Music Psychology and Effects of Music Introduction
Stevie Wonder sang, "Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand...." Music is like a language, all on its own, with or without words. Music has been described as "the language of the soul".
Music springs from the deepest emotions within the soul, and with or without lyrics, music conveys a message, the deepest of feelings and emotions. It is a world beyond our world. It is a reality, at the same time, a fantasy.
Copy of Jakobus Stainer 18th century
The Psychology of Music
Music can be a positive force for mental health, calming, relaxing, intellectually stimulating. This is true for adults, teens and children. Music can and does affect our emotions, it can create "channels" in our mind, patterns of thinking. It can impart ideas and ideologies, powerfully and emotionally conveying a way of life.
Our choices in music, the intensity and frequency of the music we listen to, can have a bearing on our mental health. Some of the greatest composers were borderline geniuses, but also, many had personalities that could be described as deeply emotional or even volatile. Mood disorders can be affected by both the type, intensity and amount of music we listen to.
When we listen to music, we can internalize, so that the emotions of the composer, the band or singer, become a part of us. For the time we listen to and identify with the music, we have a spiritual connection, a bonding, with the one or ones who are singing, playing, and/or who composed the music.
Music can be interpreted in different ways. Even the same music performed by the same composer, can convey a message of sadness and loyalty, or anger and betrayal, depending on the manner in which he chooses to convey the message.
Music can be used in a positive way to bridge gaps, to create a bond between people who might otherwise have little in common. It can convey a message of peace and brotherhood, relax, soothe.
At the same time, music has been used historically to glorify war, such as in the Star Spangled Banner which recalled the victory of the Americans over the British in the War of 1812, or when classical pieces by German composer and theatre director Richard Wagner (pronounced Vagner), were used by Hitler to stir patriotic fervor in the masses.
Children, teens, and even babies potentially benefit from listening to music, as music can be a stimulant to intellectual and cognitive development. At the same time, parents should choose carefully the type of music they play for the baby and child, as well as what music the mother listens to while carrying the baby in the womb.
Music Psychology - Music Education and Benefits for Children and Young People
Music Psychology, the Classroom and Children
In the classroom, typically in preschool and kindergarten, soft and calming music is often, almost ubiquitously used to help children to relax at nap time and other times of the day. Some high schools use classical music through the hallway speaker in the morning periods and other times of the day. This adds to a peaceful and calm atmosphere in some large city schools.
Music and Psychology - Higher Test Scores, Cognitive Development
* In an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students, researchers found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show "significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12." This observation holds regardless of students' socio-economic status, and differences in those who are involved with instrumental music vs. those who are not is more significant over time. (Catterall, J, Iwanga, J., 1999.)
*"Education in the arts makes better math and science students, enhances spatial intelligence in newborns." It also can be part of a "solution" to "teen violence" [if directed in the right way]. Michael Greene, for Music Education Online.
Higher SAT Scores
* Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation. College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001. (Music Education Online).
Music and Language Skills Development
* Both music and language are processed in the same area of the brain. Children and youth who develop skills of playing an instrument often times develop greater language capacity as well as the greater adeptness in the ability to learn a new language.
Music Teachers as Positive Role Models
* Music teachers can provide good role models for inner city children. The percentage of high school students, in one study, who viewed music teachers as a role model was higher than for any other discipline, 36% for music teachers, 28% for English teachers, 11% for elementary teachers and 7% for phys-ed/sports teachers. (Hamann, 1993)
Music and Teens - Developing Self Esteem
* "I love my piano lessons," said a 14 year old girl who recently (2010) began studying piano. Active participation in playing music and music appreciation has been demonstrated to increase self-esteem. One teenager who was diagnosed with ADHD said that she had difficulty connecting with other teenagers in school. Learning to play piano during her teenage years, filled many vacant hours, staved off boredom, but also contributed to her development of self-esteem, which sometimes can be damaged when a teenager is diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
The Psychology of Music - Teenagers and Children Benefit from being Exposed and Learning to Enjoy a Wide Variety of Music
There are many positive benefits for children and teenagers to be actively involved in learning about a wide variety of music, as well as in learning to play a musical instrument. By learning about and being exposed to a wide variety of music, "widening out" in their musical taste, a teenager can get a better perspective on cultural history, and where the music of today fits into the broader picture of music throughout history.
There have been centuries of rich cultural heritage in many diverse cultures which have produced a wide variety of fascinating styles of music, much broader in scope and emotion than what might be popular at this point in time with commercial and pop, hop-hop and rock music, along with their various offshoots or progeny in various, current modes of popular music.
Misogyny, Commercialization of Sex in Popular Music and Music Videos -
It's Effect on Teenagers and Children
Listen! Music Matters - 7 surprising benefits of music education
Article abstract from Abigail Connors, early-childhood music specialist and author of 101 Rhythm Instrument Activities for Young Children.
"Listen to the singing, the laughing, the jumping, stomping and clapping, the exuberant thumping of drugs, the rhythmic rattling of maracas, and the festive jingling of bells. Listen to children making music, and it's easy to hear they're having fun." She continues, "What's not so obvious is that while children are singing and clapping, jumping and wiggling, and shaking and tapping on instruments, there's a whole lot of learning--and growing--going on.
Music activities boost brainpower. Numerous studies have shown that participating in musical activities can increase children's success in school, I.Q. scores, and cognitive sills such as "reasoning and memory." "Playing music," she notes, can promote "healthy brain development". To teach a child to play the piano, violin or other beautiful instrument, is of value!
How Young People and Children Can Benefit from Music
Some ways young people and children can benefit from music by being exposed to a wide variety of cultural and classical music
By learning to play a musical instrument.
Anyone can turn on the radio of flip on the TV, but a child or young person who learns to play an instrument, has learned a skill that will last his entire life, something that improves intelligence and ability to concentrate, as well as building self respect and self esteem.
For novices or professional musicians or serious music students: How much time should you practice each day?
A beginner can practice a half hour a day and make progress. Most who are new or novices to a musical instrument benefit from 45 minutes to an hour or more a day of practice, in addition to some time for study. For serious music students or professionals, teacher and parent Robert H. Woody, Ph.D., a music professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and author of the book Psychology for Musicians recommends about two hours per day as an optimal amount of practice, with about four hours as a single day max. "These figures are based on a landmark study by Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (1993), who reported that the training practices of elite musicians were similar to those of professional athletes and chess masters."
By choosing to focus on practice "quality over quantity," you can free up time for other music activities away from the instrument, and this will ultimately make practice periods more effective. (Woody, R.H., 2013).
The Birth of Rock and Roll - Jazz - Drug Culture - Teen Rebellion
Music's psychological impact and how music can affect the mind and mental health disorders
Music can have a calming influence and instill a feeling of well being.
Our genetic makeup has a bearing in the way the brain processes music. Some listen to music as something light and in the background, for others we absorb every note, every emotion, and it becomes a deep part of our psychological profile. Since young people and, today, children, often times listen to hours of music daily from many sources, it helps shed light on the impact that music might be having in terms of the mental health of children and teen mood disorders.
Some have noted today that persons who are very talented musically, creators of new and innovative music, have a tendency towards mental health disorders. Music borders on the spiritual. It can be something that stirs up from the very depths of one's soul, one's emotion, and is subject of study in emotion psychology.
It is not surprising, then, that some psychologists acknowledge and have written about the affect that music can have in mental health and how the chemical balance of our minds can be affected. Music can be a highly emotional form of communication.
On the positive side, music has been used both on a personal level, in education and in professional therapy, called, obviously, music therapy, to impart pleasant thoughts and to calm the mind. Music therapy is a specific branch of psychology that has already been developed and is being used in a clinical setting.
Music, Psychology, Intensity and Effects
On the other side of the coin, music such as hard core, hard rock, punk, and hard alternative, take your mind to highs and lows in your mood on what can be a wild mental-chemical rollercoaster ride, for many, day in and out. Hip hop also increases your excitement level and all of this regularly can affect one's emotions as well as the dopamine level in our mind.
Dr. Joel Robertson in his book Natural Prozac writes about how
music can effect the dopamine level in the brain, and how wise choices in music can be positive in the treatment of depression.
Is listening to pop music be linked with Major Depression in teens?
See: Teen Depression - Association Between Media Use in Adolescence and Major Depression - Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in Young Adulthood
Angus Young of hard rock band AC/DC.
June 2001, Cologne, Germany.
Music can be one of the factors behind bipolar disorder or ADHD.
Why can 20 students listen to the same music or share the same lifestyle, and only one or two suffer from mental health problems while the rest seem unaffected?
Each of our minds are wired differently. There is a complex predisposition in our bodies and minds which combines with psycho-social factors, such as the dynamics of family life, workplace or school environment, interpersonal relationships and inherited emotional makeup, which can explain why music might affect some people one way, but not others. See Urie Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Model of mental health.
Associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, Joel Nigg, in his book, What Causes ADHD? explains that there is most likely a combination of pre-genetic predisposition along with environmental factors which lead to symptoms of ADHD in some children. The same principle most likely applies with mood disorders and with various influences on mental health, including media and music. There is a combination of environmental, along with pre-genetic predisposition, which influences the way the brain processes information, so that certain environmental factors might illicit symptomatic responses associated with certain mental health disorders. Therefore, for some individuals, intense music might be one factor contributing to symptoms of certain mental health disorders. Because music has been demonstrated to affect the level of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, then it is not a far stretch to conclude that music might be involved with certain mental health disorders, any more than it is not a stretch to conclude that illicit drug use can result in symptoms of mental health disorders. Though the affect might not be as intense with listening to music as it would be with taking drugs, a similar principle applies, that the chemistry of the emotions and mind itself is being altered through an external source, in the case of music, a less direct connection than with taking drugs, but there is an affect nonetheless.
When do young people (and children) listen to music?
On ipods going to school, between classes, at times, during class and in the hallways; at home watching or listing to music videos on cable or satellite TV, or on the Internet; on the Internet at school, often with music videos from YouTube; In the car, CDs and radio.
Schools, Music and Teens
Some schools have adopted a no-ipod (or similar devices, such as cellphones with headsets or earphones), policy because they feel that that constancy of music between classes, in the halls, and often times, in class, can interfere with the cognitive processes necessary for the powers of mental assimilation which are required for learning on a higher level. In other words, it is easy to copy information from a textbook while you are listening to your favorite singer on the ipod, but it may much more difficult to learn higher mathematics or compose a report requiring higher levels of reasoning with the music flowing in your brain while you are working.
In other schools, there are no restrictions on ipod use. See article: How teachers, principals and administrators can help parents and children to make the most out of their school years.
Not just listening to music, but playing music has beneficial aspects as well. A great way to positively enhance your mental health is to take music lessons. (additional information,
Music, Psychology and Mental Health Disorders
One well known example of a singer with mental health difficulties is Axel Rose the hard rock singer well known for his bipolar disorder, of the group Guns 'n Roses. To what extent does is his disorder affected by the intensity and frequency of the music that he performs? Also, to be considered, as one listens intently, identifies with the mood and emotions of a song, an entire CD, and when listens daily to that music, on the radio, car stereo, ipod or some other way, the emotions of that music become one's own emotions. In a similar way that a brain cell transmits an electrical current through the axon to the dendrite, skips the gap chemically, to start again to the next brain cell and start the process anew, musical energy is transmitted electrically from one person or group to another through modern technology.
Joel Robertson, Ph.D., documents the impact both in a positive and detrimental way music can have on mental health, in areas such as depression, and also, by extension, bipolar disorder, in his book, Natural Prozac.
Those emotions, then are transmitted through our sense and become our own. If those emotions are happy and positive, our brain will assimilate those emotions, if they are angry or emotionally pained, our minds similarly assimilate those same emotions, which are apparent in the brain through combinations of neurotransmitters and thought patterns. The chemicals in the composer's mind, then, influence the chemicals in another's mind, or in masses of people.
Music, then, and mass media, has tremendous influence on both the culture, mental and emotional state, as well as the chemical balance of millions of minds.
As a general recommendation then, by mellowing out in our taste in music, toning down the intensity and quantity of music we daily listen to, our mental health can be positively affected.
References for Music Psychology page:
1. Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. "Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts." Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999. NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey)
2. Connors, Abigail, (August 2009). Listen! music matters - Seven surprising benefits of music education. NJ Family.
3. Could Pop Music Be Linked to Depression? Preliminary study found those who listened to lots of tunes had raised risk - April 4, 2011 - U.S. News & World Report
4. Hamman, D. L., Walker, L., (1993). Music Teachers as Role Models for African American Students.Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 41, No. 4, 303-314, (1993). DOI: 10.2307/3345506.
5. Music Education Online. Children's Music Workshop. (Retrieved August 4, 2009). http://www.schoolmusictoday.com/advocacy/benefits.html
6. Ratliff, B., (June 3, 2008). Bo Diddley, Who Gave Rock and Roll His Beat, Dies at 79. New York Times.
7. Robertson, J., (1998). Natural Prozac. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.
8. Woody, R.H., (2013, May 3). How Practicing Less Can Foster Musical Growth. Psychology Today.
Off-site Links Related to Music Psychology
Does Music Affect a Fetus? Discovery Channel documentary video
The fetus responds to music in the womb. The fetus reacts to music. (It does not seem to enjoy hip-hop).
Music to listen to: (Off-site links)
Simple Pachelbel Canon
Johann Strauss - Emporer's Waltz - Youth Orchestra
Emporer's Waltz Andre Rieu - and ballet.
Air on G-String
Air on G-String - Single Acoustic Classical Guitar
Air on G-String Sheet Music
Beautiful CD Music Store for Youth, Children, Expectant Mothers
Pages Related to Music Psychology
Music and Bipolar Disorder
Music History - The History and Psychology of Rock and Roll - and Jazz
Teen Depression and Music - Pop music and teen depression link - Based on clinical study
The Psychology of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and pop-music for girls
Misogyny in Commercial/Pop and Rap Music
Give a child the gift of music.