There has been an ongoing debate regarding the effects of music on the body and the brain. Many people advocate listening to classical music as a means of stimulating the mind. These same people also suggest that more intense music, like rap and rock, would have adverse effects. At the very least, classical music does appear to have positive effects on emotional stimulation and possible beneficial effects on memory.
Classical music is a type of music often involving large orchestras and typically exists without vocal accompaniment. It is a style of music more popular prior to the early 1900s, yet its influence has extended into modern music. Violins, flutes, clarinets, and pianos are some of many instruments used within classical music. Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven are some the most recognizable and famous classical musicians.
Mood and Music
The most notable effect that music has on a human being is its effect on the body. It is often linked to dancing and uplifting the physical spirits of the person listening to the music. According to Laurence O’Donnell of Cerebromente.org, classical music has the tendency to calm the body and stimulate the mind because its rhythm matches typical body functions, like the heartbeat and breathing. Classical music’s calming effects can also help reduce anxiety.
Memory and Music
According to the Center for New Discoveries in Learning, classical music assists with increasing memory retention. For instance, psychologist Dr. George Lozanov used certain classical pieces to help students learn foreign languages. The classical music reduced the time it took to learn new vocabulary words, and he increased his classes’ average retention to nearly 92 percent. Research from the University of North Texas confirms this study.
Concentration and Music
Despite the above results, there have been several studies that indicate that although classical music is helpful for memorizing, it is not as helpful for mental concentration and or test-taking. A research study conducted by Robert Hjortsberg of Loyola University found that their test subjects performed mental tasks more effectively without any music as compared to classical music. A research study conducted by Mike Manthei at the University of Nebraska confirmed the above results and found that classical music had a negative impact on students taking math exams.
What it Means
The research seems to indicate that classical music is ideal for elevating your emotional spirits and soothing your mind. Yet, it can be a bit distracting when attempting to concentrate on an exam or complex mental task. Nonetheless, it does appear that in certain circumstances, like memory retention, it can function as a memory assistant, keying the mind into retaining certain information. In a way it may function as a pneumonic device.
Graham Beckett is an attorney in Los Angeles who has practiced in California since 2006, providing thoughtful analysis and writing on various legal issues. Additionally, he is an avid surfer, runner, and comedy writer, writing and performing in various sketch shows throughout Los Angeles.