Learning to play an instrument boosts intelligence and general well-being and should be a central part of the school curriculum, a study says.
Playing music together 'helps children work as a team'
Professor Susan Hallam at the University of London's Institute of Education said playing music together also taught children to work as a team.
But she warned teachers often faced an uphill battle to incorporate music into the curriculum.
The Department for Education and Skills said it recognised the value of music.
Prof Hallam's study, Music Psychology in Education, sets out the latest research on music and its impact on the brain.
She said: "Music is as important for a well-rounded education as reading, writing and maths.
"Learning to play an instrument has demonstrable effects on intelligence and, when children play music together, teaches them about co-operation."
A professional musician and educator, Prof Hallam said singing helped younger children with language development.
She said: "Music should play an important part in early years education, not least because making and listening to music are rewarding for children as well as adults."
Her research found music helped concentration, aided relaxation and could influence moods and emotions - singing in groups also boosted the immune system.
She said it showed music could serve as a source of support for troubled teenagers.
However, she added that it was "worrying" that teachers around the world often found they had to battle to incorporate music into the school curriculum.
Her study also includes advice for parents on developing musical ability in children - and warns against forcing teenage offspring to practise.
"Children's dedication to music needs to be internalised before adolescence if they are to become committed to it," she said.
"If the parent continues to supervise practice in the teenage years it is likely to lead to resentment and may lead even the most talented children to give up playing."
The Department for Education said it recognised the value of music, both as a subject in its own right and as a means of motivating students.
A spokesman said the Music Manifesto, launched in July 2004, was set up to provide greater opportunities for children and young people to develop their potential through music.