BES Blog: “Music and the Brain” by Mr. Cameron Strine

You’re sitting at your desk, music surging through your headphones, and your foot starts to tap. Your fingers snap, your head bobs, your body starts moving, almost as if it has a mind of its own…! There’s no doubt that music has a physical effect on us, but how does it affect your brain? The way your brain receives and comprehends music is profound – it impacts the way we learn, think, respond, and most importantly, the way we feel.

Almost everyone on the planet has a favorite kind of music. Some like classical, while others like jazz, pop, or rock. People respond differently to various styles of music. Someone who enjoys the way they feel when listening to Bach may not get the same feeling from classic rock. Despite people’s preferences, and their different tastes, music in general has been shown to have a consistent effect on people’s brains.

Music doesn’t just enter the brain as background noise, like the sound of traffic going by on a busy highway – it triggers areas in the brain associated with moving, planning, attention, and memory. Music isn’t just noise to our brains, it means more than that! Music is organized, repetitious, melodious, familiar, and comfortable. It makes us feel.

As a musician of many years, I’ve studied various elements of music: melody, harmony, meter, rhythm, tempo, and many more. These are so familiar to me now that when I turn music on, or it’s on somewhere in the background, my brain is constantly recognizing and processing those elements. As a musician who also improvises, often my brain tries to find where I would fit into the music, and create my own melodies over whatever is playing. There is nothing like the feeling of creating your own music and being part of a collective musical experience.

Despite our differences in taste, style, and genre, the consistent emotional response we have to music has shown that music is a unifying force – it’s something that we don’t really experience anywhere else. Almost everyone has a certain level of musical experience and awareness; music has had a central place in culture for thousands of years. Music and instruments from the past have given us insight into various cultural elements, such as how people worshiped, communicated, and entertained. Music is universal to the human experience.

Learning about music is inherent to the value of a well-rounded education. Studies have shown that early childhood experiences in music can accelerate brain function in academic areas such language and reading. When exposed to music at an early age, children have been shown to increase overall development of skills including intellectual, social and emotional, motor, language, and literacy. Music connects the mind and body, allowing children to grow and develop while having an outlet to express themselves. Why is music important? Simply put, it gives us joy. Whether you listen or play, sing or dance, music is joy. When you learn to play

music, you are shaping and growing your ability to create and explore, all while actively playing and having fun. Music gives us a creative outlet that we don’t get elsewhere, something that we lose if we don’t use!

Mr. Cameron Strine
Beaches Episcopal School Music Teacher