Whether we sing, listen to songs on the radio or digital device, play an instrument, or just hum, music is a universal language.
Think about your favorite movie, then imagine it without soundtracks. Forrest Gump? Wizard of Oz? Films would be far less enjoyable without music. You probably know the theme songs to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Star Trek. Are you old enough to remember the Happy Days title song?
Music stirs our emotions and takes us back in time to when we first viewed the shows. Okay, admit it, was your introduction to classical music through watching cartoons on TV? Bugs Bunny was my first music teacher!
Music can shift our emotions and alter our moods, which makes it very effective for relaxation. I use soothing music to help transition from a busy day to a calmer pace. Most guided meditations include soothing music, and I find it very effective for slowing my breathing and heart rate.
Music can also help in therapeutic treatment, such as coping with pain, improving healing before and after surgery, and treating depression. Studies have shown that music can boost our immune systems and even trigger memories in Alzheimer’s patients.
Sounds work on many levels of our brain, actually altering brain waves.
This makes Mozart a great music choice for parents of young children. Cognitive development is believed to be enhanced by certain sound patterns, and Mozart unknowingly created music that promoted brain development and heightened cognition.
Playing musical instruments also improves brain power. Musical notes are mathematical, so it makes sense that the activity helps train the brain, laying down new neuron pathways. Using both sides of the body helps too, plus music is just plain fun!
Kids love to experiment with notes and sounds, as any toddler holding a saucepan can confirm. And, when kids get together and make noise, the result can be glorious.
Music can make time pass more pleasantly and is a great accompaniment to exercise. A faster beat encourages a faster pace, often without us noticing the change. And, where would we be trying to dance without music? Out of step most likely is the answer.
I use classical music to set a calm, productive mood at work. New Age music enhanced the atmosphere of my art center, and music without words worked well when I taught middle school art.
Words access different areas of our brain than just notes, so pay attention to the content of the music and alter what you use for various purposes. Music can help us access different parts of our brains, so I usually play music when creating art to help expand my creativity.
The human voice can be a beautiful instrument. My yoga instructor plays lilting songs with chants or soaring voices during class, or with words in languages other than English, so our brains don’t subconsciously switch to verbal mode.
Music also helps us escape. When I board a plane, I pull out the earphones and the hours melt away. I can nap or doze, and time alters. When I have to do some serious housework, rock and roll helps me pass the time.
This escape has extended to musical theater, which is making a comeback and growing in popularity with mainstream America. Lion King! Les Miserables! Hamilton!