaim, as did his return to pop with the 2009 release of Battle Studies and its associated number one grossing tour. Mayer most recently developed an interest in The Grateful Dead and formed the band Dead & Company with three former members of The Grateful Dead. The band has been well received and touring since 2015.

About Martin Guitars & Strings
C.F. Martin & Co. ® ( has been inspiring musicians worldwide for 185 years and remains one of the world’s leaders in acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars. Their instruments are hand-made by skilled craftsmen and women who use a combination of new design techniques, along with those introduced by the company founder. Known around the world as the guitars by which all others are measured, Martin continues to innovate, introducing features that have become industry standards, including X-bracing, the 14-fret guitar and the “Dreadnought” size guitar. The company is also known for producing high-quality guitar strings and have been making their own strings since 1970. Martin guitars, ukuleles, and strings are the choice for musicians around the world.

Naperville Music – Your home for Martin Guitars and accessories.



Media Contact

Kristi Bronico
C.F. Martin & Co., Inc.

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Music education tied to higher test scores

A  Canadian study suggests music lessons may in fact have wide-ranging intellectual benefits

Does studying music boost students’ overall test scores?

A new study from Canada suggests music lessons may in fact have wide-ranging intellectual benefits. It finds that, among a group of high-performing high school students, grades were consistently higher for those who continued music classes compared to those who dropped them after two years of compulsory training.

In the journal Behavioural Brain Research, a team led by Leonid Perlovsky of Harvard University describes a study featuring 180 secondary school students in Quebec. Based on their excellence in elementary school, all were selected for an International Baccalaureate program, meaning they were “among the top grade level of their school.” During their first two years of secondary school, music education was compulsory. For the final three years, music courses were optional; the students had their choice of music, drama, or painting/sculpture classes.

The researchers recorded the students’ academic performance in their full range of classes, including science, math, history, and foreign languages. The results for the kids’ final three years of schooling were quite striking.

“Each year,” Perlovsky and his colleagues report, “the mean grades of the students that had chosen a music course in their curriculum were higher than those of the students that had not chosen music as an optional course.”

This proved true nearly across the board. Of the 25 courses rated, there were only two exceptions in which non-music students performed better (in each case marginally).

Perlovsky and his colleagues concede these results do not prove or disprove causality. It is possible that the kids who stay with the music lessons were the smartest and most motivated of this smart, motivated group. But given the kids’ uniformly “high initial achievements,” it seems at least as likely that the music courses provided intellectual and/or emotional benefits, which showed up in the form of higher test scores.
As we’ve noted previously, Perlovsky and his colleagues believe that music’s value, from an evolutionary perspective, revolves around its ability to help people cope withcognitive dissonance—that intense feeling of discomfort that arises when we encounter information that contradicts one of our core beliefs.

According to their hypothesis, the ability to live with such feelings allows us to be open to fresh, challenging ideas, leading to intellectual and emotional growth. This process, they argue, is “fundamental to human evolution,” and a likely reason music became so ubiquitous.

This intriguing argument is difficult if not impossible to prove definitively.  Another line of thinking suggests music proved beneficial to early humans because of its ability to cement social bonds.

But are those ideas opposed? It’s conceivable that kids who feel socially connected (say, as members of a school band) develop the confidence and self-esteem that can lead to intellectual curiosity, and better grades. Another study, perhaps?

Reprinted from Salon

This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

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Music Lessons Were the Best Thing Your Parents Ever Did for You

Music Lessons Were the Best Thing Your Parents Ever Did for You, According to Science- Why not Do it for Your Children?
By Tom Barnes

If your parents ever submitted you to regular music lessons as a kid, you probably got in a fight with them once or twice about it. Maybe you didn’t want to go; maybe you didn’t like practicing. But we have some bad news: They were right. It turns out that all those endless major scale exercises and repetitions of “Chopsticks” had some incredible effects on our minds.

Psychological studies continue to uncover more and more benefits that music lessons provide to developing minds. One incredibly comprehensive longitudinal study, produced by the German Socio-Economic Panel in 2013, stated the power of music lessons as plain as could be: “Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance.” The study found that kids who take music lessons “have better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open and ambitious.” And that’s just the beginning.  View the study here.

The following list is a sampling of the vast amount of neurological benefits that music lessons can provide. Considering this vast diversity, it’s baffling that there are still kids in this country who are not receiving high-quality music education in their schools. Every kid should have this same shot at success.

1. It improved your reading and verbal skills.
Several studies have found strong links between pitch processing and language processing abilities. Researchers out of Northwestern University found that five skills underlie language acquisition: “phonological awareness, speech-in-noise perception, rhythm perception, auditory working memory and the ability to learn sound patterns.” Through reviewing a series of longitudinal studies, they discovered that each these skills is exercised and strengthened by music lessons. Children randomly assigned to music training alongside reading training performed much better than those who received other forms of non-musical stimulation, such as painting or other visual arts. You’ve got to kind of feel bad for those kids randomly assigned into art classes.

2. It improved your mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning.
Music is deeply mathematical in nature. Mathematical relationships determine intervals in scales, the arrangement of keys and the subdivisions of rhythm. It makes sense then that children who receive high-quality music training also tend to score higher in math. This is because of the improved abstract spatial-temporal skills young musicians gain. According to a feature written for PBS Education, these skills are vital for solving the multistep problems that occur in “architecture, engineering, math, art, gaming and especially working with computers.” With these gains, and those in verbal and reading abilities, young musicians can pretty much help themselves succeed in any field they decide to pursue.

3. It helped your grades.
In a 2007 study, Christopher Johnson, a professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, found that “elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22% higher in English and 20% higher in math scores on standardized tests compared to schools with low-quality music programs.” A 2013 study out of Canada found the same. Every year that scores were measured, the mean grades of the students who chose music were higher than those who chose other extracurriculars. While neither of these studies can necessarily prove causality, both do point out a strong correlative connection.

4. It raised your IQ.
Surprisingly, though music is primarily an emotional art form, music training actually provides bigger gains in academic IQ than emotional IQ. Numerous studies have found that musicians generally boast higher IQs than non-musicians. And while these lessons don’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be smarter than the schlub who didn’t learn music, they definitely made you smarter than you would have been without them.

5. It helped you learn languages more quickly.
Children who start studying music early in life develop stronger linguistic abilities. They develop more complex vocabularies, a more nuanced understanding of grammar and higher verbal IQs. These benefits don’t just impact children’s learning of their first language, but also their ability to learn every language they attempt to learn in the future. The Guardian reports: “Music training plays a key role in the development of a foreign language in its grammar, colloquialisms and vocabulary.” These heightened language acquisition abilities will follow students their whole lives and will aid them when they need to pick up new tongues late in adulthood.
6. It made you a better listener, which will help a lot when you’re older.

Musical training makes people far more sensitive listeners, which can help tremendously as people age. Musicians who keep up with their instrument enjoy a much slower decline in “peripheral hearing.” They can avoid what scientists refer to as the “cocktail party problem” in which older people have trouble isolating specific voices (or musical tones) from a noisy background.

7. It will slow the effects of aging.
But beyond just auditory processing, musical training can also help delay cognitive decline associated with aging. Some of the most promising research positions music as an effective way to stave off dementia. Studies out of Emory University find that even if musicians stop playing as they age, the neurological restructuring that occurred when they were kids helps them perform better on “object-naming, visuospatial memory and rapid mental processing and flexibility” tests than others who never played. The study authors add, though, that musicians had to play for at least 10 years to enjoy these effects. Hopefully you stuck with it long enough.

8. It strengthened your motor cortex.
All musical instruments require high levels of finger dexterity and accuracy. The training works out the motor cortex to an incredible extent, and the benefits can apply to a wide range of non-musical skills. Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2013 found that kids who start learning to play before the age of 7 perform far better on non-musical movement tasks. Exposure at a young age builds connectivity in the corpus callosum, which provides a strong foundation upon which later movement training can build.

9. It improved your working memory.
Playing music puts a high level of demand on one’s working memory (or short-term memory). And it seems the more one practices their instrument, the stronger their working memory becomes. A 2013 study found that musical practice has a positive association with participants’ working memory capacity, their processing speed and their reasoning abilities. Writing for Psychology Today, William R. Klemm claims that musicians’ memory abilities should spread into all non-musical verbal realms, helping them remember more content from speeches, lectures or soundtracks.

10. It improved your long-term memory for visual stimuli.
Music training can also affect long-term memory, especially in the visual realm. Scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington reported last year that classically trained musicians who have been playing more than 15 years score higher on pictorial long-term memory tests. This heightened visual sensitivity likely comes from parsing complex musical scores. The study makes no claims for musicians who learn to play without reading music.

11. It made you better at managing anxiety.
Analyzing brain scans of musicians ages 6 through 18, researchers out of the University of Vermont College of Medicine have found tremendous thickening of the cortex in areas responsible for depression, aggression and attention problems. According to the study’s authors, musical training “accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.” That’s why you’re so emotionally grounded all the time, right? Right.

12. It enhanced your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Several studies have shown how music can enhance children’s self-confidence and self-esteem. A 2004 study split a sample of 117 fourth graders from a Montreal public school. One group received weekly piano instruction for three years while the control received no formal instructions. Those who played weekly scored significantly higher on self-esteem tests than those who did not. As most of us know, high levels of self-esteem can help children grow and develop in a vast number of academic and non-academic realms.

13. It made you more creative.
Creativity is notoriously difficult to measure scientifically. All measures generally leave something to be desired. But most sources hold that music training enhances creativity “particularly when the musical activity itself is creative (for instance, improvisation).” According to Education Week, Ana Pinho, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found that musicians with “longer experience in improvising music had better and more targeted activity in the regions of the brain associated with creativity.” Music training also enhances communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. And studies show musicians perform far better on divergent thinking tests, coming up with greater numbers of novel, unexpected ways to combine new information.

Tom Barnes was a senior staff writer at Mic focused on music, activism and the intersection between the two.

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Feb. 17, 2015

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