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Music Therapy

Why Teacher’s Should Use More Music in the Classroom

Music TherapyThe longer I am a music therapist the more I see the role of the music therapist expanding into community.

One area where our expertise is being used is in the area of Consulting Music Therapist.  The role of the Consulting Music Therapist is to support other Allied Health Professionals and Educators as they develop the auditory diet of their students/patients.

For the teacher – here are just a few goals for their class and where the Consulting Music Therapist can offer support:

  • to grab a student’s attention
  • to help students focus
  • to spark a student’s imagination
  • to build rapport with students
  • to improve test scores
  • to make the school year memorable

The value of music lies in its potential to tap into these three critical areas:

Core Intelligence – both physical and emotional
Among Gardner’s 8.5 multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983, 1993, 1999, 2005; Gardner & Hatch, 1989; Marks-Tarlow, 1995; Williams, Blythe, White, Li, Sternberg, & Gardner, 1996), musical/rhythmic is one of the core intelligences in every student’s brain. It involves appreciating and recognizing music, composing, keeping time, performing, recognizing rhythm, and singing. It is part of the  intelligences that every student possesses.  Goleman’s (1998) emotional intelligence is also tied to music.  Teacher’s can literally tune in to their students if they can tap into their feelings.

Both Hemispheres of the Brain
Music is well known to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously (actually no other activity seems to do this better than music), however there are some benefit to switching between left-brain and right-brain.   Ronald A. Berk of Johns Hopkins University suggests music is effective in isolating the side of the brain you wish to develop (  To improve the function of your left-hemisphere Berk recommends that you listen to unfamiliar, fast, up-tempo music in major keys.    As we have read many times over to relax the mind it is best to feed it with your preferences, however when we are working to stimulate and challenge the mind (stimulate your logic) using new music, that the brain needs to digest, can be effective. To work the right side of the brain (like when you are reading, studying, reflecting or engaging in creative pursuits) Berk suggests you want the exact opposite – slow music in minor keys. Slow, minor-key produce Alpha waves – these relax the brain, which can be useful and help your new experiences or learning pass into long-term memory (Millbower, L. (2000). Training with a beat: The teaching power of music. Sterling, VA: Stylus).

A Student’s Brain Waves
There are four types of waves – Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta – each relate to various levels of consciousness.  Delta is your deep sleep state and Theta is your shallow sleep state.  Slow, minor keys produce Alpha waves (Millbower, L. (2000). Training with a beat: The teaching power of music. Music can help the brain relax, which can be useful when needing to absorb content.  Beta waves are the patterns of the fully awake mind – it is when the left hemisphere kicks into action.  The left side is your multitasking mode…when you are working at optimum speed.  Fast, up-tempo, major key music can help people maintain attention instead of driving into a meditative Theta state.  I have a dear friend who introduced me to the wonders of pop music (not something I typically listen to) when doing some of my mundane computer tasks.  I was surprised how much longer I stayed alert and felt in a good mood throughout. Music can help us manipulate different brain waves and help us reach whatever goal we need – to soothe, to relax, to stimulate, to be open to new learning.

Music Therapists and Teachers together can create amazing auditory experiences for the students……. and for those students where a generic program isn’t working….well that is where weekly music therapy with one of our Accredited Music Therapists might.

We look forward to working with you.


Jennifer Buchanan, Music TherapistJennifer Buchanan, BMT, MTA is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy and Author of TUNE IN. Our “Music Speaks” Blog aims to inspire you to use music with greater intention and knowledge,  hire us to help, and purchase our products as required.