Can Music Make You More Creative?

I’ve noted often how strange it was that so many copywriters play instruments. And wondered, too, whether listening to music… or even playing it… makes for better writers.

Two new studies suggest that might be exactly the case. Turns out, according to Georgetown University researchers, that not only does their research say that music and language — word use — use the same areas of memory, but that we also unconsciously learn the “rules” of what sounds good in both music and language, in the same way.

So if you have a good ear for melodies, you might also have a good ear for what sounds good in the printed or spoken word.

Research from the New York Academy of Sciences takes it even further: playing music, they say, can make you smarter. It can also beef up your immune system, improve your memory, and keep you sane, for lack of a better way to put it.

How they explain why so many musicians seem to go nuts or die young, I don’t know.

But what their research shows is actual increased grey matter in the part of the brain that manages hearing, which gets more pronounced in people who play music often.

Even listening to music –- and not just Mozart –- can give you some of the same benefits. But actually playing it seems to be even better. The recitation involved just seems to help your brain’s neural network get “organized” so it can run more efficiently.

Go figure, eh?



  1. Reading biographies of highly talented people has from time to time occupied a significant part of my free time. One of the things that became clear early on is that the brightest and most successful were frequently musicians on the side, whether it was simply sitting at home and practicing he guitar and piano or something more ambitious such as being a concert pianist or a member of a rock and roll band.
    Given that, it comes as no surprise at all that there is a link between creativity and musical talent. Time for me to break out my guitars and get back to work.

  2. After several years of teaching and coaching learners of English, the connection between music and words is something I’ve always found to be a very effective way to learn a language… if you like its melody or think of it as a melody. When the foreign language learner realizes that intonation and word stress are essential elements to communicating effectively, the brain takes in the language for its melodic qualities.
    I encourage all my students to read the lyrics of their favorite songs and sing along. Never mind if they understand the lyrics or not. What’s important is to make language learning “music to your ears.” The brain takes care of the rest all by itself. Grammar and vocabulary are best assimilated when something sounds good or it doesn’t. This has also been my experience as a foreign language learner.

  3. So funny that you mention that… because something else I’ve noticed, as an English speaker who spends a good bit of each year in France, is that mutli-lingual speakers also tend to have greater musical talent. And it’s a chicken-and-egg relationship. As much as the more musically inclined seem more able to learn languages quickly, those who learn languages seem to become more musical. A very interesting connection.

  4. I enjoy listening to Mozart while I’m writing. I think it makes me smarter and helps me to write better copy. 😛

    The language link is interesting.

    I’ve got a couple guitars and a piano and I have a difficult time getting into the mode to play them.

    But languages are different. I really enjoy diving in and learning Portuguese, which is quite melodious. Perhaps it’s because I use it so much.

    It probably comes down to motivation – I enjoy speaking to people in their own language. And as a music hack, I know I’ll never get anywhere with it.

    Although I can do a mean Star-Spangled Banner with the distortion way up…

  5. Ha ha… yeah, I’ve got a passable Star-spangled banner thing going, too… with that distortion. I think you’re right about motivation. Nothing better for learning a language than being immersed in a culture where you really want or have to communicate. Thanks for the note!

  6. I totally agree with this John.
    Unfortunately, “only the good die young” does apply some of the time. My cousin Ronnie Van Zant died in that horrific plane crash on October 20th, 1977. The pilots forgot to refuel the plan, and one of the engines was having trouble.

  7. I remember that day. Very sad.
    I agree with these studies too John. Without music I personally wouldn’t exist. At age 65 and pursuing a career as a copywriter, I find that music sets the mood for life. A guitar plunker for 50 years and now finding that keyboard is easier on arthritic hands, the pursuit of playing frequently is still fun. Along with sharing my eternal love of The Beatles with my nine- year- old grandson, I would love to see more studies done on this subject. Thank you for sharing your insights!

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