Posts categorized “Music and Intelligence”


I Call Music “A Spiritual Vitamin.”

The dictionary defines music as “a composition of rhythmical, melodic, harmonic sounds.” Music can also be defined as the result of our conscious development of sound into an art and a science. Goethe called architecture “petrified music.” I call music “a spiritual vitamin” or, simply, “a miracle.”

Music is Vibration, Energy and Sound Waves.

Music is the most direct of the fine arts; the harmony of the universe is attracted to the harmony of the music.  Music, which is composed of vibration, energy and sound waves, surrounds us.  The universe is a complete harmony of many sounds – many lives and energy vibrating together as they fill the silence.  All this energy can end up as harmony or as noisy discord, dissonance or disharmony.  The music we choose to listen to contributes to our energy, mood and state of health.

The Five Variations in Music that Affect Your State of Being

You need to be aware of five general variations in music that have the power to change your health, mood, and energy level.

  1. Tempo: the speed of the music; fast, moderate or slow.
  2. Dynamics: the volume of the music; loud or soft.
  3. Pitch: the frequency of the music; high or low.
  4. Timbre: the tone or color of the particular instrument or voice.
  5. Style: classical, romantic, jazz, Celtic, pop.

    Learn more from my book, Music, Healing and Harmony



How Music Affects the Growth of Plants

Music is so powerful it can affect the growth of plants! Dorothy Retallack, a graduate student in Denver, Colorado, placed plants in five greenhouses with different types of music playing    All the greenhouses had identical soil, light and water conditions.
1. The plants in the greenhouse with classical and Indian music thrived, were green and healthy, and had many flowers. They leaned toward the music, just like they grow toward the sun.
2. The plants where country/western music was playing grew the same as those with no music – at a moderate rate, with a normal amount of flowers.
3. The plants that were exposed to loud acid rock music had stunted growth, with no flowers – in fact, many plants withered and died.  They turned away from the rock music.

Does Rock Music Cause Erratic Behavior?

After performing this experiment, Ms. Retallack commented, “If rock music has an adverse effect on plants, is the rock music listened to so long and so often by the younger generation partly responsible for their erratic, chaotic behavior?  Could the discordant sounds we hear these days be the reason humanity is growing neurotic?”

Ancients Knew Beautiful Harmonious Music Was Beneficial for Plants.

Another study by Dr. T.C. Singh of the Botany Department at Annamalai University, India, had similar results. He found that the plants exposed to classical music grew at twice their normal rate, and that later generations of the seeds from the stimulated plants also were larger and had more lush foliage.  If different types of music had this effect on plants, imagine how music can influence human beings!  Ancients intuitively knew this even before there was controlled research. They believed the finest flowers would grow near the temples, where beautiful, harmonious music was played.

From my book, Music, Healing and Harmony.  


Our Own Vibrations (brain waves, heartbeat, breath) Get In Sync With Music.

Everything in existence – atoms, molecules, cells, the entire universe – and, yes, music – is in a state of continuous vibration. Everything vibrates at a particular frequency. We have the power to manipulate and control energy through the vibrations of music. With music, rhythm, pulse, melody, pitch, harmony and different instruments all contribute to this universal energy. If you want to relax and slow down, listen or play slower harmonic music. If you need a little more energy, brighter, happier music will help to speed up your metabolism.

Music Sets the Mood in Movies or Television Shows.

The next time you watch a movie or television show, pay close attention to the music playing in the background. The choice of music is very deliberate, designed to evoke a certain mood or emotion. I often have someone come up to me after I play a certain piece and ask what movie it was from. The music brings back memories of the movie; they’re woven together in the person’s mind.

Choose Music That Matches The State of Being You Desire.

Would you like more energy; do you want to relax, to meditate, to learn something new, to get in touch with nature? Often the music you enjoy and choose is subconsciously what you need anyway!

Suggestions for Choosing Your Music

*For Energy and to Clear Your Head – 125-130 beats per minute
Louder music with a quick beat and higher pitch helps to rev up your brain and metabolism – getting you in sync with the music.

*For Learning, Concentration and Motivation – 115-120 beats per minute
Listen to music that is moderate in tempo, dynamics and pitch, and has no lyrics. Great for studying and focusing.

   *For Relaxation – 60-80 beats per minute
Slow-tempo, soothing, mellow music entices you to slow down. Perfect for getting to sleep, getting ready to meditate, unwinding.

If you’re in the mood to relax, listen to some soothing harp music.



Students who decide to take lessons and learn how to play a musical instrument will progress much faster if they are aware of these common mistakes.

This is a four-minute crash course that will help you avoid these mistakes and what to do instead.

I’ve been teaching harp and piano lessons for many years, and as a professional musician I am continually learning and practicing.

Here are the six most common mistakes when learning or practicing a musical instrument, and how to avoid them.

1. Expecting to become proficient right away.

It takes time and practice to make progress in anything we do. It’s not uncommon to have high hopes and dream of playing like a pro right away. All professionals, musicians, athletes, and others, make it look easy because they put in many hours – and many years – to reach that level.

Be patient. Don’t expect miracles.  Congratulate yourself when you’ve learned one simple song or exercise. Keep a list or notebook to remind yourself occasionally how much you do know. Play songs you already know, and you may be surprised to find how easy they seem now.

2. Wanting to play music that is too hard.

This usually leads to frustration and sounds “choppy” or incorrect. Learning something incorrectly becomes a habit, and is hard to change.

Make the more difficult music a long-term goal, but put it off for now (one step at a time). Playing something simple and playing it right sounds like you’re more accomplished than trying to play something too difficult. You enjoy it more and anyone listening enjoys it more.

3. Playing too fast.

It seems like a paradox, but we tend to do everything too fast when we’re nervous. Whenever I perform or record I have to constantly remind myself to slow down. Have you ever found yourself talking very fast when you’re in an uncomfortable situation? Even a slight bit of discomfort when learning a new song can make you play faster.

Remind yourself to practice slowly, learning something correctly at first so you don’t have to re-learn it. Don’t rush through an easy passage, then slow down for difficult parts. It takes a lot of will power to do this. We’re continually told to breathe slowly and deeply to relax. Easier said than done, but it’s worth it.

4. Ignoring the rhythm.

Getting the notes right is only part of music. If there is no rhythm or beat to a song it doesn’t sound like music. Learning the timing can be harder than learning the notes, but it is just as important.

Pay attention to the timing when you first look at music. Imagine in your head what the beat will sound like, i.e., 1 2 3, 1 2 3 or 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4.  Clap the rhythm so you can concentrate on the timing. Use a metronome with a slow beat, or write in the counting for each measure. Go slow when getting the beat in your head, then gradually go faster at an even tempo.

5. Not practicing.

It doesn’t matter how much talent you or your child has, if you don’t practice you won’t get better.  It takes at least 15 minutes several times each week, and the more time you put in to it the more you’ll progress.

You can always find even a few minutes to practice or even just play the music you already know. It may not seem like you’re getting any better, but if you look back occasionally you’ll see that you have progressed. It’s not uncommon to feel like you’ve hit a plateau, then reach a new level, then plateau again, then reach even a higher level.

6. Berating yourself or putting yourself down.

Don’t compare your level of musical performance with anyone else. Music is an art not a competition. Don’t use the phrases, “I’ll never learn,” or “I’m a klutz.”

Learning to play a musical instrument can be a metaphor for life. It’s a process, one step at a time, and gets better the more we practice. Have fun, enjoy the beauty of music.

What have I missed? What mistakes do you see musicians and music students making? Do you have suggestions for practicing or performing music? Share in the comments section.






“Piano Lessons Are Good for You”

There are many factors that can make someone want to learn to play an instrument. Among the most common could be an inherent passion for music, the simple enjoyment of the craft, or a sense of pride in creating something aesthetically pleasing.

But have you ever considered the cognitive benefits of playing music?

While learning to play piano, the student is also training his or her own mental faculties to better perform an array of other tasks.

Melanie Spanswick has put together 10 reasons why learning to play the piano is good for you.


Have you tried putting some numbers or words to a tune? It’s often easier to remember the tune than the other information. Then the tune reminds you of what you were trying to remember.
This article from the Wall Street Journal describes what goes on in your brain with music.

Why Does Music Enhance Memorization?



There is a correlation between being a good musician and being a good student. Students who learn a musical instrument consistently score 39-51 points higher on the SAT’s than their nonmusical peers. More parts of the brain are active when playing a musical instrument than any other activity. Learning a musical instrument has long-time effects on the brain because it enhances the development of reason, memory, logic, visual shapes, and math and verbal skills. It seems incredible that something as enjoyable as music could increase your your ability to learn, improve your memory and make your brain work better – but it’s true.

These same steps can be altered slightly to learn other subjects or tasks.

1. Sightread and play or sing the music slowly. For an instrumentalist, use the correct fingering at first even if it takes more time and concentration.

2. Analyze the music and look for patterns. Are there repeated phrases?  If so, how many times is the phrase repeated?  Does the music change key? For instance, it might be in the key of F Major, then Bb Major, then back to F Major – or the entire piece could be in F Major.

3. Learn the music in sections or “chunks,” rather than trying to learn the entire piece at once. Just as in every task, sometimes looking at the entire project can be overwhelming. By learning each section individually, then putting it all together, you are less likely to draw a blank in the middle of the piece.

4. Try to perform the music without the sheet music as soon as possible. You can always glance back at the paper when needed.

5. Review and play or sing the piece again and again, in different settings if possible.

You can learn more about music and the brain from my book, Music, Healing and Harmony.



Music Enhances Memory

Learning is maximized when listening to Baroque music at 60 beats per minute. This activates both sides of the brain at the same time. The left side is stimulated by the information and the right side is activated by the musicPlaying an instrument or singing also engages both sides of the brain which helps to learn new information.

Sing What You Want to Remember

The ancient Greeks would sing their dramas to help them memorize their parts more easily. Try using music the next time you have something to remember, such as names, numbers, formulas or dates.  Make up a little tune and sing the words, or put the words to a tune you already know. The brain remembers the tune, rhythm and words, then makes an association between the music and the information you want to remember. The ability to process and remember information quickly is a huge benefit in our fast-paced society.


Learning music makes you smarter and raises your IQ. Even if you don’t even notice it, music is all around us.  Whether you’re listening, or better yet, playing, music can have a great impact on your mind. This graphic shows how music affects students.




Learning to play a musical instrument benefits your brain.

Many studies are showing that learning and practicing a musical instrument may reduce  negative affects of aging.  This includes memory, cognitive ability and hearing.  A study in the July 2012 issue of Frontiers of  Human Neuroscience shows that aging older adults who learned an instrument in childhood and continued to play for at least 10 years outperformed others in memory tests and cognitive ability.  The musicians in the study scored high on tests of mental acuity, visual-spatial judgment, verbal memory and recall, and motor dexterity. The study also revealed that continuing musical activity during advanced age enhances thinking ability. It’s also valuable to pick up the instrument and start playing again later in life. “Use it or lose it” applies to the brain as well as the rest of the body.

Playing a musical instrument stimulates the brain.

Making music activates links to several parts of the brain because it’ a multisensory experience, similar to learning a new language.  Learning and playing an instrument enhances the development of reason, memory, logic, visual shapes, and math and verbal skills.

Why not pick up an instrument you once learned and start practicing – or learn a new instrument? I want to hear how it goes for you.

Check out my book, Music, Healing and Harmony.