Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy

Ludwig van Beethoven

It’s common knowledge that music has amazing effects on the brain, such as altering our mood, improving our speech and even enhancing our quality of life. Yet it’s only been recently that studies have delved into the potential effects of music on our ability to learn and study.

Here we present some compelling evidence that goes to demonstrate the incredible impact music could have on academic life.

Roll over Beethoven – It all started with Mozart

You may have stumbled across something coined as “The Mozart Effect” – the notion that listening to Mozart increases your intelligence.

This is a rather over-simplistic summary of the study upon which this phrase emerged, which found that “spatial-temporal reasoning” (in essence, how items fit together) was improved. Nevertheless, from this research, came many assertations that music was capable of making us smarter.

Attention please – The concert is about to begin

A recent study by Stanford University has found that music helps those listening to focus on the task at hand.

The researchers noted that in a concert, listeners’ attention could wander, however when music transitioned between melodies, attention increased. This makes the case for classical music being the genre of choice for those who are revising (a point backed up by many other scientific studies).

These transitions between musical movements offer an ideal setting to study the dynamically changing landscape of activity in the brain during this segmentation process.

“A soundtrack for learning”

In effect, music can create a soundtrack for our learning. This boils down to music working in unison with memory, creating neural paths and reference points, as Chris Boyd Brewer explains…

The soundtrack increases interest and activates the information mentally, physically or emotionally. Music can also create a highly focused learning state in which vocabulary and reading material is absorbed at a great rate. When information is put to rhythm and rhyme these musical elements will provide a hook for recall.

Introverts and non-multitaskers need silence

A final and rather intriguing element of studying to music, is that personality has an impact as to whether it is helpful, or otherwise.

Most notably those with introverted personalities, and those who were poor multitaskers, fared worse when listening to music. On the other hand, pupils who crack under pressure gain an upper hand when calming music is played in the background of an exam.

Teacher tip: music can be used as a motivational reward tool when a class has achieved a goal or been well behaved – they feel pleased for their efforts being recognised, and the learning of the class improves further by the effect of music. It’s an easy win! (and for further reward ideas, you can read our recent post: 5 simple ways to reward students)

Is there a genre of music or a soundtrack that helps you or your students concentrate? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.