open access publication

Article, 2023

Tuning the Musical Mind: Next Steps in Solving the Puzzle of the Cognitive Transfer of Musical Training to Language and Back

In: Music & Science, ISSN 2059-2043, Volume 6, Page 205920432311752, 10.1177/20592043231175251

Contributors (3)

Smit, Eline Adrianne (0000-0003-0250-378X) [1] [2] Rathcke, Tamara V (0000-0002-4831-7387) [2] Keller, Peter E (0000-0001-7579-6515) [3]


  1. [1] Western Sydney University
  2. [NORA names: Australia; Oceania; OECD]
  3. [2] University of Konstanz
  4. [NORA names: Germany; Europe, EU; OECD]
  5. [3] Aarhus University
  6. [NORA names: AU Aarhus University; University; Denmark; Europe, EU; Nordic; OECD]


A growing body of research has been studying cognitive benefits that arise from music training in childhood or adulthood. Many studies focus specifically on the cognitive transfer of music training to language skill, with the aim of preventing language deficits and disorders and improving speech. However, predicted transfer effects are not always documented and not all findings replicate. While we acknowledge the important work that has been done in this field, we highlight the limitations of the persistent dichotomy between musicians and nonmusicians and argue that future research would benefit from a movement towards skill-based continua of musicianship instead of the currently widely practiced dichotomization of participants into groups of musicians and nonmusicians. Culturally situated definitions of musicianship as well as higher awareness of language diversity around the world are key to the understanding of potential cognitive transfers from music to language (and back). We outline a gradient approach to the study of the musical mind and suggest the next steps that could be taken to advance the field.


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