Music and Learning
Combining music and learning opens the doors to long-term memory, creativity, and brain cell growth.
Music plays a vital role in the learning process. For example, it helps us concentrate better and feel both centered and energized. It also helps us assimilate large amounts of material quickly and store it in long-term memory.
Music has the power to arouse our emotions and relax our minds. It can slow down our heartbeat, lower our blood pressure, and make us feel calm and secure. It can also increase our energy and "wake up our brains" in preparation for learning.
Music Training Increases Test Scores
Making music is good for children
Neuroscientists have found that music training can dramatically enhance children's spatial-temporal reasoning skills, which are critical to success in subjects like math and science.
A 1987 report published by the National Music Educators Conference found that students taking music classes scored 20 to 40 points higher on standardized college entrance exams than their counterparts who did not take music classes.
Making music is good for grown-ups, too
Music and learning are not just for the young. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 reports on a Canadian study that focused on leisure activities and the risk of dementia among the elderly.
The study, which followed 469 people between the ages of 75 and 85, found that the cognitive activities of reading, playing board games, doing crossword puzzles and playing musical instruments were all associated with a lower risk of developing dementia—especially if they were done often.
The only physical activity found to lower dementia was dancing—which still draws on the power of music!
The Mozart Effect
In 1993, Fran Rauscher, a neuroscientist, and her colleagues at the University of California at Irvine measured the impact of listening to classical music before taking a test.
They found that students who listened to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major for ten minutes not only raised their test scores in spatial and abstract reasoning, but they also gained nine points on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale!
The control group, which either worked in silence or listened to a relaxation tape, showed almost no improvement.
As a result of Rausher's research, the term Mozart Effect began to be applied to the possibility that Mozart's music in particular could improve learning and memory.
In 2004 Rauscher and her collaborator Hong Hua Li, a geneticist at Stanford University, found that patients with Alzheimer's disease performed better on spatial and social tasks after listening to Mozart.
They also reported that Mozart's sonata helped to calm electrical activity associated with seizures in the brains of severely epileptic patients.
The Positive Effects of Music
According to Chris Brewer, author of Soundtracks for Learning: Using Music in the Classroom,
music enhances learning in a variety of ways. For example, it:
- Establishes a positive learning state
- Creates a desired atmosphere
- Energizes learning activities
- Focuses concentration
- Increases attention
- Improves memory
- Releases tension
- Enhances imagination
- Inspires and motivates
Alfred Tomatis and the Power of Sound
Another facet of music and learning comes from the brilliant French physician Alfred Tomatis, who greatly increased our understanding of the brain in relation to sound and the ability to listen.
To learn more, go to:
Alfred Tomatis, Mozart and the Electronic Ear
For suggestions on how to use music for learning, go to:
Music Strategies for Learning
To share your own recommendations for great places to learn and play music in your community, go to:
Return to Learning Strategies
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