How Classical Music Helps Prepare the Mind for Learning

Although most everyone is familiar with the brilliance of Albert Einstein, many may not know that he did very poorly in school.  The teachers said he was “too stupid to learn,” and a waste of educational resources.  Fortunately, his mother thought otherwise, and purchased him a violin.  Einstein himself attributes his intelligence to playing the violin. 

Classical music has been shown to “turn on” the pathways in the brain that are used for spatial reasoning.  Spatial reasoning can be improved for a short time by listening to classical music, and for an even longer time if learning to play an instrument.  Although listening to many types of music assists the brain in building these pathways, researchers think that it is the complexity of classical music that is so beneficial. 

The intonation of Baroque classical music, especially, is the same as that produced in the alpha brain wave state.  The alpha brain wave state is when the brain is relaxed, focused and aware.  This is the state in which the brain is at its optimal learning capacity.  Researchers have found that listening to this type of music provides for more effective learning because its beat pattern, which produces 40 to 60 beats per minute, activates both the left and right sides of the brain.  The activation of both sides of the brain maximizes both learning and retention. 

Certain types of classical music create “order” for the brain.  The components of this order are “repetition and changes, certain patterns of rhythm and pitch and mood contrasts.”  This order is mathematical in nature, and it has been shown that the body and mind perform better when listening to this “ordered” music. 

A system created by Dr. George Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychologist, which employed playing classical music while teaching students a foreign language, showed that the students had an extraordinary retention rate of 92%.  Dr. Lozanov proved that “foreign languages can be learned with 85-100% efficiency in only thirty days by using these baroque pieces.”  Even several years after not reviewing the materials, the students still had a recall accuracy rate of almost 100%.

Listening to classical music before taking a test has been shown to improve test scores.  This is because this “type of music releases neurons in the brain which helps the body to relax.”  Other researchers have also shown that recall was better when the music was the same during learning and testing.   

Classical music has the ability to not only “soothe a savage breast” (William Congreve), but it can also produce a relaxed state of awareness within the human body that increases the brain’s ability to learn. 


Building Baby’s Brain:  The Role of Music, Diane Bales, Ph.D.