Can music help treat children with ADHD?

Research at the UC-San Diego look at a non-pharmacological  method for treating those with ADHD.

The type of child who is described as being overly active and not listening to others has been around for a very long time.  The condition was first described as far back as 1902.  Nowadays, the professionals call this type of behavior ADHD.  Opinions abound as to why there appears to be an increase in ADHD.  But for the children, and adults, who have it, what matters most is finding something to help.

Brain Research

The increase in brain research in recent years is a boon to all kinds of questions including ADHD:

  • How does learning take place?
  • How can we improve it?
  •  What affects the ability to focus?
  •  And how can we improve that?

Furthermore, the development of powerful computer technology allows researchers to track what goes on in the brain in real time.

Developing a Sense of Time & Rhythm Is Key

Researchers in San Diego believe that learning to play musical instruments can help people focus attention and improve ability to interact with the world around.

They believe our sense of time and rhythm is the foundation for every human interaction. Therefore, they wondered whether learning to play a musical instrument, increasing skill with time and rhythm, would help youngsters focus attention.

Research at UC – San Diego

Alexander Khalil began the research after several years of noticing that children who lacked the ability to “keep time” in a group also struggled to pay attention during other activities. Then he noticed, as their musical ability improved, so did their attention.

Khalil lead a project with children where they play ensemble music with a type of percussion instrument. The music is Gamelan, traditional ensemble music of Indonesia.  The children learn to play together,  keeping the beat.

Khalil’s team planned the experiment to see if children could then apply the focus they gained to other activities.  His team wanted to know if learning to synchronize musically in a group setting could improve ability to focus attention.

Synchronizing isn’t doing something exactly at the same time.  Khalil says it “actually means processing time together – perceiving time together in such a way that we have this common understanding of how time is passing.”

The team has found that the ability to focus has a direct correlation on results of cognitive tests.  It makes sense.  If you are focused on the test questions, you will most likely do better.

Research Question

Khalil wonders: Is it possible that music practice could become a non-pharmacological intervention for problems such as ADHD? His team hasn’t tested this hypothesis yet, but he feels it is an exciting possibility.

Why Wait?

I believe that we shouldn’t wait for the research results to come out years down the road, but to give the ADHD child the opportunity for music lessons.  What if it would help?  What if learning to play in a group helps focus attention and change the brain? What if learning to focus during lessons transfers to other tasks?

The beauty of the Suzuki Violin Method is that in addition to individual lessons, students play in groups.  In our studio, children have a group class each week where they  have opportunity to play together. In addition, our studio has public performances almost monthly where the students play together.  Doesn’t this give them an opportunity “to perceive time together“?

Yet, the intrinsic benefit of knowing how to play the violin is worth it even if focus never entered the conversation.

Featured Image: video

“Children who have musical training do better at school.” Paula Tallal

Is there a Suzuki Method for 0 to 3-year-olds?

Infants Are Like Seedlings

Suzuki said that infants are like seedlings. We don’t let a sprout whither and then give it a lot of fertilizer, sunlight, and water, thinking that is the right time to grow. It’s too late for the withered sprout. Likewise, we don’t set children aside until they enter kindergarten saying that’s when education begins.

Suzuki said you don’t expect a bumper crop when you plant nothing.  What you will get will be whatever seeds happen to land in the field.  Likewise, parents should not leave education up to chance. If they do, they won’t get what they hoped for.

Plant early enough in the season! Suzuki told a story about Darwin who was asked by a mother when she should start educating her one and a half  year-old son.  Darwin told her she was a year and a half too late.


Suzuki observed how children learn by watching the way they learned to talk. Children begin to talk a lot between the ages of 2 and 5.  They seem to learn to speak almost overnight once they begin. He says a young baby learns one word at first, which is repeated by the adults around him or her.  Then later another word is added, but the first word is not dropped. He based his teaching Method on the way a baby learns language.  He says to start with listening to music. Immerse the infant with good music.

Very, Very Early Suzuki Training!

Start your Suzuki training from the time of birth. Not because you want your child to be an Einstein.  But because you really do know it is the right thing to do.  Surround the infant with good music. Since infants hear and absorb the sounds of their environment, play good music softly in the background.  Play it at home and in the car. Learning to play violin, for a baby, is simply listening to music.

MVbaby2From birth to age 3 is the best time to develop an ear for music.  Play one piece repeatedly during the day. The music should be played softly.  Just loud enough to know it is on. Suzuki says that if you play a five-minute piece of Mozart, for example, every day, by 5 months old the baby has learned it.

He says test this:  play a different piece of music for the baby; then switch to the familiar piece.  Observe the baby’s response.  For the 1st piece, the baby will listen intently and his or her eyes will be absorbed.  As soon as the music switches to the familiar piece, the baby will smile, look for his mother, and may even shake his or her body to the rhythm of the old piece.

Suzuki says the piece has become the baby’s music—a comfort.

Eventually add more pieces, one at a time.  The result is “a heightened musical sensitivity” similar to that of the acquisition of language.

Choose Beautiful Music

Select beautiful music from the European masters. It has sophistication and intricacy which appeals to children. You wouldn’t put off looking at beautiful masterpieces and only focus on simple sketches. Likewise, babies shouldn’t have to listen to simple melodies only, without the opportunity to hear masterpieces.

Babies don’t need to understand the music.  Music is sensed, not understood. Adults don’t necessarily understand music, but they certainly can feel it.  So it is with infants.

Suzuki Early Childhood Education

Following the ideas of early exposure to good music, Dorothy Jones created an early childhood education program in 1993 which was approved by the International Suzuki Association.  Suzuki Early Childhood Education is developed on the same principles as that of the Suzuki Method for teaching children to play a musical instrument. Our studio introduces SECE classes in September 2017 for ages 0-3!

And when baby is around 3, a good Suzuki Violin Program for your child would be:

1.  Begin as early as possible

2.  Create the best possible environment

3.  Use the finest teaching method

4.  Provide a great deal of training

5.  Use the finest teachers

“The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents.”  Shinichi Suzuki


Brain power–from a challenge?

Children’s brains can get more powerful!

Teach your children they have the power to make their brains more powerful every day!  This video from Kizoom explains to even young children how our brains can change.  Want to be able to explain terms such as neuron and neuroplasticity?  Children should know how their brains work.  Great video!

Learning to play the violin is a worthwhile challenge. After watching this video you can just imagine how your child’s brain will get stronger.


– are not easy.

– often lead to mistakes

– that are harder led to more neuron growth

– become easier over time with practice.


“As your brain gets stronger, you get stronger!”  Kizoom- Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron


“I love to watch you play”

6 Words You Should Say Today

Rachel Macy Stafford, who writes a blog called Hands Free Mama wrote a post, “Six Words You Should Say Today,” which suggested a wonderful way for a parent to react after any performance. Stafford says: simply tell your child, I love to watch you play.

A Suzuki education is of the whole child.

The Suzuki parent develops a very close relationship with her child through the Suzuki Method.  So the child is very attentive to her parent.

We intuitively know that children are influenced by the quality of the adults in their lives. Parents are indispensable partners in the early years of learning, but also into adolescence. Dr. Suzuki knew that parents (and teachers) are also responsible for nurturing a beautiful heart. A beautiful way for a parent to react to the child’s performance is in those words–I love to watch you play.

This child is filled with sheer joy at this simple accomplishment.

What’s the best thing for mom or dad to say after the lesson?

Suzuki parents simply say, “I love to watch you play.”

“The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents.”  Shinichi Suzuki


The Emerson String Quartet

The Emerson String Quartet was formed in 1976.  And in 2012, the cellist, David Finckel retired.  This is a very nice video of a “passing of the baton.”  The group of four men played together for over three decades.  In the day of fast food, and fast breakups, this type of longevity is not typical.

Paul Watkins succeeds Finckel, and, as you can see in this video, is a very talented and genial musician.  The Emerson Quartet performs around the world and opens a concert series at the Smithsonian on October 10, 2015. So close to us!

Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Emerson was one of the first quartets formed with two violinists alternating in the first chair position.  In 2002, the Quartet began to stand for most of its concerts, with the cellist seated on a riser.

The Emerson Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and is Quartet-in-Residence at Stony Brook University.  

In January of 2015, the Quartet receives the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America’s highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.

Photo: Flickr: Jason Hollinger

“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto.” Ralph Waldo Emerson