Background Music in the Classroom

I’ve just come across this article by musician and composer, Michael Griffin, and thought it worthy to pass on to you. It is food for thought. I have been advocating this for a long time so it’s good to see someone of Michael’s calibre endorsing it with research. The following is extracted from the article.

“Even if we are not consciously aware of it, music has a physiological and psychological effect on everyone. Listening to music can alter heartbeat, blood pressure and body temperature. It can stimulate us to action, or assist our retreat into slumber. A growing body of academic research asserts that background music has the capacity to influence human behaviour.

In 2008 I instigated an action research background music study in my school. The primary aim was to determine whether music could contribute to a scholarly ambience in morning. The idea was that when students arrived at school, they would hear music (chosen using the principles I had researched) that would foster a mindset approach for a school day.

30-minutes of music played from arrival till class.

For this experiment I chose mostly refreshing, awakening and positive music with characteristics of moderate to allegro tempo, major tonality and instrumental in nature. My playlist primarily consisted of baroque and classical music. Some selections were slower and slightly more serious to reflect a scholarly atmosphere. Many selections were well-known classics in the hope that as a secondary benefit, some curiosity and interest from the listeners might transpire from recognition.

Response to my ‘morning’ playlist was very positive. Of 55 teachers who completed a post-experiment survey, 53 found the music selections appropriate for the mood we were trying to create. The overwhelming response from staff described the beauty in the music. Many teachers reported an increase in personal morale on entering the school with comments such as ‘what a lovely start to the day’. Teachers believed that the music enhanced students’ frame of mind prior to form class because a studious atmosphere was created around the school entrance. By and large, the teachers believed that music assisted in settling the students and lifted the general school atmosphere.

Students were less vocal in their response to the music. Some expressed a desire for ‘their’ music, but after a settling period, they accepted and came to enjoy the new music. Staff reported a positive effect on student behaviour.

The feedback from both staff and students clearly showed an increase in curiosity for music, particularly among the staff. I had many requests regarding names of pieces and tool the opportunity to share the personal musical joys of my colleagues. Such discussion raised the profile of music in our school. Occasional criticism centered on if the volume level was too high, and if a selection was deemed musically inappropriate.”

I can distinctly remember my own primary school years in which every morning we marched into the school to the sounds of John Phillip Souza marches. It was indeed uplifting and a wonderful way to start the day.

At this time of year tempers are easily frayed as everyone is exhausted and there is so much to do at school and privately as we gear up to Christmas and the holidays. This is especially true in the southern hemisphere where Christmas holidays are also the summer holidays and end of the school year. I recommend you play some music in your classroom if you can’t convince your principal to pipe it through the whole school prior to start of class. I’m sure it will make a difference to your day.

If you are looking for ideas and don’t know where to start, I have some wonderful music I can recommend for various mood states that you may want to create for any time of day. Please go to and look for the Sound Health series of music CDs. Motivation is 120-140 beats per minute (bpm) so that’s perfect for first thing, either prior to start or during the early part of the class (just turn the volume down a little). The blurb describes it as being for peak performance, task completion, organizing, morale boosting, inspiring to action and increasing energy. Productivity is 70-130 bpm so you’d play that next. It’s for enhanced performance, mood elevation, organizing and increased alertness. Inspiration is 60-90 bpm for improving performance, mood enhancement, artistic expression and creative writing. Learning, Concentration and Thinking are all at 50-60 bpm so these would be for increasing focus during research, writing, brainstorming, strategizing, organizing, problem-solving and computer work. When the day is done or your students need ‘time-out’ I’d play either Relax (40-60 bpm) or De-Stress (30-60 bpm) – perfect for stress reduction, reducing hyperactivity, decreasing anxiety, encouraging calm thinking. I actually play these last two while working at home. I find them very therapeutic and they certainly don’t put me to sleep. Instead I can calmly solve the problems of the day. I recommend them all.

If you’d like more information about Michael, please go to his website, I highly recommend you attend one of his workshops if you get the chance. He’s very entertaining as well as being good value.

About Kidz-Fiz-Biz

Marlene Rattigan is teacher in Early Childhood & of English as a Second Language & from 1987-2000 was an accredited fitness leader.
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