Effects Of Music


Effects Of Music Essay, Research Paper

Effects Of Music On The Mind

Are people typically geniuses? Statistically, people probably are not. In fact, most people

probably aren’t even intellectually gifted at all. Most people are likely to be pretty much

average, maybe a little bit above average, or a little below, but very average none the

less. It is universally understood that people strive to learn to become wiser and more

informed about the world around them. The more people learn, the more powerful they

can become. It is the speed at which people learn that separates the geniuses from the

average people and from the learning disabled. Geniuses don’t run into problems while

learning, because they learn very fast. It is everyone else that could really use help. One

solid way to increase the speed at which people learn is with music. People learn through

music and their minds grow faster because of it. Some music, when implemented

properly, can have positive effects on learning and attitude. Music is a powerful thing, and

when we understand its significance, it can bring dramatic changes both positive and

negative into our lives.

The earliest stages of learning for young children are the most important. The

fundamentals of learning are instilled into a child at a very young age. How much

importance is placed on these fundamentals can have dramatic affects on the future of

the child’s learning. Music, when applied in a constructive way, can have positive effects

on a child’s ability to learning and can help them in many ways.

One way that music can make learning easier for a young child is by implementing music

lessons into a child’s normal activities. A small study was done two years back involving

ten three-year-olds who were tested on their ability to put together a puzzle and the speed

at which they could do it (”Learning Keys” 24). After the initial test was taken, five of the

children were given singing lessons for 30 minutes a day and the other five were given

piano lessons for 15 minutes a week (24). The lessons were conducted over a six- month

period of time, and after the six months, all of the kids showed substantial improvement

in the speed at which they could put together the puzzle (24). The researchers

understand this skill in putting pieces of a puzzle together as the same reasoning that

engineers, chess players and high-level mathematicians use. In this study of inner-city

kids, their initial scores were below the national average, but afterwards their scores

nearly doubled (24). The term given to this type of reasoning and thought that goes into

putting pieces of a puzzle together is called abstract reasoning. By teaching music,

people exercise the same abstract reasoning skills that they use for doing math or some

other exercise in which the people have to visualize in their head. An eight month study

was conducted by Frances H. Rauscher of the University of California at Irvine. In this

study, nineteen preschoolers, ranging in age from three to five, received weekly keyboard

and daily singing lessons while another fivteen preschoolers received no musical training

at all (Bower 143). At the begining, middle and end of the study, the subjects were tested

on five spatial reasoning tasks (143). After only four months, scores on the test to

assemble a puzzle to form a picture improved dramatically for the group with the musical

training, while the control group didn’t, even though both groups started out with the

same scores (143). It can be stated that this kind of improvement may not be substantial

enough to alter the way people are fundamentally taught, but its results cannot be

ignored. Rauscher explains, “Music instruction can improve a child’s spatial intelligence

for a long time, perhaps permanently” (qtd. in Bower 143). Implementing such changes

and improvements into a young child’s learning could have great effects on them in the

future when dealing with the same spatial reasoning skills.

With its resulting improvements in spatial reasoning, music can also be a very helpful

tool when actually implementing it into the classroom and intergradting it with basic

school curriculum. In New York City, a program called Learning through an Expanded Arts

Program, or LEAP, has been going on for a while and provides both music and the arts is

implemented into the school curriculum to improve scholastic scores of children at all

levels (Dean and Gross 614). One way in which music is implemented is with math. They

call it “musical math,” in which the teacher incorporates rhythm with counting and

gaining a grasp on the fundamentals of math (618). With the rhythm, they are able to

learn basic elements of math like fraction and multiplication. Christine Bard, the LEAP

consultant explains, “Music helps teach the precognitive skills. It gives students the

capacity to trust themselves by providing internal discipline through a highly repetitive

structure” (qtd. in Dean and Gross 618). On the whole, students’ feeling of self-confidence

and accomplishment are great and most importantly, the students’ attitude toward math

and learning is increased dramatically (618). Music as a separate and thorough

curriculum can have dramatic positive changes in the learning process of young people.

Mary Jane Collett, the Director of the Office of Arts and Cultural Education of the Division

of Instruction and Professional Development of New York City Public Schools says:

… a well taught sequential music curriculum not only results in music learning that has

inherent value; it also gives students the chance to listen, react, see, touch, and move.

Instruction in music skills, appreciation, and theory also provides a wealth of learning

strategies that enhance children’s analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating skills. Students

learn to process information and transfer knowledge through these concrete, kinetic, and

cognitive experiences (Collett 61).

Mary Jane Collett is an advocate for a program called Learning To Read Through The

Arts (LTRTA), which makes music and the arts a separate course in the elementary

curriculum instead of using it as an aid to different parts of the curriculum here and there

(61). Music is taught through listening to different types of music while talking about the

music, trying to understand it and interpret it in different ways and in many ways, imitate

it (63). She further explains:

These integrated music experiences provide excitement in learning for children and

thereby improve students’ reading, writing, thinking, and analyzing skills and strategies.

Learning through all the senses expands the learning process to accommodate different

learning styles. Opportunities for integrating communication arts, literature, science,

social studies, and the arts are limited only by the educator’s imagination, creativity, and

open-mindedness (64).

Music, when involved in the classroom, can have great effects on the early stages of

learning for the very young up through elementary age school children. Music can also

have significant effects on older people in a learning environment. Music does not have

the same effect on older people as it does on younger people, however. It is easily

understood that for young children, getting them to do fun musical things like learning to

play an instrument is somewhat easy compared to getting an adult to do the same thing.

Children will do it because it is something new and exciting whereas adults need to be

motivated to do something because they won’t do something simply because they have

too. For adults it is a matter of choice, but when they choose to involve music into their

everyday lives, the effects can be just as dramatic. One important aspect that music can

have on learning for people of all ages is attitude. It seems logical to assume that it is

more helpful for adults who are less likely to want to do a particular job or activity, but

music can change this and give a listener a more positive attitude and motivation. As we

will see, by simply listening to pleasant music in the background while doing an arduous

task can make it seem so much easier, or in some cases, music may not increase positive

attitude, but will ease the strain of an activity. A study was conducted by Shawn E.

Mueske, a graduate student at Mankato State University, to determine the effects of

background music on a biology lab. He wanted to determine the effects of background

music on attitude, achievement, time spent in the laboratory and on task behavior

(Mueske 6-7). He used a control group which entailed one lab where no music was

present, and one experimental group which listened to popular/soft rock music at an

appropriate soft sound level for background music (14). He found that there was no real

difference in attitude or achievement among the two groups, but there was a significant

increase in time spent in the laboratory and time spent on task (18-28). Listening to

music as background can help people when they’re thinking, learning, or working, but the

music needs to be implemented correctly. It can be easily understood that if it’s vocal

music, it needs to be somewhat quiet, for if it isn’t, it can be very distracting to the mind.

It is logical to conclude then that if it’s instrumental, it can be somewhat louder than

vocal music, but not too loud because any music that is loud enough will make it hard to

learn or think. When people listen to music in the background, it is very important that

they listen to music that they are familiar and comfortable with. It is not necessarily

better for people to listen to music that is supposed to relax them if they are unfamiliar

with it. It is better for people to listen to music they are comfortable with and know well

and like. A study of 50 male surgeons was conducted to see if they performed a basic

surgeon-related task better and more efficiently while listening to surgeon-selected music,

experimenter-selected music, or no music at all (Allen and Blascovich 882). The test

monitored skin conductance response frequency, pulse rate, blood pressure, speed and

accuracy (883). The experimenter-selected music was Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Both

conditions with music showed significantly better results than the condition without

music, but the condition with surgeon-selected music was clearly even higher than the

other (883). Another study was conducted on 54 people (25 males and 29 females) to

determine the difference of subject-selected music, experimenter-selected music and no

music, on affect, anxiety, and relaxation (Thaut and Davis 210). This study was done

under the understanding that stress is a major factor to health problems of the day. It is

important to cut down on stress in our daily lives and any way that we can do that is

beneficial to our health in some way or another. One way to try and cut down on stress in

people’s everyday lives is by listening to music. In past years, there has been quite a bit

of music created for the sole purpose of relaxation and the reduction of stress. The

questions posed by this study were to determine whether relaxation tapes really work

better than a person’s personal preference in music or no music at all in reducing stress?

The study found that all three ways worked well for relaxation and reducing tension, but

listening to music proved a little bit more beneficial. Of the two music groups, it found

that the relaxation tapes were equally as good as the subject-selected music, but were no

better (219-220).

Music is an invaluable tool when it comes to reaching students who fail to do well in

school, or are at risk of learning. Scott Shuler, a music consultant in the Connecticut

State Department of Education and adjunct professor in the Hartt School of Music in West

Hartford, Conn. describes at-risk students as students that express characteristics. These

charateristics included academic underachievement, lack of self-esteem and self-respect,

inability to communicate thought and feeling on an intimate level, limited conflict

resolution and problem-solving skills, boredom with traditional schooling. Additional

tracks of the at risk students indicate a need for a supportive peer group with whom they

can establish a social bond, learning styles that differ from those addressed by traditional

modes of instruction, interest in artistic expression and eagerness to pursue tasks they

find interesting, need for an experiential, hands on approach to learning, avoidance of

academic risk taking, and need to experience success somewhere in the school setting

(Shuler 31). Shuler proposes that there are two essential reasons why students fail in

school. They lack an ability to learn or lack the desire to learn, while most students who

fail have the ability to do well, they choose not to because their school experience doesn’t

motivate them (30).

At-risk students create an aversion to traditional styles of teaching and when attempts

are made to cut out “nonessential” subjects from curricula, it only worsens the problem

and further distances the at-risk student from the goal of becoming motivated to do better

(30-31). For many reasons, music can be one of the most influential factors in getting

at-risk students motivated. Music related courses in curricula give students many of the

important elements that will erase the characteristics of an at-risk student. Every student

likes music if only one kind, and outside of school, most students seek out music pretty

actively (31). Therapists use music to help severely handicapped individuals, so why can’t

schools do the same thing to help at-risk students?(31) Musical groups such as choir,

orchestra or band help bring people together as well as improving communication skills,

group work, and forming peer groups. Music creates a higher standard of performance of

people. For example, if a math test grade of 90% would be an “A”, a 90% grade on a

musical performance would be quite bad (32). This study seems to suggest that music

can provide a student with a level of individuality to learn in his/her own style. Music

education creates a much more well-rounded student that do much more and learn much


Music can also have very interesting and beneficial effects on the mind. A study was

conducted at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of

California at Irvine by Frances H. Rauscher, Gordon L. Shaw and Katherine N. Ky. In the

study, 36 college students listened to one of three listening condition for ten minutes and

then took the Stanford-Binet intelligence test designed for abstract reasoning (Rauscher,

Shaw and Ky 611). The experiment was repeated for each of the three listening

conditions and included listening to a Mozart piano sonata, a relaxation tape, and

complete silence (611).

They found that the equivalent IQ scores were equal between listening to the relaxation

tape and complete silence, but after listening to the Mozart piece, IQ scores were an

average of eight to nine points higher than the others (611). The scientists explain,

however, that enhancing effect doesn’t last for more than ten to fifteen minutes after

listening to the sample (611). They were able to develop some theories out of the results

of this study, but much more testing is required for any solid conclusions to be made.

They think that music which is without complexity or is highly repetitive will not enhance

abstract reasoning, but rather interfere with it (611). Their findings are put under

scrutiny and criticism by Kristin Leutwyler, who tries to set the record straight about

misinterpretations in the media regarding the findings of Rauscher, Shaw and Ky. She

asserts that “…the popular press have suggested that anyone can increase his or her IQ

by listening to Mozart. This supposed quick fix is false” (28). She explains that the IQ

scores were based solely on spatial ability and not other factors that IQ takes into account


Leutwyler explains that Rauscher’s work is “… based on the premise that listening to

music and performing a spatial task prime the same neural firing patterns. But that’s just

a guess.” (28) Despite the skepticism of Leutwyler in the findings of the three scientists

and the fact that more testing needs to be done to take into account different variables,

the initial findings cannot be ignored. There is some correlation between listening to

music and spatial reasoning and through it, there is some connection with IQ.

A large study was done many years ago to test intelligence across a wide range of fields

and subjects (Schoen 94). On the study, 205 college students were given the Minnesota

College Ability Test, all of the Seashore tests for musical talent, and were rated on a scale

for musical training (94). After the testing was complete, they separated out the top 25

and the bottom 25 to determine if there was a difference in musicality among them, but

found none (94). Next, they excluded the 25 students with the greatest and least amount

of musical training and found two interesting groups (94). Of the two groups left, the top

group’s average student had taken music theory, private piano lessons for two years,

voice and cello for four years while he/she had played in orchestras for four years, sung

in choir for six years, had three musicians in the family, could read music and supply

missing parts, and attended concerts regularly (94). The lower group’s average student

had never had any private lessons, didn’t play an instrument, had no musicians in his/her

family, and never attended operas or concerts (95). Music won’t turn anyone into a

genius, but it can have some substantial effects on bringing people above average at

least. One thing that music does that cannot be ignored is it stimulates the brain-

sometimes positively and sometimes negatively, but it effects the brain nonetheless.

Some positive effects on the brain can be seen from the study conducted by Rauscher,

Shaw and Ky where they found a temporary increase in spatial reasoning after listening to

a bit of Mozart. These findings are somewhat inconclusive, but cannot be ignored

altogether. It shows how there is much more studying that needs to be done in the future

on this subject. Music has been known to have a very direct effect on people’s moods. By

just listening to music, people’s moods are easily altered. Several studies were conducted

to test people’s mood changes after listening to certain kinds of music (Schoen 89-99).

One large study of 20,000 people showed music changes mood and the changes in mood

were very uniform (89). A large number of people listened to classical music by various

composers from various musical periods and were asked how the music made them feel.

Another study showed that the effects of mood varied from person to person depending

on their musicality. Non-musical people enjoy music rarely and when they do, the

enjoyment is slight, while semi-musical people enjoy music quite often and when they do,

it is enjoyable to them, while musical people enjoy music rarely, due to discriminating

tastes, but when they do, it is with the greatest intensity (90). These studies also showed

that certain types of moods/emotions are characteristic with music while certain

emotions are not such as anger, fear, jealousy, and envy (91). Certain emotions are more

characteristic with vocal music because of the words such as: love, longing, reverence,

devotion (91). Another study was done on 205 people testing the effects of major and

minor modes. Minor mode gave the feelings of “… melancholy, mournful, gloomy,

depressing…” while major mode most often gave the feelings of “… happy, sprightly,

cheerful, joyous, and bright …” (99).

Music is an important and extremely useful tool in the way we learn and to deny its

power is a waste of a truly wonderful resource. In recent years there have been concerns

about some types of music such as ?street? Rap having very negative effects on peoples

minds and moods. This type of music imprints an extremely violent image into people’s

minds and there has been growing concern about it and tying it in with violent crimes. In

cases like this, it only shows how much more we need to study music to fully understand

its full impact on the human mind. In these days where cutbacks are always eminent in

people’s local schools, people need to fight to keep the music and art intact. Music and

the arts are what make life worth living and without them, people lose hold of their

culture and diversity. The ideal way to learn in the future would be to fully incorporate

music into the curriculum of every school. If every school supported and encouraged their

students to freely pursue music with the culture of music in their everyday lives, people

would become much more efficient in their learning and would become much better

students on the whole. Music is a power too great for man to comprehend at this point

but through further study man can learn how to better harness its power and use it to

improve mankind.

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