Western classical music, often referred to as simply classical music, is often considered highly beneficial to children’s education and associated with a variety of advantages. Research has shown that music, in general, can achieve several benefits that enhance the development of learners. However, the worth of the specific genre, as opposed to other popular music styles, such as popular music or rock, is less clear. Arguments have been made that the preference for classical music stems from its promoters’ choices, many of whom are of European descent. As such, a more detailed analysis of Western classical music and its relationship with the education of young children is warranted. This paper will explore the traits that make classical music conducive to fostering children’s development and positive behaviors and the applications that result from these advantages.
The primary, and least disputable, effect of classical music on children’s growth is its ability to expose them to a variety of different and new experiences. It is a noteworthy approach for showing children a variety of age-appropriate genres throughout their development to foster inquisitiveness and interest1. Classical music is a particularly notable genre for such a procedure due to its universal age-appropriateness and potential lack of exposure to children. It is less controversial and aggressive than many of the more contemporary styles of music, which makes it usable in education. Classical music also exposes children to European culture through acclaimed pieces that have been recognized through centuries. Moreover, its usage of a diverse range of instruments can provide children with rich auditory experiences.
Overall, the education of most children will likely benefit from the introduction of classical music. With that said, it should not be the only style of music that is used in classrooms or at home. Many other musical styles, and especially individual pieces, have traits that qualify them as suitable and should be considered for the diversification of the child’s musical experience. However, while visits to musical concerts are routine in many educational environments and considered beneficial, the emphasis on Western classical music may be problematic and should be reconsidered in favor of a broader selection2. It is an excellent choice, but not the only one available, particularly where the cultural context is concerned. To introduce children to various musical environments throughout the world, it is best to consider music from diverse locations and periods.
One reason for the choice of classical music over alternatives is its tempo characteristics, which can produce higher relaxation in children than many other genres. Classical music is typically slow, which can be compounded further by the usage of specific pieces that emphasize the quality. It improves happiness and helps students deal with negative feelings, in turn reducing their aggression3. As such, children in environments where classical music is frequently used can be calmer compared to their counterparts without it. The benefits are particularly applicable for children with disabilities, who can often have difficulties with anger management. With that said, other genres, notably folk music and many different traditional styles, can be similarly slow.
While these types of music can be employed in the classroom, classical music has the most proven benefits. Depending on the choice of the piece, it can produce substantial and proven outcomes, and classical music offers a large selection of potential examples4. Classical music has created a base of well-known and deeply researched pieces from famous composers throughout its history that can be applied throughout the world. The same may not be the case for other music genres, where the selection of the piece would depend on the educator’s discretion and not be supported by the same degree of evidence. As such, classical music is the safe option for passively helping children control their behavior because of its relaxed tempo and renown.
A well-studied aspect of classical music is its ability to evoke visual responses in people in the absence of any images or video accompaniment. It enables a more accurate perception of the world and the formulation of mental models5. As such, it can be used for purposes of general education in children, accompanying other lessons and helping them internalize the knowledge. This method is particularly helpful for younger children, whose spatial intelligence is still in the process of forming. As the child grows, there will be fewer benefits in this regard, though it can be productive to apply music for other purposes. With that said, this consideration applies to all music, without any particular reason to use classical music to evoke the response.
The genre is renowned for its wide variety of melodies and inspirations, which can be used to derive a variety of meanings from the music directly. However, the choice of a specific piece is vital, and the authorship and the intention behind the music should be taken into consideration6. Music that can express meaning in ways that children can interpret despite the lack of lyrics or any context can be highly beneficial for educational purposes, allowing them to exercise their imagination without constraining it too tightly. Classical music has few alternatives that exhibit the same traits and retain the same number of high-quality pieces with well-known and easily expressed meanings. As such, its usage for this purpose is warranted and presents a potential area for further investigation.
Classical music’s complex composition can serve as another aspect that helps children develop their mental capabilities. It can be compared to language, learning which is critical to a child’s cognitive development7. The effects of music deprivation are less severe than for its counterpart, with musically-underdeveloped people still being able to function well in society. Nevertheless, learning about music can help develop all areas of the brain in ways similar to the other competence. Classical music is particularly useful in that regard because of its structure, which is not overly aggressive but also has a substantial amount of detail that challenges the listener’s senses. As they try to comprehend the music, their cognitive abilities will improve substantially.
Memory is an example of such a skill for which the usage of classical music can be particularly beneficial and successful. Classical music can passively help one memorize the material that they are studying8. As children’s education involves the memorization of high amounts of information, classical music can be particularly beneficial for them. With that said, the finding may apply to all age categories, with the music improving one’s ability to learn and remember important information. Children are the most affected because of the other benefits for their cognitive skills and behavior, which combine to make classical music a substantial positive force.
Learning to play an instrument would contribute to the development of a child further through the reinforcement of their rhythm and motor abilities. By understanding how to operate one, the child will learn discipline and concentration alongside other valuable competencies. This aspect of classical music is particularly relevant for children with learning disabilities, for whom opportunities to improve their learning ability are vital. Such issues often begin with difficulties in processing auditory stimuli, which then leads to other complications9. Moreover, the results would improve the most in all areas of development if the children learn to play music, for which classical music is also possibly the best candidate. Through learning to play an instrument that is accessible to children, most notably piano (which is used in numerous classical pieces), these children would also develop advanced motor skills.
With that said, there are issues in the learning of classical music, specifically, that have to be addressed before instrument lessons can be recommended universally. The environment in classical music education, particularly that with the purpose of creating professional musicians, can be overly harsh10. As such, children, particularly younger, more emotionally vulnerable ones, can be hurt unintentionally during these lessons. With that said, it may be possible to find teachers who specialize in working with children and avoid pushing them too far. As the usage of music as an essential part of education becomes more commonplace, more such options are likely to emerge. Currently, parents and educators should consider the matter carefully before committing to the decision.
Classical music can help children develop their cognitive abilities and control their behavior in a variety of different ways. It enriches their cultural context, though other music styles should not be disregarded in its favor. Its relatively slow tempo, particularly for pieces on the A minor scale, promotes relaxation and positivity, helping children control their aggression. The concepts often contained within classical music can help children improve their imagination, becoming better at matters related to spatial intelligence and concept interpretation. Additionally, the overall composition of classical pieces can achieve overall cognitive capacity improvement in the same manner as learning a language at a young age. Lastly, learning to play an instrument through studying classical compositions can be particularly helpful for motor skills and concentration, though suitable teachers should be chosen carefully.
Ardi, Z., & Fauziyyah, S. A. (2018). The exploration classical music contribution to improve children’s memory abilities. Educational Guidance and Counseling Development Journal, 1(2), 52-60.
The authors discuss the applications of classical music for the improvement of memorization in children. They find that, when playing in the background, it can reduce one’s stress and anxiety, improving their concentration and making the learning process more pleasant. The authors review Mozart’s music, specifically, but in future studies, it may be beneficial to consider a broader range of classical music and study its different effects.
Bull, A. (2019). Class, control, and classical music. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
The author considers the environment in which much of classical music education takes place. She finds that it is generally associated with the upper-middle class and derives strongly from its culture, being unwelcoming to members of other social strata. In particular, she calls attention to bullying that is disguised as attempts to make one improve by rationalizing former students. The book’s suggestions on changes in the system may be useful when designing classical music education for children.
Elkoshi, R. (2019). When sounds, colors, and shapes meet: Investigating children’s audiovisual art in response to classical music. International Journal of Music Education, 37(4), 576-592. Web.
The author studies the presentation of music from different periods through visual media via three dimensions: morphological, structural, and conceptual. She finds that of the three samples used, Chopin’s music evoked the most accurate responses, while the other two pieces were prone to misinterpretation. The approach may warrant further consideration and implementation in school curricula to promote artistic development and art integration in children. However, the specific pieces used have to be examined in additional detail.
Gul, N., Jameel, H. T., & Mohsin, M. N. (2019). Effectiveness of background music on aggressive behavior of intellectually disabled children. Journal of Inclusive Education, 3(1), 49-61.
The authors conduct an experimental study where one group of aggressive children with intellectual disabilities studied while classical and new age music played in the background, and the other received no intervention. They find a significant reduction in aggression in the experimental group, with the music creating a decrease in hyperactivity and promoting relaxation. The findings can be beneficial in the research of how music may be used to reduce aggressive behavior in different classrooms.
Habermeyer, S. (2020). How music unlocked my son’s ADHD brain. ADDitude. Web.
The author discusses her personal story of how music helped her son overcome his ADHD and become a well-adjusted adult. In the process, she conducted substantial research and found that music was an effective intervention because it stimulated development in essential areas. The various activities and practices that the article suggests can be used to develop music-centric programs for children’s education.
Hess, J. (2018). Interrupting the symphony: unpacking the importance placed on classical concert experiences. Music Education Research, 20(1), 11-21. Web.
The author discusses the concerts given by many orchestras in North America for school students, who attend them with their teachers. She highlights how Western classical music is emphasized by both categories of adult mentioned without a valid justification for doing so. She suggests considering a broader range of diverse music from around the world, among which Western classical music is one possibility. The study provides suggestions for further research into other music genres that can be used to complement classical music in children’s cultural education.
Ilari, B., & Young, S. (Eds.). (2016). Children’s home musical experiences across the world. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
The authors discuss the musical development of children in various locations throughout the world. They suggest exposing children to a variety of different genres as they grow up to foster a broad and informed musical taste and help them grow. The book primarily focuses on promoting music education in children, but it can help develop a more musically knowledgeable person even if they choose not to pursue that career path.
Ogoshi, S., Komatsu, T., & Ogoshi, Y. (2018). Analysis of environment to relieve stress experienced by children with developmental disorders—research for development of biofeedback support system using music. Sensors and Materials, 30(7), 1463-1471. Web.
The authors consider music that can help children with developmental disorders study by reducing their distress and creating positive stress. They do so by exposing them to different genres and giving them cognitive tasks while also taking EEG measurements. They find that classical music in A minor produced the best results, though not entirely consistently. With that said, the music genres they considered were limited, warranting a more detailed investigation.
Sacks, O. (2018). Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain. New York, NY: Macmillan.
The authors consider music and its broad relationship with the human brain, including musical phenomena, musicality, its effect on memory and movement, and how it shapes one’s emotions and identity. They note that both exposure to music and deprivation of it can lead children to develop in substantially different ways. The book claims that musical competence is universal and necessary, though its lack is not as problematic as language proficiency. As such, it provides a rationale for the universal implementation of music in educational curricula.
Vasilev, J. (2014). The importance of classical music for kids. The Novak Djokovic Foundation. Web.
The author considers the influence of classical music, both heard and played, on children’s development. She highlights the benefits of musical education in teaching them fine motor skills, problem-solving, and allowing them to comprehend the value of hard work as they strive to improve their skills and avoid making mistakes. The article is valuable due to its suggestions for activities that can help children study through music.
- Ilari and Young (2016) highlight the availability of music nowadays and the possibilities for education that it entails.
- Hess (2018) notes that teachers and musicians tend to overemphasize classical music in their curricula at the expense of a more diverse range of music.
- Gul et al. (2019) find that classical music helps the brain produce serotonin and recommend its usage in the background for classrooms.
- Ogoshi et al. (2018) find that, while the effects may not be universal, classical music using the A minor scale produced the best aggression-reducing outcomes, with the children preferring “For Elise” the most.
- Vasilev (2014) claims that music training helps children develop spatial intelligence, which is responsible for these areas.
- Elkoshi (2019) finds that children can correctly interpret concepts presented in Chopin’s music, though other pieces by Bartók and an anonymous 12th-century composer evoked more divergent responses.
- Sacks (2018) advances the comparison by claiming that children who are rarely exposed to music never learn to understand or appreciate it until later in life.
- Ardi and Fauziyyah (2018) suggest that it does so through relieving stress and stimulating the brain when it plays in the background.
- Habermeyer (2020) claims that musical exercises and training can help children with learning disorders overcome their issues in most aspects of life.
- Bull (2019) highlights how classical music education is associated with a culture of bullying that many musicians later rationalize as necessary criticism.