TttAre people typically geniuses? Statistically, people probably are not. In fact, most peopleprobably aren’t even intellectually gifted at all.
Most people are likely to be pretty muchaverage, maybe a little bit above average, or a little below, but very average none theless. It is universally understood that people strive to learn to become wiser and moreinformed about the world around them. The more people learn, the more powerful theycan become.
It is the speed at which people learn that separates the geniuses from theaverage people and from the learning disabled. Geniuses don’t run into problems whilelearning, because they learn very fast. It is everyone else that could really use help. Onesolid way to increase the speed at which people learn is with music.
People learn throughmusic and their minds grow faster because of it. Some music, when implementedproperly, can have positive effects on learning and attitude. Music is a powerful thing, andwhen we understand its significance, it can bring dramatic changes both positive andnegative into our lives. The earliest stages of learning for young children are the most important.
Thefundamentals of learning are instilled into a child at a very young age. How muchimportance is placed on these fundamentals can have dramatic affects on the future ofthe child’s learning. Music, when applied in a constructive way, can have positive effectson 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 musiclessons into a child’s normal activities. A small study was done two years back involvingten three-year-olds who were tested on their ability to put together a puzzle and the speedat which they could do it (“Learning Keys” 24). After the initial test was taken, five of thechildren were given singing lessons for 30 minutes a day and the other five were givenpiano lessons for 15 minutes a week (24).
The lessons were conducted over a six- monthperiod of time, and after the six months, all of the kids showed substantial improvementin the speed at which they could put together the puzzle (24). The researchersunderstand this skill in putting pieces of a puzzle together as the same reasoning thatengineers, chess players and high-level mathematicians use. In this study of inner-citykids, their initial scores were below the national average, but afterwards their scoresnearly doubled (24). The term given to this type of reasoning and thought that goes intoputting 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 someother exercise in which the people have to visualize in their head. An eight month studywas conducted by Frances H. Rauscher of the University of California at Irvine.
In thisstudy, nineteen preschoolers, ranging in age from three to five, received weekly keyboardand daily singing lessons while another fivteen preschoolers received no musical trainingat all (Bower 143). At the begining, middle and end of the study, the subjects were testedon five spatial reasoning tasks (143). After only four months, scores on the test toassemble a puzzle to form a picture improved dramatically for the group with the musicaltraining, while the control group didn’t, even though both groups started out with thesame scores (143).
It can be stated that this kind of improvement may not be substantialenough to alter the way people are fundamentally taught, but its results cannot beignored. Rauscher explains, “Music instruction can improve a child’s spatial intelligencefor a long time, perhaps permanently” (qtd. in Bower 143).
Implementing such changesand improvements into a young child’s learning could have great effects on them in thefuture when dealing with the same spatial reasoning skills. With its resulting improvements in spatial reasoning, music can also be a very helpfultool when actually implementing it into the classroom and intergradting it with basicschool curriculum. In New York City, a program called Learning through an Expanded ArtsProgram, or LEAP, has been going on for a while and provides both music and the arts isimplemented into the school curriculum to improve scholastic scores of children at alllevels (Dean and Gross 614).
One way in which music is implemented is with math. Theycall it “musical math,” in which the teacher incorporates rhythm with counting andgaining a grasp on the fundamentals of math (618). With the rhythm, they are able tolearn basic elements of math like fraction and multiplication. Christine Bard, the LEAPconsultant explains, “Music helps teach the precognitive skills. It gives students thecapacity to trust themselves by providing internal discipline through a highly repetitivestructure” (qtd. in Dean and Gross 618). On the whole, students’ feeling of self-confidenceand accomplishment are great and most importantly, the students’ attitude toward mathand learning is increased dramatically (618).
Music as a separate and thoroughcurriculum 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 Divisionof Instruction and Professional Development of New York City Public Schools says: …
a well taught sequential music curriculum not only results in music learning that hasinherent 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 learningstrategies that enhance children’s analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating skills. Studentslearn to process information and transfer knowledge through these concrete, kinetic, andcognitive experiences (Collett 61). Mary Jane Collett is an advocate for a program called Learning To Read Through TheArts (LTRTA), which makes music and the arts a separate course in the elementarycurriculum 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 themusic, trying to understand it and interpret it in different ways and in many ways, imitateit (63). She further explains: These integrated music experiences provide excitement in learning for children andthereby improve students’ reading, writing, thinking, and analyzing skills and strategies.
Learning through all the senses expands the learning process to accommodate differentlearning styles. Opportunities for integrating communication arts, literature, science,social studies, and the arts are limited only by the educator’s imagination, creativity, andopen-mindedness (64).Music, when involved in the classroom, can have great effects on the early stages oflearning for the very young up through elementary age school children. Music can alsohave significant effects on older people in a learning environment. Music does not havethe same effect on older people as it does on younger people, however.
It is easilyunderstood that for young children, getting them to do fun musical things like learning toplay 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 bemotivated to do something because they won’t do something simply because they havetoo. For adults it is a matter of choice, but when they choose to involve music into theireveryday lives, the effects can be just as dramatic.
One important aspect that music canhave on learning for people of all ages is attitude. It seems logical to assume that it ismore helpful for adults who are less likely to want to do a particular job or activity, butmusic can change this and give a listener a more positive attitude and motivation. As wewill see, by simply listening to pleasant music in the background while doing an arduoustask can make it seem so much easier, or in some cases, music may not increase positiveattitude, 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 ofbackground music on a biology lab. He wanted to determine the effects of backgroundmusic 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 waspresent, and one experimental group which listened to popular/soft rock music at anappropriate soft sound level for background music (14). He found that there was no realdifference in attitude or achievement among the two groups, but there was a significantincrease in time spent in the laboratory and time spent on task (18-28). Listening tomusic as background can help people when they’re thinking, learning, or working, but themusic needs to be implemented correctly. It can be easily understood that if it’s vocalmusic, 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 thanvocal music, but not too loud because any music that is loud enough will make it hard tolearn or think. When people listen to music in the background, it is very important thatthey listen to music that they are familiar and comfortable with.
It is not necessarilybetter for people to listen to music that is supposed to relax them if they are unfamiliarwith it. It is better for people to listen to music they are comfortable with and know welland like. A study of 50 male surgeons was conducted to see if they performed a basicsurgeon-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 testmonitored skin conductance response frequency, pulse rate, blood pressure, speed andaccuracy (883). The experimenter-selected music was Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Bothconditions with music showed significantly better results than the condition withoutmusic, but the condition with surgeon-selected music was clearly even higher than theother (883). Another study was conducted on 54 people (25 males and 29 females) todetermine the difference of subject-selected music, experimenter-selected music and nomusic, on affect, anxiety, and relaxation (Thaut and Davis 210). This study was doneunder the understanding that stress is a major factor to health problems of the day. It isimportant to cut down on stress in our daily lives and any way that we can do that isbeneficial to our health in some way or another.
One way to try and cut down on stress inpeople’s everyday lives is by listening to music. In past years, there has been quite a bitof music created for the sole purpose of relaxation and the reduction of stress. Thequestions posed by this study were to determine whether relaxation tapes really workbetter 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, butlistening to music proved a little bit more beneficial. Of the two music groups, it foundthat the relaxation tapes were equally as good as the subject-selected music, but were nobetter (219-220). Music is an invaluable tool when it comes to reaching students who fail to do well inschool, or are at risk of learning. Scott Shuler, a music consultant in the ConnecticutState Department of Education and adjunct professor in the Hartt School of Music in WestHartford, Conn. describes at-risk students as students that express characteristics.
Thesecharateristics included academic underachievement, lack of self-esteem and self-respect,inability to communicate thought and feeling on an intimate level, limited conflictresolution and problem-solving skills, boredom with traditional schooling. Additionaltracks of the at risk students indicate a need for a supportive peer group with whom theycan establish a social bond, learning styles that differ from those addressed by traditionalmodes of instruction, interest in artistic expression and eagerness to pursue tasks theyfind interesting, need for an experiential, hands on approach to learning, avoidance ofacademic 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 inschool.
They lack an ability to learn or lack the desire to learn, while most students whofail have the ability to do well, they choose not to because their school experience doesn’tmotivate them (30). At-risk students create an aversion to traditional styles of teaching and when attemptsare made to cut out “nonessential” subjects from curricula, it only worsens the problemand 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 gettingat-risk students motivated. Music related courses in curricula give students many of theimportant elements that will erase the characteristics of an at-risk student. Every studentlikes music if only one kind, and outside of school, most students seek out music prettyactively (31).
Therapists use music to help severely handicapped individuals, so why can’tschools 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 ofpeople. For example, if a math test grade of 90% would be an “A”, a 90% grade on amusical performance would be quite bad (32). This study seems to suggest that musiccan provide a student with a level of individuality to learn in his/her own style. Musiceducation creates a much more well-rounded student that do much more and learn mucheasier. Music can also have very interesting and beneficial effects on the mind.
A study wasconducted at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University ofCalifornia at Irvine by Frances H. Rauscher, Gordon L. Shaw and Katherine N.
Ky. In thestudy, 36 college students listened to one of three listening condition for ten minutes andthen took the Stanford-Binet intelligence test designed for abstract reasoning (Rauscher,Shaw and Ky 611). The experiment was repeated for each of the three listeningconditions and included listening to a Mozart piano sonata, a relaxation tape, andcomplete silence (611). They found that the equivalent IQ scores were equal between listening to the relaxationtape and complete silence, but after listening to the Mozart piece, IQ scores were anaverage 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 afterlistening to the sample (611).
They were able to develop some theories out of the resultsof 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 enhanceabstract reasoning, but rather interfere with it (611). Their findings are put underscrutiny and criticism by Kristin Leutwyler, who tries to set the record straight aboutmisinterpretations in the media regarding the findings of Rauscher, Shaw and Ky.
Sheasserts that “…the popular press have suggested that anyone can increase his or her IQby listening to Mozart. This supposed quick fix is false” (28).
She explains that the IQscores were based solely on spatial ability and not other factors that IQ takes into account(28). Leutwyler explains that Rauscher’s work is “… based on the premise that listening tomusic and performing a spatial task prime the same neural firing patterns. But that’s justa guess.
” (28) Despite the skepticism of Leutwyler in the findings of the three scientistsand 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 tomusic 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 fieldsand subjects (Schoen 94). On the study, 205 college students were given the MinnesotaCollege Ability Test, all of the Seashore tests for musical talent, and were rated on a scalefor musical training (94).
After the testing was complete, they separated out the top 25and the bottom 25 to determine if there was a difference in musicality among them, butfound none (94). Next, they excluded the 25 students with the greatest and least amountof musical training and found two interesting groups (94). Of the two groups left, the topgroup’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, sungin choir for six years, had three musicians in the family, could read music and supplymissing parts, and attended concerts regularly (94). The lower group’s average studenthad never had any private lessons, didn’t play an instrument, had no musicians in his/herfamily, and never attended operas or concerts (95). Music won’t turn anyone into agenius, but it can have some substantial effects on bringing people above average atleast. 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 toa bit of Mozart. These findings are somewhat inconclusive, but cannot be ignoredaltogether. It shows how there is much more studying that needs to be done in the futureon this subject.
Music has been known to have a very direct effect on people’s moods. Byjust listening to music, people’s moods are easily altered. Several studies were conductedto 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 moodwere very uniform (89).
A large number of people listened to classical music by variouscomposers 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 dependingon their musicality. Non-musical people enjoy music rarely and when they do, theenjoyment 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 discriminatingtastes, but when they do, it is with the greatest intensity (90). These studies also showedthat certain types of moods/emotions are characteristic with music while certainemotions are not such as anger, fear, jealousy, and envy (91). Certain emotions are morecharacteristic 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 andminor 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 itspower is a waste of a truly wonderful resource. In recent years there have been concernsabout some types of music such as “street” Rap having very negative effects on peoplesminds and moods. This type of music imprints an extremely violent image into people’sminds and there has been growing concern about it and tying it in with violent crimes. Incases like this, it only shows how much more we need to study music to fully understandits full impact on the human mind. In these days where cutbacks are always eminent inpeople’s local schools, people need to fight to keep the music and art intact.
Music andthe arts are what make life worth living and without them, people lose hold of theirculture and diversity. The ideal way to learn in the future would be to fully incorporatemusic into the curriculum of every school. If every school supported and encouraged theirstudents to freely pursue music with the culture of music in their everyday lives, peoplewould become much more efficient in their learning and would become much betterstudents on the whole. Music is a power too great for man to comprehend at this pointbut through further study man can learn how to better harness its power and use it toimprove mankind.