The Power of Music, Part 3: Using Music for Learning

In the first two parts of this blog series, I shared how music can help your memory, and specifically how Baroque music aids in learning. In this final post of the series, I’ll share some practical tips that you can use in your daily life to incorporate music as a tool for learning.

To harness the capacity of music to allow you to relax and focus, you can try going one step beyond simply playing the music in the background. You can try to study in time to the music. Take notes as you read, for example, by slowing your pace slightly, writing in time to the music. Then read back your notes to yourself out loud, again, in time to the music. Vary the tone as you read your material, to keep yourself alert.

Also, try breaking up whatever you are trying to learn, memorize, or understand into small chunks of material that you can read in only four seconds. Then pause for four seconds to let it sink in. Then read the next small chunk of material for four seconds, pausing after each chunk.

Breaking material into chunks (called “chunking”) is a memory-enhancing approach that has been used successfully for centuries. It is only in the last few decades, however, that we have understood that the brain actually manages information better when broken into these small bites of information. “Chunking” also encourages you to establish a rhythm and meter with the small bits of materials which makes the information easier to remember, too. Think about how we remember telephone numbers – by breaking a seven-digit number into groups of three and four.

By reading, writing, and speaking out loud, you are combining a variety of learning styles – auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. That, in turn, maximizes the use of different parts of your brain. The more of your brain that you use in the course of learning, the better able you are to learn.

Your brain is much like an orchestra, with each section waiting to join in, to contribute its part in the symphony. A little stress keeps the musicians on their toes; but too much stress causes the players to play badly or shut down altogether. Without each group playing its part, the show cannot go on.

In the final analysis, music has the power to be so much more than simply entertainment: it can be a useful tool to help you improve your memory, it can heal, and it has the power to improve your capacity to learn.

How has music helped you learn and/or heal in your life?