Music Strategies for Learning

These music strategies will improve your memory, open up your creativity, and increase your ability to learn.

Just a few of the ways you can use music strategies to learn include:

  • Play music while you study

    For many people, playing music in the background while they study helps them learn. The music you choose is important here, though. For example, playing loud rock music with lyrics could easily distract your mind from what you are trying to learn.

    Start to pay attention to how you feel when you listen to a piece of music and then choose music that will help you create the mood and feeling you seek. For example, if you are tired, you may want to play some fast, energetic music to get you going before you start to study.

    If you are really wired and are having a hard time sitting down and concentrating, put on some slow, gentle music.

    Classical music by composers such as Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart has been shown to slow down the rhythms of our heart and brain and put us in the ideal state for learning.

  • Write your own lyrics

    If you want to learn some special concepts or terms, turn them into lyrics for a song or a rap you know. Choose a song that is really familiar to you, such as one you learned in childhood.

    Try to put the new information into the same tempo and rhythm as the original song, and then sing it over and over to yourself. (It's even better if you can accompany yourself on the piano or guitar. You might also want to dance around the room in time to the song, because it will help you "lock in" the memory of the words.)

    Try this music strategy when you take a test. Simply hum some bars of the music, and the information will quickly come to you!

  • Brainstorm an idea using different pieces of music

    If you are suffering from writers' block, and you just can't seem to get going on a paper you have to write, try this technique.

    Put on a piece of music that is fast, fun and rhythmical--like a gypsy song, an Irish jig, or disco. Close your eyes and tune in to how you are feeling. How fast is your heart beating? What is your breathing like? Now focus on your topic and simply allow ideas to begin flowing in time to the music. As they do, write them down.

    When you are ready, open your eyes and change the music. Choose a piece that has a completely different rhythm, such as Brazilian jazz. Close your eyes, become aware of your heart and your breathing, and then let your mind flow along as before, writing down the images you see.

    Repeat this process a third time using another piece of music whose rhythm is completely different from the first two, such as a quiet, flowing lullaby.

    When you have finished, take a look at the notes you made and see which ideas draw your attention. Then begin to explore them in greater depth and see where they lead you.

  • Take a mental imagery journey

    Music greatly enhances our ability to use mental imagery, which is a wonderful way to improve creativity, invent new ideas, and solve problems.

    Try this music strategy when you want to find the solution to a problem that challenges you.

    Select a quiet, soothing piece of music you like that does not include lyrics. Take a pen and a notebook and go to a private place where you will not be disturbed for at least 30 minutes.

    Write down the problem for which you would like to discover an answer. Then take a few deep, slow breaths, turn on the music, and close your eyes.

    Imagine that you are in a beautiful garden. Enjoy exploring the garden in all its detail, paying particular attention to your senses. What kind of plants do you see? What colors do you notice? What do you smell? How do you feel when you are in the garden? What do you hear?

    Now let your eyes be drawn to a comfortable place to sit in your garden. Go to this place and sit down. What does it look like? Observe the area around you carefully; suddenly, you notice your eyes are being drawn to a small object near you. What is it? Look at it carefully, describing every detail to yourself.

    Telling yourself that the answer to your problem is hidden inside this object, reach out and pick it up. Hold it in your hands for a while, observing it carefully. Suddenly you realize that a latch or button has appeared. The minute you press on it, the lid springs open. With astonishment, you notice that a ... is inside.

    When you are ready, open your eyes, yawn, and stretch. Then write down what you just experienced. How does the object relate to your problem? What kind of solution might it suggest?

    Stand up and turn off the music. Additional ahas will often continue to occur throughout the day, so be sure to keep your pen and paper handy.

Music Strategies

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