This will strike a wrong note with parents who splurge on piano or violin lessons for their children.
New research suggests that music lessons do not help children improve their other cognitive skills such as reading and maths.
A review of 54 scientific studies involving 7,000 children says learning an instrument provides no boost in other areas of study.
Dr Giovanni Sala, who led the research at Fujita Health University in Japan, said: ‘Our study shows that the common idea that “music makes children smarter” is incorrect.
‘This means that teaching music with the sole intent of enhancing a child’s cognitive or academic skills may be pointless.
‘While the brain can be trained in such a way that if you play music, you get better at music, these benefits do not generalise in such a way that if you learn music, you also get better at maths.’
The analysis looked at children with an average age of six who had completed an average of 53 music lessons. It compared them with others who had taken no music lessons, or had learned a skill such as dancing or sports.
It has been suggested that music lessons improve general intelligence and memory from the effort involved in learning compositions, or that they improve sound perception, which is good for reading.
But the analysis, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, found no link with improved academic achievement, including maths and literacy. This was most evident in ‘high-quality’ studies comparing musical children with those learning other skills.
Other studies which did not make clear comparisons or did not randomly put children into music and non-music groups, found more of a link, but overall this was ruled out.
However, the authors of the analysis note that too few studies have been done to reach a definitive conclusion, and more research is needed.
Professor Fernand Gobet, a co-author of the study from the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: ‘Music training may nonetheless be beneficial for children, for example by improving social skills or self-esteem.
‘Certain elements of music instruction, such as arithmetical music notation, could be used to facilitate learning in other disciplines.’