Home » Music-Making and the Rhythm of Life
Thank you to Miss
Emily for contributing this month's blog post!
Do you remember the song "Sandpiper" from the
Flutes collection? My daughter Louisa and I haven't forgotten it — because we
have been singing it on our way into preschool almost daily for the past two
years! Sometimes it's hard getting out of the car and into school, but as soon
as one of us starts singing "Sandpiper, sandpiper, running through the
sand," off we go. It never fails! We make it on time, she doesn't feel
rushed, and I don't feel irritated. Parenting
Any of the other myriad songs you may know from Music Together®® or your own musical collection will work!
Many families turn on favorite music during transitional
times, such as bedtime, because they find that their children have an easier
time settling down. Why does music work so well in these moments?
Why Our Brains Love
One reason is that when
we sing together – with a parenting partner, our children, friends, family,
anyone! – the brain responds by releasing "feel-good" chemicals.
(Incidentally, this is why we almost always feel better after music class than
we did before.) When we make music, a brain structure called the striatum releases dopamine, creating a
feeling of pleasure similar to what we feel in response to sex or good food.
This neurological reward system tells us that music is important and adaptive,
particularly when we experience it in community.
Research also suggests that music-making stimulates the production of oxytocin, associated with
feelings of relaxation and well-being. As a parent, I can testify that there
are certain times of day when those relaxed, happy feelings are in very short
supply! Those are the best times to change the mood through music.
A Natural Response
When we use music to change the mood, we are practicing musical entrainment. We naturally
respond to external rhythms through an autonomic mechanism. (Think of how, when
one person begins clapping or marching, we experience the urge to clap or march
along). Making music together causes this autonomic mechanism to occur in
tandem with our natural emotional and neurological response to music. In this
context, think how powerful music-making must be to a young child who has been
bonding musically with parents or other caregivers!
If you aren't already employing musical entrainment at home,
give it a try. Use music that speaks to you, or that you know your child
responds to. If this works well for you, or if you have any other musical
stories to share, please bring them to class! We are a community, and we always
love to hear about your music-making experiences.
What are your family's favorite songs?