Classical music improves learning

On certain days, when one wanders into the Ames High School Media Center during third period, the mellow soothing sound of a cello fills the room. The source of this calming classical music is not a stereo, but rather a student. “I started playing cello in the Media Center last year,” senior Yeil Park said. “There was no particular reason why. It was just for fun.” One day Park happened to have his cello with him while he was in the Media Center, so he just decided to unpack it and start playing. “I was expecting the Media Center ladies to kindly, or harshly, tell me to pack up,” Park admitted. To his surprise, he was greeted instead with a “thank you for playing.” Since then, Park has never heard any objections to his playing from the Media Center ladies. Now a “Yeil ‘Park’ing” sign even hangs at the Media Center entrance, for days when Park needs somewhere to leave his cello. Yeil usually plays movements of Bach suites during his performances in the Media Center, because they are intended to be performed unaccompanied. He tries to play “slow, boring movements” so he does not disturb students’ concentration. The Media Center ladies have probably heard of the numerous studies on the positive impact that listening to classical music has on learning. One study in particular found that college students who listen to classical music while studying absorb, retain and retrieve the information they learn easier than those studying in silence. Multiple other studies have found a correlation between listening to classical music and an improvement in learning. For instance, there is a popular theory called the Mozart Effect, part of which states that listening to Mozart’s music may lead to a short-term improvement on the performance of spatial-temporal reasoning tasks. In other words, listen to a little Mozart before your next physics or calculus test, and you may get a better grade. Various research studies have shown that the Mozart Effect does have some truth to it. Researchers are still debating the causes of the Mozart Effect though. A possible explanation is that the complexity of classical music primes the brain’s reasoning skills. Because of this, classical music has more beneficial effects on learning than other types of music, which are generally less complex. Personally, Yeil himself enjoys listening to classical music while doing his homework. “Certain pieces really get me to concentrate,” said Yeil. “I listen to lots of Bach keyboard pieces when I have painful essays to compose, and I listen to Bartok, who’s really intense, for calculus.” Classical music could very well improve your grades, so download some and give it a try! Or, stop by the Media Center during third period sometime.