Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed the Rock Your Socks Off Composer Series! I hope to throw those in pretty frequently, and I had a lot of fun doing the first one. Following that series, we’ll be covering some of the positive effects that music has on those who listen and play. You have already taken the first steps to making your home a musical one, now I’m going to show you some of the wonderful things coming your way – not just for your child who is learning to play, but for everyone who listens as well!
When someone listens to or creates music, there are three main areas in the brain that really light up. Today, I’ll be introducing all three, and honing in on one for the week. So let’s get started.
It’s no secret that sound travels in waves. When we hear any noise, those sound waves pass through our bodies. When the sound first enters into your ear, your brain then processes the information in the auditory cortex, and spits back the knowledge of what you’re hearing. You probably covered this in third grade science.J What you may not have learned is the brain lights up more than just the auditory cortex when it hears music. Unlike most sounds, music can create flashes of electrical currents through other areas of the brain such as the areas where we process emotion, memory and even physical movement! (https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/01/sound-health) Incredible, right?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be delving in with some insight on how each area of the brain is affected, and some ways in which you can maximize these positive effects in your home. Today, I’m discussing that area of the brain where we process emotion.
Emotion Through Music
You’re probably familiar with the idea that music can inspire an emotional reaction. For children who learn to play and instrument or dance, those emotional reactions through music can serve as a therapeutic pathway for those who deal with anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other mental ailments. Even if the student doesn’t have an official diagnoses, every human experiences difficult emotions at one point or another. Whether they are aware of it or not, by taking music lessons, your developing child has opened a new window of self-discovery and self-treatment which they may not have been able to access otherwise. I know from firsthand experience that playing my favorite pieces on the piano when I am upset help me to slow down, relax, and maybe even consider more creative solutions to my problems. As I become a more educated music teacher, I hope to be able to delve into the actual biological reasons for this event, but for now, I can just tell you that it does happen, and it’s a pretty incredible thing when it does. Even from a very young age and early on in my piano lessons, I struggled with feeling anxious about school and had issues with my self-esteem. During these fairly frequent phases of time, I would sit at the piano, choose my favorite song, and play it repeatedly. I learned my new pieces as well, but I remember spending a lot of time on the ones I already knew and enjoyed playing. Somehow, being able to just “rock-out” on a song I knew by memory would help me to just be able to play without thinking very hard; a meditation for my little over-worked, anxious brain.
Not only does music affect the creator, but the listener as well. This is why I strongly recommend introducing a wide variety of music into your home, including the time-periods and genres you may not have considered previously such as Classical, Baroque, Romantic, New Age, Modern, movie scores, meditation music – seriously, whatever you can think of that isn’t played on the radio every day. J And, while it may sound a little artsy and abstract, (you’re welcome) I would recommend paying attention to how the music makes you feel. Even if you’re listening on-the-go, taking a quick moment to observe how the music affects you can have a huge impact on your life. You may find yourself drawn to certain kinds of music for different situations. At other times, you might decide you feel nothing. That’s ok tooJ. Either way, exposing yourself and your child to different kinds of music broadens both of your horizons and enhances your ability to process emotions through a very healthy outlet.
An article written by Lecia Bushak with Medical Daily recalls a study performed at Stanford University. It reads:
“Despite our idiosyncrasies in listening, the brain experiences music in a very consistent fashion across subjects,” Daniel Abrams, an author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine, told CNN. Participants in the study, who had no formal musical training, listened to four symphonies by William Boyce, while undergoing an fMRI brain scan. The researchers found that among all the participants, the music had an almost identical effect in their brains; it activated brain regions that are involved in movement, planning, attention, and memory — which means that when we listen to music, we aren’t just simply processing sound, like background noise or the sound of a car engine. Music is more meaningful to our brains than just any sound: It's repetitive, melodious, organized.”
If you are interested in listening to some classical music but are not sure where to begin, I would recommend checking out any of my blog posts called the “Rock-Your-Socks-Off Composers” Series. Any one of those composers can get you off to a great start! Otherwise, Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music have some really great playlists as well. If you know you’re not really interested in classical music, try some New Age or popular movie scores. Some of my favorite New Age music includes Martin Jacoby, Laura Sullivan and yes, I admit it, The Piano Guys. Great movie scores include anything done by James Horner, John Williams and Hanz Zimmer.
Thank you so much for joining me this week and learning a bit about how music activates the emotional center of your brain. Next week, I’m going to spend some time specifically on the effects of music on the limbic system of the brain, particularly with regards to memory.
See you guys next week!