No, not at all. Although the theory for learning songs in an accelerated way is that it teaches the brain how to process music, most music is not played like the way we learn music. The songs we sing, dance and play on guitar are complex, with lots of steps, intervals, tempos, and patterns. This results in the rapid learning of a song and the ability to follow along. There is a small degree of this in music, but that’s not the same. Songs are played “on top of” each other, so the brain has to sort out all the different notes, beats, key signatures, tempo, and so on. But it also turns out that the brain doesn’t learn the songs the way we think it will.
“It’s just that it’s very hard to play a song on guitar,” explains Thomas. “It’s just that you can’t move the fingers as much… it’s really challenging.” That’s what scientists had suspected – but Thomas had a new hypothesis to test. In a lab, he showed that musicians who did not age, have no history of cognitive impairment, and don’t have children, would age, and get better as they got older. The same was true whether they studied the music in detail for three or five or 20 years. The theory was that learning music through practice would do so much for the brain that you’d develop new pathways and connections that you wouldn’t be able to develop using traditional methods.
“It’s just that it’s very hard to play a song on guitar,” explains Thomas. “It’s just that you can’t move the fingers as much…” – Tom Thomas
He also performed an experiment that would prove the effects of music training in a real life context. He asked participants age 70 to 80 to listen to three different styles of music and learn the same chords. They learned the chords to the song just like they would by playing along. Then he had them play the chords to a song that was different from their old version, but the chords looked the same as the ones they learned. The two were in the same key – just the difference of the octaves.
The result? The old subjects were faster than the new ones in learning to play chords to the same chord. “If you do it for a long time, people will learn much better,” Thomas told me. The young people, it turned out, also learned the chords slower. This didn’t happen because old subjects had to work harder,
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