A recent article from Empowering Parents recommended 6 brain training exercises for children and teens:
- Elevator Breathing – which is a lot like mindfulness training.
- The Brain-Body Connection Workout – like The Brain Gym, Go Noodle, or Playing the piano.
- The Concentration Game – games that build memory.
- Family Game Night – playing board games.
- Daily Talk Time/Triumphs and Challenges – you can also read books together and discuss the topics (if you find it tedious to read aloud, you can listen to stories together on audio story app like Tales2Go).
These are all great suggestions. What stood out for me was the bit about playing the piano. We have often talked about how beneficial it is for children to learn music:
- learning a musical instrument can enhance the brain
- the wondrous benefits of learning a musical instrument
- how playing a musical instrument alters the brain
So why not use music as a brain training exercise?
Brain Training with Music
When it comes to brain training, we tend to look specifically at brain training programs for activities and exercises to work the brain. Since we know that music is good for the brain, why not use a program or app for learning music as a “brain training program”? The gamefication of learning music through these programs makes practice a lot more fun. The diversity of learning a musical instrument offers a depth to brain training that keeps the process novel – something that can be lacking in other brain training programs that can get a little boring after a while.
Here are a couple of gamefied music apps you can try:
The boys have been using Piano Maestro as supplementary practice for their piano lessons. The format for this app lends itself as a suitable “brain training” exercise because it works even for beginners without any music knowledge. The beginner levels allow you to use the onscreen keyboard so you do not need to invest in a keyboard to begin (later levels will require a keyboard, however).
You will learn musical notation, tempo, and volume as you progress through the levels. The musical notes will run across the screen from right to left in time with the music. You will have to press the corresponding piano key when the note reaches the blue line. The final score will be based on the accuracy of your timing and ability to play the correct notes.
Another alternative is to use the app Piano Dustbuster (also by JoyTunes).
This is another music app we stumbled upon when I was searching for an app to help the boys refine their singing voices. Here’s what it does:
- Checks your vocal range
- Warm up exercises
- Songs to sing along with – you can sing along to the songs available or choose songs from your itunes library (full membership is required for some of the songs).
- Training program (requires full membership):
- 10 levels with over 1000 ear training and vocal control exercises to build musical sense and pitch accuracy (50 lesson x 15 exercises)
- track records of singing scores, progress and report statistics
Membership costs $9.99 for a year.
Here are a couple more apps that look promising that we have yet to try out…
- Rock Prodigy – needs a special connection for the app to listen to your guitar playing so probably more suitable for those serious about learning the guitar.
- Yousician – also offers piano, ukelele and bass instruments.
Okay, so we gave Yousician a test run and here are our preliminary thoughts on it:
Like Piano Maestro, this app runs the musical notation across the screen and you have to play the correct note at the right time. It is also gamefied – the more accurately you play, the more stars you earn. It works on both iPhone and iPad, and you can choose to learn piano, ukelele, bass or guitar. If you’re serious about learning the instrument, the video lessons preceding each chapter are very helpful.
I experimented with the piano and guitar lessons. For playing the piano, I prefer the Piano Maestro app. With the guitar lessons, the app does not pick up the sound of my guitar very well. More often than not, it does not register anything even when I play the note as loudly as I can. You may need to invest in an external microphone.
What other music apps do you know of that can also be used for brain training?