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The link between music, reading, and writing

Lilly Birdsong By Lilly Birdsong Published on November 1, 2015

I learned to play the piano long before my feet could touch the floor as I sat on the piano bench. I always loved music, as most children do. Playing the piano was both wonderfully fun and also terribly time-consuming, and for a kid that was splitting her time between avid reading, writing, and sports, taking the time to practice didn’t always happen as regularly as it should have.

After playing the piano for a number of years, I picked up the oboe, and even joined a few choirs - I love to sing, whether it’s modern, jazz, you name it. Now I’m learning the guitar, something I’ve always wanted to do.

I’ve noticed something, at Bookwitty but also with many of the people that I’ve met around the world. A lot of the best writers and programmers that I’ve met have studied music as children, and most still play into adulthood. You might question, why talk about programmers and writers in the same breath? Well, whether you’re programming code or writing a novel, the concept is much the same. You are creating a story, and you need to piece it together from the overarching ideas to the tiniest details to make it all work together. Also, you need a high amount of creativity to design the journey from beginning to end. Okay sure, if there’s a detail wrong here or there in a novel, it doesn’t crash the whole book - but still. Both of these professions are a good combination of the creative and the logical.

You’ve probably heard about the studies that say that children who study music are more gifted in reading and math. According to Parenting Science, listening to music doesn’t have a lot of impact, but playing music does. Musicians tend to have a larger brain volume, and the parts of the lobe that become enlarged depend upon the instrument that you play. Playing music actually re-wires the brain. Not only that, but it improves things like:

  • Pattern recognition
  • Concentration
  • Mathematical abstraction

The National Geographic adds that music is one of these things that asks the left brain (logic) and right brain (creativity) to work together. I decided to delve deeper into this concept of left brain and right brain, and found this interesting article on Live Science.

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The left brain takes care of:

  • Logic
  • Mathematics
  • Language
  • Memory

On the other hand, the right brain takes care of:

  • Creativity
  • Spatial Abilities
  • Facial Recognition
  • Understanding visual imagery
  • Interpreting tone and context in speech

What I find fascinating by this is that writing and language is one of the things that really spans both sides of the brain. You need the logical side of your brain to correctly construct language, but without the creative side providing emotion what you write wouldn’t really be compelling. As such, the best writers are people who are not only creative, but logical as well.

The beauty of music is that it’s also a unique combination of logic and creativity. You need the logical, mathematical understanding of notes and timing - but you also need that creative, emotive part of you to give it feeling. If the National Geographic and Parenting Science are correct, then playing music helps to develop those parts of your brain. So I submit to you: maybe playing music also makes you a better writer.

Conjecture? Absolutely. But I think I’m onto something. Maybe I’ll put in a few extra hours of piano playing during the week, and exercise my brain to help my writing.

I am a Sci-Fi writer. I love drinking whiskey, hanging out with my 2 cats, and kickboxing. Check out Children of RIVA if you're interested in my work. Oh, and in my spare time I work ... Show More