Soldiers march to the beat, athletes exercise with music, and people united in a cause sing. Music, an integral part of human life, is often overlooked as a tool for improving human performance. In this era of “better, faster, cheaper,” trainers, educators and presenters are looking for new, innovative approaches that help learning interventions succeed. Music is one such approach.
The connection between music and individuals is primitive and deep, providing a level of communication that transcends language. (Music may in fact be the original language.) Music, when systematically applied, calms frayed nerves, helps people focus, encourages receptivity to new ideas, accelerates learning, and improves the performance of individuals. Here are some music application ideas.
Music Helps Learners Focus
Background music during learning discussions and solo reflection activities can be especially helpful. It creates a sense of privacy for small group discussion, making conversations more satisfying and your learners more likely to say what they feel; enters into memory and aids recall; and masks ambient noise from other groups. The steady tones and tempos of Baroque music make it ideal for this purpose. Much of it was in fact composed as background music for kings, emperors, and other dignitaries.
Music Changes Energy Levels
Music can change the dynamic of your learning environment at appropriate moments, encouraging people to move about, relax, calm down, or get excited, depending on the needs of your session. After intense concentration, play faster music in a major key to encourage better moods. After heated discussion, play slow, minor-key music with low-rhythmic activity to calm your learners down. After a depressing, worrisome discussion, play major-key music with high-rhythmic activity and short, quick notes to create a happy mood.
Music Creates a Positive Learning Environment
Providing pleasant emotional content to your learners will establish a link between you, your classroom, and the learners’ pleasure. Music reaches deep into the brain’s limbic system, and creates pleasant emotions. Learners who walk into your classroom and immediately feel comfortable because of the music you play will be engaged to learn.
Music is not a replacement for effective content, nor is it the only resource available. Rather, music is one more tool effective trainers should have at their disposal. Music, by its very familiarity, does not draw attention to itself. Instead it works much as coffee comforts the morning, popcorn anticipates the movie, and baking bread remembers home; it awakens the recesses of your learners’ minds and calls the emotion to attention. Trainers, educators and presenters who harness the teaching power of music find that training does indeed have a beat!