Are Musicians Smarter Than Non-musicians?

People have long believed that musicians are more educated than non-musicians. However, psychologists disagree. Some people believe that musicians perform better by certain measures, while others claim that there’s no difference between musicians and non-musicians in terms of cognitive function.

A 1996 study found musicians to be measurably smarter than non-musicians because musicians practice skills like concentration and memory more than non-musicians and musicians may be better at these tasks as a result of practicing them.

Although this is not the only case, several studies show musicians to be wiser or better at specific cognitive abilities than non-musicians.

Key Takeaways

  • Debate on Cognitive Differences: Research presents mixed views on whether musicians have superior cognitive abilities compared to non-musicians, with some studies suggesting enhanced memory and concentration in musicians.
  • Creativity and Cognitive Abilities: Evidence supports that musicians exhibit greater creativity and excel in memory, math, and language skills, likely due to the cognitive demands of musical training.
  • Aging and Brain Function: Lifelong musical practice may contribute to stronger cognitive functions in aging musicians, leading to better verbal understanding and memory retention.
  • Language Skills and IQ: Musicians often outperform non-musicians in language-related tasks and have higher IQs, possibly due to advanced auditory skills and problem-solving capabilities developed through musical practice.
  • General Intelligence and Brain Structure: Musicians typically show better general intelligence and have more developed brain regions associated with memory and planning.
  • Educational and Emotional Benefits: Musical training is linked to improved spatial reasoning, motor skills, and emotional intelligence, highlighting its value for cognitive development in children.

Musicians Are More Creative

Musicians have certain neuroanatomic and functional differences from non-musical people, due to the fact of their musical expertise. A lot of studies show that musicians have better memory, are better at mathematics and languages, and are also more creative than non-musicians.

A study conducted in 2009 investigated and discovered the differences in creativity that exist between musicians and non-musicians. The creative performance of a group of highly trained musicians in divergent and convergent-thinking activities was compared to that of a group with no musical background in an experiment. Musicians had higher divergent thinking scores than non-musicians, according to the findings.

In the study, musicians showed to be more creative in all aspects of verbal creativity and visual creativity. These findings suggest that learning an instrument has a positive influence on creative potential.

Various studies also show that music learning improves verbal skills, such as memory and language. During morphing image change detection activities, musicians displayed greater lateral frontal activity than non-musicians while engaged in creative activities and had enhanced frontal cortical activity.

Musicians Retain Stronger Brains

Musicians retain stronger brains even as they age because musicians’ brains work differently. This is because musicians have spent years listening to sounds and had intense practices throughout their lives.

Musicians’ brains process information in a way that makes them better able to comprehend words that aren’t immediately understood, according to research. The study involved 133 musicians and 96 non-musicians taking a series of word tests where they were asked to determine whether the meaning was literal or abstract. The musicians were better than the non-musicians and also did better on similar tests involving numbers.

Older musicians have even higher scores on the verbal tests. Research has been conducted on musicians’ brains for decades, but most studies before this one involved musicians who had musical training as children or adults. Most of these musicians were also tested when they were in their 40s or 50s – musicians who have been playing for a long time.

The musicians in this study exhibited strong results on verbal and nonverbal tests at all ages. In addition to musicians being able to recognize notes after a delay of just 3 milliseconds, musicians with the most musical training had the highest scores on word and number tests.

Musicians Have Better Language And Spelling Skills

Musicians are better at languages and spelling than non-musicians, according to a study from Northwestern University.

According to the study, musicians have an edge over non-musicians in terms of language abilities, especially as it pertains to word comprehension and spelling. This is not because musicians are superior at perceiving differences between similar sounds. It’s something musicians are doing differently while they are practicing music that makes them better.

Musicians do better on spelling and word identification tasks in which words are not pronounced as they are written. According to recent research, musicians have an edge over non-musicians in several aspects of language, including spelling and what’s known as verbal fluency.

The study investigated the capacity of musicians to correctly recognize misunderstood words that don’t sound out when they’re spelled – such as “knight” and “handkerchief”. Non-musicians struggled to identify these terms, whereas musicians did so more simply. Finally, they were more likely to distinguish words that rhyme with other sounding words – such as “fork” and “work.”

In another study, musicians were shown two words: one that is correctly spelled but not pronounced as it is written, and the second was a genuine word misspelling. Musicians were able to accurately choose the correct spelling more often than non-musicians. In some cases, musicians identified the right word within just a few seconds, while non-musicians took longer to choose the right letter combination.

The advantage of musicians, according to the researchers, is due to a more developed pre-existing network that links how words sound and appear. It’s thought that musicians have an edge in this area because they frequently work with numerous instruments at the same time, therefore they must constantly collaborate between what a note looks like on a piece of music and how it sounds.

Musicians Have Higher IQ And Math Skills

A study revealed musicians have a high mathematical “working memory”. This means musicians can think quickly and apply what they already know to solve problems they haven’t seen before.

The studies were conducted with musicians who had at least seven years of instrumental training and who did not specialize in any one instrument. Several tests were given to the participants, each of which assessed their number of abilities. The musicians were able to address the difficulties in a matter of seconds.

Musicians also have higher IQs than the general population, according to a study of musicians and non-musicians in Norway. The musicians had IQs that were 10 points higher than musicians with no formal training, and 15 points higher than non-musician controls.

The study also found that musicianship, not just intelligence, is associated with higher professional attainment. The data indicate that it is not only intellect that makes musicians, in fact, but musicianship is also an intellectual ability, a broad cognitive capacity linked to general cognitive performance.

Musicians Have Higher General Intelligence

According to several studies, long-term engagement in musical activities has the power to improve not only cognitive functions but also general intelligence. Musicians were assessed on extremely broad mental abilities like reasoning, planning, problem-solving, thinking abstractly, comprehending complicated ideas, learning fast, and from past experience. The results showed a better-than-average IQ than those of non-musicians.

Musicians have been shown to have larger prefrontal cortexes than non-musicians. This is the area of the brain responsible for memory and planning, which some musicians may use more than non-musicians do. This means that musicians are more likely to remember information over longer periods, and musicians who have been playing for longer will remember information over a larger period.

Other research found that musicians have more white matter connectivity between brain regions than non-musicians do. Because white matter is largely made up of axons that connect different areas of the brain, musicians are more likely to be able to access distant sections of the brain quickly.

Other Studies And Findings

According to a Harvard and McGill University study, musicians outperformed non-musicians in mental capacity tests. The researchers discovered that children who received music training between the ages of four and six had significantly superior mathematical skills than those who did not receive such instruction.

The musicians also excelled in spatial reasoning abilities, such as mentally manipulating two and three-dimensional figures. What non-musicians lack is a lot of specialized instruction on how to manipulate sensory information.

Music education benefits more than just musicians’ brains. Musicians are also better at controlling their fingers and bowing, which could improve fine motor skills.

It’s worth noting that music education has benefits for all kids, regardless of whether or not they have the ability to pursue a musical career. Musical training has several additional advantages, such as cognitive development. If musicians train their brains for 6 months, the impact is also seen in other mental skills.

Adrian North and David Hargreaves conducted a study in which musicians and non-musicians were compared on the Emotional and Cognitive Intelligence Quotients. The average IQ of musicians was found to be greater than that of non-musicians, suggesting that they might be smarter than non-musicians.

In 1993, musicians and non-musicians were asked to take a “pure tone audiometry assessment” while listening to tones of various frequencies. When it came to higher-pitched sounds, musicians scored higher than non-musicians, but not for lower pitches. This indicates that musicians are better at comprehending sounds in general, rather than just music.


In conclusion, musicians are better at understanding sounds in general rather than just music. Musicians have larger prefrontal cortexes which implies that musicians are more likely to retain information for extended periods. They also have more white matter connectivity between brain regions and outperformed non-musicians in mathematical skills according to a study done by Harvard and McGill University.

Musicians also excel in spatial reasoning abilities and are better at controlling their fingers and bowing, which leads to better motor skills than non-musicians. Musicians also have an advantage when it comes to cognitive development, in which they surpass non-musicians shown in various studies. Musicians can achieve a higher IQ than non-musicians if they train their brains for 6 months.

To answer the question – Are musicians smarter than non-musicians? Smarter might not be the correct term to use, in fact, I would say they are better in lots of different areas of intelligence than non-musicians.

According to the results of the studies, we can state as a fact that musicians show higher intelligence, however, more studies are to be done in the future to give us a definite answer. For now, it is safe to say that musicians outperform non-musicians in a lot of different aspects.