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Music in learning – Baroque or rock ?


i have been researching the effectys of using music in formal training and am wondering why all the models of theory suggest using classical or barouqu music? im interested in anyone who has experimented with differents styles and whet kind of impact it may have had on the session.

Many Thanks

Matt Keen

14 Responses

  1. which music..
    The type of music you use will depend on what you want to achieve. Motivate, relax, creative. etc

    Baroch is based on 60 beats per minute – as is reggae. This helps to induce a relaxed and open state of the mind. there will be times when you want to lift energy – then use something more uplifting.

    Music is very personal and what is motivation to one is demotivating to another – classical or baroch as light background is neutral from that point of view.

    there are some great publications that describe this and tunes you can use in what conditions – I think one is called “tunes for trainers” ???

    Will look when i get back to the office at the weekend


  2. Bird Song
    The case that I have heard proposed is that Baroque music is ‘sympathetically aligned with the brain and its working’.

    It’s a proposal that I have not found convincing; there is little supporting evidence of any significance, nor any research of a sufficiently rigorous or persuasive nature, at least for me anyway.

    Mike Morrison wrote: “Music is very personal and what is motivation to one is demotivating to another – classical or baroch as light background is neutral from that point of view.” I differ here; personally I find Baroque music more irritating than the Cheeky Girls or James Blunt.

    I sidestep the music issue and play a CD of birdsong from the Gardens of Heligan.

  3. Neutral Music…
    Garry – you are correct I should have said ‘more neutral’ – I’m not a fan either… as for james blunt well…… 🙂

    time for musak??

  4. Baroque or rock
    There is a fair bit of twaddle pedalled, in my view, around this topic. I think there is little doubt that music can enhance and sometimes change our mood and our ‘state’ to some degree.
    Where the music (or soundscape) is not consciously noticeable or where it is harmonious with our mood and preferences, it is most effective. But some times our mood or state is different to the music, and we are in that state more strongly that the capacity of the music to change us. Then we experience dissonance, a type of friction or irritation. This can also happen, as Garry suggests, when what we like and what we get don’t match. This dissonance is usually counterproductive to learning and takes our attention and feelings away from where it should be.
    I had the privilege to meet Georgi Lozanov, the Bulgarian academic who popularised this idea of matching music to a good learning state. His original assertion was that certain music, typically baroque, had rhythm that would resonant with our heart beats keeping us in a relaxed state. He particularly liked Bach because it was escapist in nature and often finished on an upbeat note. Subsequently it has been discovered that the brain waves we have when in this relaxed but alert state, alpha waves, operate at a rate of 8-13 cycles per second. Some writers, notably Colin Rose, suggest that baroque music resonates with this cycle too and helps pull you into that state. I am not entirely convinced by the so-called ‘Mozart Effect’ but there is probably something we don’t yet fully understand in this relationship between music and how our brain works.
    Research evidence is patchy and my own experience suggests that there is not a simple direct line correlation between a piece of music and an individual’s capability for learning. However, I do believe that being in the right state for the type of learning you want to do is important, and if music helps you then fine. I also think that atmosphere in a group is important and that music, if used carefully and in sympathy with other things, can reinforce that atmosphere. I’m not sure how much it can change it, especially on its own, and even more so if you have a group of diverse music lovers. The beat, volume, rhythm, style, familiarity and nature of the music are all factors.
    There are other threads on this topic, including ones relating to licensing.

  5. Mozart Effect

    One of the most interesting works on this is called ‘Mozart In Mind’, it details a study into the Mozart Effect conducted by Columbia University across a range of children from babies still in the womb, to late teens.

    The effect is most noticeable in younger children, where the study demonstrated increased levels of concentration, focus and engagement with learning, and also controversially enhanced IQ.

    With teens there was much more of a tail off in the impact of the music, particularly when the teens had not been introduced to classical music and its appreciation at an early age, which may be at the heart of the Cheeky Girls effect and why Gary plays Bird Song (which incidentally rather annoys me as it makes me remember the countless times that I’ve been woken to early morning Seagull ‘serenades’).

    Music can be such a personal thing that whatever music you chose may enhance the learning environment, or restrict it in some way that you may not even have thought of: the music that was played at someones wedding when they are now divorced or at a loved ones funeral has the potential to not only ruin a training event for a participant but also to ruin the event for the entire group.

    So whilst music in training can be highly positive, it can also be highly negative so I am very careful about what music I use, and what it ‘says’ to people and how delegates react to it.



  6. a differing view
    Personally I find that music triggers memories; “Bohemian Rhapsody always makes me think of a pub bar in Cumbria where I was working with my brother whilst it was in the charts.

    I tend to use “linked” music quite often, so if the delegates are going to do the “space survival exercise” I have a disc that has “Walking on the Moon”, “Space Oddity”, “Blue Moon” etc. I play that as quiet background music whilst the delegates do the exercise. I also know how long the disc lasts so I can watch the time without watching the time.

    It works for me and delegates have said long after the event, “When I heard Madness, Look Who’s Driving in my Car, on the radio the other day it reminded me of the work we did on MoTs” (Moments of Truth)….so it seems to work for some people.

    I’m sure some purist will argue that it isn’t the “music” but the “lyric” that I’m using but it seems relevant


  7. Nice? Not nice?
    The trouble with using music is that people’s tastes vary massively and if they like it, it may or may not have a positive effect on their learning experience. But if they don’t like it, you can pretty much guarantee a negative impact on the experience.

    I have listened to music while studying all my life and I find it useful to aid recall when played before an exam. But… the music I like (death metal in the main) is not something I would play to other folks to get them in the mood for learning as it would just annoy them intensely.

    And while I’m not anti-classical, there is a lot of classical that drives me up the wall (Fingal’s Cave – springs instantly to mind) and bird song would drive me to murder.

    So I’m not convinced that music in a classroom is a great idea – I’ve always found it pretty tacky when other trainers use it but I know some people love it.

  8. Ice Breaker
    Reviewing alI these comments here I think the best advice might be to ask participants; do they want the music, when and where and what type?

    You could in some circumstances even make it an icebreaker exercise.

  9. further to Gary’s comment
    On one event in which I was involved we had 25 delegates for three days on a culture change management course.

    One table of delegates was given the cd player and a load of discs and declared to be the “Ministry of Sound” with the remit to “ensure suitable audio background to all activities”….

    this could include silence of course.

    We used to get an almost subliminal learning point out of this since the programme was related to customer service; who is your customer? and what do they (plural and singular) want? When? How much? Always the same or dependant on circumstances?

  10. Baroque music
    I’m a great fan of exploring all learning possibilities and was introduced to Baroque music in an accelerated languages learning course many years ago.

    The experience has always stayed with me. I’m a great fan of Bach and Purcell.

    The idea is that by playing the music in the background when studying, reading, or even working on line, it helps to synthesise the left and right sides of the brain.

    It works for me, I believe, but I know that some people just can’t get on with this genre of music. It’s quite personal.

    Regards Vince

  11. Synthesise?
    Vince, when you state: ‘~ it helps to synthesise the left and right sides of the brain.’ What does ‘synthesise’ in this context actually mean? How are the left and right sides of the brain actually affected as compared to someone who is not listening to this kind of music and undertaking the same activity?

  12. Baroque music
    Hello Gary,

    We have a starting point so long as we accept that the brain is split into two separate hemispheres with the left and right brain looking after different modes of thinking:

    Left Brain Right Brain

    Logical Random
    Sequential Intuitive
    Rational Holistic
    Analytical Synthesizing
    Objective Subjective
    Looks at parts Looks at wholes

    When I talk about synthesis, this is the act of bringing the connections of left brain / right brain closer / together, because full brain learning is accepted as a more beneficial learning experience bringing all 5 senses to the learning forum.

    This apparently is achieved through the high pitched tones of violins, trumpets and my personal favourite the harpsichord.

    This is the research of Bulgarian psychologist, Georgi Lozanov. There’s lots of stuff on the net about it.

    Hope that helps,

    Regards Vince

  13. Baroque Thinking
    Vince wrote: ‘We have a starting point so long as we accept that the brain is split into two separate hemispheres with the left and right brain looking after different modes of thinking:’

    Without questions the brain is split into two hemispheres, and through new brain scanning techniques neurologists are able to detect which parts of the brain are under use in differing circumstances. As to whether the two sides of the brain split along the lines of: Logical Random, Sequential Intuitive, Rational Holistic, Analytical Synthesizing, Objective Subjective, Looks at parts Looks at wholes. Well, these terms are completely ambiguous and can be read to mean anything, consequently research which looks at brain activity can be seen to fit this model because of the lack of specificity. It also true to say that since the work of Sperry ( during the 1950s/1960’s understanding of brain function has come a long way and the reductionist view of brain lateralisation of the type promoted and referenced here has been debunked for the greater part. Review the following web site for evidence of this:

    The definition used by Vince of ‘Synthesis’ is problematic, to say the least, ‘Synthesis this is the act of bringing the connections of left brain / right brain closer / together, because full brain learning is accepted as a more beneficial learning experience bringing all 5 senses to the learning forum.’ This of course sounds good but doesn’t actually state what synthesis is, other than ‘bringing the connections of left brain / right brain closer’ which means what?

    The left/right brain theory is a remnant of early research which has since been overtaken but continuous to be used as it is both simple and simplistic to repeat but actually is as far from the truth as the idea that the pyramids were built by the aliens to house Elvis.

    John T. Bruer at the following web site; states: “The fundamental problem with the right-brain versus left-brain claims that one finds in the education literature is that they rely on our intuitions and folk theories about the brain, rather than on what brain science is actually able to tell us. Our folk theories are too crude and imprecise to have any scientific, predictive, or instructional value. What modern brain science is telling us — and what brain-based educators fail to appreciate — is that it makes no scientific sense to map gross, unanalyzed behaviours and skills — reading, arithmetic, spatial reasoning — onto one brain hemisphere or another.”

    Further reading on this subject can be found here:


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