The Brain Benefits of Classical Music
A lot has been said recently about the developmental benefits of exposing children to classical music at an early age. Many scholars believe that listening to certain classical music allows children better access to the part of the brain that controls spatial relationships and other important math concepts. Others believe that each type of music, even rock or jazz, has an impact on a different area of the brain and you can tap into each piece of the brain simply by listening to certain types of music.
While these theories are very interesting to the study of early childhood development, they are still just that: theories. This kind of brain research is very difficult to derive clear conclusions from, as there are many other variables to consider when studying the effects of music on a young child’s brain. The good news is, music definitely has an impact on children’s moods, and changing a child’s mood can also change their approach to learning and cognition. The best part? There are no negative side effects associated with listening to music in a preschool classroom, so it is possible for you to conduct your own little brain experiment right in your very own classroom!
The Mozart Effect
The study of the impact of classical music on young children’s brains is often referred to as The Mozart Effect. In the 1990’s, two musically minded neuroscientists put the theory of the Mozart Effect to the test. They tested several college students using a standard IQ test after exposing the students to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, a relaxation recording and complete silence. The interesting results of that test were that the students performed better on the spatial reasoning portion of the test after listening to the Mozart piece than either the relaxation recording or silence. The little discussed piece of this research is that the effects of the music appear to wear off after about fifteen minutes. The college student’s scores dropped back to normal twenty minutes after listening to the music.
Psychologist Don Campbell, author of the book The Mozart Effect, is quick to point out that different types of music can have varying effects on the brain. For example, Gregorian Chant can quiet the mind and promote relaxation. For an early childhood educator, Gregorian chant may be a good choice of music for rest time or even a good snack time selection. Bach and Vivaldi are thought to stimulate creativity. Why not try to play these musical selections while children are painting at the easel or working with craft materials? Classical composers such as Mozart and Haydn are thought to improve concentration and memory, a good choice for children working on puzzles, manipulatives or other math activities. Even rock, Top 40 and hip-hop have psychological effects such as engaging our emotions, stirring passion, and invoking a need for physical movement. Playing this type of music during outdoor play or a movement activity can encourage children to move their bodies in rhythm and enhance self-expression.
What about Chopin?
While much has been discussed regarding the music Vivaldi and Mozart and their impact on the psychology of learning and early childhood brain development, not many experiments or research has been done regarding the impact of other classical composers such as Chopin.
Frederic Chopin is a Polish composer, considered one of the masters of Romantic music, and is often referred to as “The Poet of the Piano.” Most of Chopin’s music was written for solo piano performance, including many sonatas and his Minute Waltz. Campbell believes the music of the Romantics, including Chopin and other greats such as Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Liszt, can enhance senses and increase a sense of sympathy. Try playing the music of Chopin in your classroom while children are working collaboratively on a project or activity. Make note of any differences you may see regarding children’s interactions with each other. Are children more sympathetic towards each other? Do they work together well while the music is playing? Are there fewer arguments or disagreements? You may also attempt to use Chopin’s music in the background while children participate in sensory activities and games.
While many informal studies have been conducted regarding the impact of children’s brain development under the influence of classical music, there is really very little hard evidence to turn to. While scientists and psychologists cannot agree on the scientific validity of music impacting the way a child’s brain develops, we do know that we cannot discount the effect music has on our moods. Also, there are no negative side effects to playing the classical music of Chopin in the background during your hectic preschool day. Conduct your own experiments right in your very own classroom, and note the effects the music has on your daily classroom activities.
- Photo Credit: tkoscak http://morguefile.com/archive/display/634441
- Classical Net: Frederic Chopin http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/chopin.php
- Brain Leaders and Learners: The Brain on Music http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/multiple-intelligences/musical/the-brain-on-music/
- Campbell, Don G. The Mozart Effect, Quill (2001).