Scientists Call Music “The Social Glue that Bonds People”

Kindermusik for Schools

It seems as if we all march to the same beat even if we play different drums. According to new research, music from around the world tend to share common features, including a synchrony on the drums in Kindermusik classstrong rhythm that enable coordination in social settings and encourage group bonding.

The research team from the University of Exeter analyzed the recordings of 304 stylistically diverse musical compositions from around the world. Their research found dozens of common characteristics across various world regions, including features related to pitch and rhythm and social context and interrelationships between musical features. For example, the team found rhythms based on two or three beats present in music from all regions: North America, Central and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Why We Make Music

Thomas Currie from the University of Exeter gave insight into the team’s research: “Our findings help explain why humans make music. The results show that the most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions, and suggest that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups — it can be a kind of social glue.”

Music as social glue works for parents and young children, too, as one of the researchers discovered (and as those of us involved in Kindermusik already know): “My daughter and I were singing and drumming and dancing together for months before she even said her first words. Music is not a universal language… music lets us connect without language,” explained Pat Savage, a PhD student from the Tokyo University of the Arts.

Village baby with new logoWant to connect your family with others who share a love of music? Find a local Kindermusik class.

What Your Musical Tastes Might Say About Your Personality

I must confess. Back in the days of CDs, I would always ask to browse the collections of CDcollectionnew friends. Okay…I wouldn’t always ask. Sometimes, I would stealthily investigate their musical offerings. The insights gained by glimpsing the soundtracks to their daily lives and memories offered a pathway to understanding them akin to reading their diaries. Of course, it would be socially awkward to ask to read a copy of a person’s diary, unless “of a Wimpy Kid” followed “Diary.” Right?

I am fairly certain I am not alone in my confession. You probably did (and do!) the same thing! I know I often busted my friends digging through my music with their eyes on more than one occasion. Well, it turns out we were all on to something. A new research study indicates that the “field research” we conduct by looking at a person’s musical collections really does offer insight into their personality.

Are You a “Systemizer” or an “Empathizer”?

A new research study conducted by a team of psychologists categorized people’s thinking styles into two categories:

Empathizer: A person who likes to focus on and respond to the emotions of others.

Systemizer: A person who likes to analyze rules and patterns in the world.

Depending on which category of ‘cognitive style’ a person scored highest in during the testing accurately predicted musical choices. The research team conducted multiple personality studies with over 4,000 participants and used musical selections from 26 genres and subgenres.

“Although people’s music choices fluctuates over time, we’ve discovered a person’s empathy levels and thinking style predicts what kind of music they like,” said David Greenberg, one of the researchers. “In fact, their cognitive style – whether they’re strong on empathy or strong on systems – can be a better predictor of what music they like than their personality.”

The Results Are In

The Empathizers: Participants who scored high on empathy tended to prefer mellow music (from R&B, soft rock, and adult contemporary genres), unpretentious music (from country, folk, and singer/songwriter genres) and contemporary music (from electronica, Latin, acid jazz, and Euro pop). This group tended not to like intense music, like punk and heavy metal but instead likes music with “low energy,” sad emotions, or emotional depth.

The Systemizers: Participants who scored high on systemizing preferred intense music, but disliked mellow and unpretentious musical styles. Systemizers prefer music with “high energy” (strong, tense), positive emotions, and music that features a high degree of cerebral depth and complexity.


The results proved consistent even within specified genres: empathizers preferred mellow, unpretentious jazz, while systemizers preferred intense, sophisticated (complex and avant-garde) jazz.

“This line of research highlights how music is a mirror of the self,” said Dr. Jason Rentfrow, the senior author on the study. “Music is an expression of who we are emotionally, socially, and cognitively.”

What do you think musical tastes reveal about personality? Join the conversation on the Kindermusik Facebook page.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia, who no longer looks at people’s CD collections. Instead, she follows people on Spotify.

50 Reasons Why Music Gives Kids a Lifetime of Opportunity

50 years of Head Start LogoThis month Head Start celebrates 50 years of life change and we love being able to celebrate this milestone with them at NHSA’s Annual Head Start Conference and Expo. However, it also got us thinking about how music also supports life change in children and families. In fact, we know from experience—and by hearing from the Head Start and Early Head Start programs that use the Kindermusik curricula—that music gets kids ready for learning! So, we put together a list of 50 reasons why music gives kids a lifetime of opportunity.

But first, see how music is changing the lives of these kids and MS421:

50 Reasons Why Music Gives Kids a Lifetime of Opportunity

  1. Music improves phonological awareness.
  2. Music can effectively teach children self-regulation, which research indicates can be a key factor in early school success.
  3. Moving to music helps children become aware of the space around them and strengthens spatial awareness.
  4. Patterns in music help children recognize patterns in math.
  5. Music refines auditory discrimination.
  6. Rhymes and fingerplays give practice with ordering, which is an early math skill.
  7. Musicians have better memories when compared to their peers.
  8. Actively participating in music classes gives young children an opportunity to learn how to share, take turns, and cooperate.
  9. Fingerplays and playing instruments supports fine motor skills development.
  10. Children love music and learning through music teaches them to love learning!
  11. Rhythm skills or lack thereof could predict reading disabilities leading to early intervention.
  12. Music increases auditory sequencing ability.
  13. Music heightens oral language development.
  14. Music enriches vocabulary development.
  15. Steady beat skills give children the ability to read fluidly.
  16. For babies, moving to music in a caregiver’s arms develops babies’ vestibular system, which is responsible for helping the brain understand gravity, gain balance, and develop spatial awareness.
  17. Music enhances speaking skills.
  18. Dancing and moving to music supports cross-lateral movement, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, and eye-tracking—foundational skills for reading.
  19. Participating in music classes supports social and emotional development.
  20. Listening to soothing music can help teach young children to learn how to relax.
  21. Pairing a word with a movement increases children’s understanding of the concept even before they can speak.
  22. Musical activities stimulate development in every area of the brain: vision, Brain on musicbalance, speech, behavior, sensation, skill, movement, and emotion.
  23. Learning to play a musical instrument or sing can help disadvantaged children strengthen their reading and language skills by improving the way their nervous systems process sounds.
  24. Musical ensemble experiences help children to listen closely and work together as they play-along and sing-along together as a group.
  25. Circle dances create a sense of community, belonging, and self-esteem.
  26. Early experiences with music spark the brain connections and neural networks that shape the brain and impact how it will function later in life.
  27. Music encourages children to move and movement stimulates the release of chemicals in a child’s brain that support memory and learning.
  28. Music provides an outlet for self-expression.
  29. Music teaches children sequencing.
  30. Through music, children gain practice recognizing the connections between sounds and symbols.
  31. Singing songs and speaking chants and nursery rhymes improves language development.
  32. Pairing a word with a movement helps young children better understand the concept.
  33. Music and movement provides many opportunities for fine- and gross-motor skills development.
  34. Music helps children gain active listening skills.
  35. Children with early musical training experience advanced executive function skills during cognitive testing.
  36. Research shows that the areas of the brain that process music and language are shared.
  37. It’s fun!
  38. Actively participating in a music class impacts all seven areas of social-emotional development, including confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, capacity to communicate, and cooperativeness.
  39. Research shows that when children engage in learning through movement that it helps them be more focused and it improves their reading, writing, and fine motor skills.
  40. Music makes classroom routines and transitions easier for children of all abilities.
  41. Researchers from Michigan State University found that 93 percent of STEM KindermusikClass_RhythmSticks_TeachChildrenImportantSkillsgraduates reported musical training as a child compared to only 34 percent of the average adult.
  42. Participation in the arts, including music classes, encourages “out-of-the-box” thinking.
  43. Music helps kids use their imagination.
  44. Learning to read musical notation uses a similar set of cognitive skills and pattern recognition to those found in reading.
  45. Music teaches children how to relax and supports a good night’s sleep.
  46. Music- and rhyme-based play encourages children to practice perception, production, word recognition, and memory for words, and phonemes—all key foundations for phonological awareness.
  47. Different genres of music teach children about the world around them.
  48. The benefits of musical training as children protects the brain in later years, specifically in the ability to parse, sequence, and identify sounds.
  49. Children with better musical skills, such as the ability to tap to a steady beat or repeat rhythm patters, also perform better on grammar tests when compared to peers.
  50. Learning to play a musical instrument or to sing can help disadvantaged children strengthen their reading and language skills by improving the way their nervous systems process sounds.

Want to learn more about the benefits of music and the research behind these 50 reasons? Visit

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell a freelance writer in the Atlanta area. She could give 500 more reasons why music gives children a lifetime of opportunity.

Favorite Minds on Music Blog Posts from 2014

0_why_music_round_greenAt the beginning of January, we often reflect on the passing of another year. For parents, that might mean celebrating all of those “firsts” that happened last year like a baby’s first steps, a little one’s first time sleeping through the night, or maybe that first tooth (or first lost tooth!). In the life of a young child, so many firsts happen in one year! For early childhood teachers, it might mean celebrating how much your students have grown in confidence and abilities.

For us at Kindermusik, we also like to look back at all of the amazing new music research published in the last 12 months that helps answer the question, “Why Music?” After all, we recognize how music really does give children a good beginning that never ends. We invite you to travel with us down Abbey Road Memory Lane as we highlight 11 of our favorite blog posts from 2014, including new research about the power of music.

11 Blog Posts from 2014 about the Benefits of Music Education

Kindermusik Classes - Enroll Now - For a Child's Brain, Body, Heart & SoulWant to see these blog posts in action? Contact your local Kindermusik educator at and come visit a class.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell. A freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.

Extraordinary benefit of music on the cognitive development of children

Music class drumTake a peek inside any Kindermusik classroom around the world and you will see much of the same thing. We sing. We dance. We play instruments. We listen to music. We move our bodies in response to music. We create music.
In all of our musical activities for kids, we engage children and families in learning both in the early childhood classroom and in the daily routines and rituals of family life. While this peek represents an ordinary (and fun!) day in a Kindermusik classroom, the benefits of music on the cognitive development of children is so much more than ordinary. For a young child’s brain development, the benefits of music are actually extra-ordinary.

A peek at the cognitive development of children who participate in music classes

While any parent can contact a local Kindermusik educator and take a free peek at a class, we need the help of scientists to look inside a child’s brain. Researchers from Boston’s Children’s Hospital recently took a closer look at what happens when children participate in music classes. The team studied 30 adults between the ages of 18 and 35 (15 working musicians and 15 non-musicians), and 27 children between the ages of 9 and 12 (over half of whom had at least two years of musical training).
As published in the online journal PLOSONE, they discovered that children with early musical training experience advanced executive function skills during cognitive testing. So, in other words, the benefits of music enables a child’s brain to more quickly process and retain information, regulate behaviors, make good choices, solve problems, plan, and adjust to changing mental demands. Sounds pretty extraordinary to us!
“Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,” explained study senior investigator Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s in a press release. “While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future.”

A child’s brain on Kindermusik

Brain on musicIncorporating music and movement into a child’s learning routine stimulates all areas of the brain and that is why music is the best vehicle of learning for early childhood education. Independent research studies show that Kindermusik—specifically—impacts the cognitive development of children. Children participating in our music classes show a 32 percent literacy gain and show marked improvement in inhibitory control.
So, whether you are looking to enroll your child in a Kindermusik class, bring Kindermusik to your childcare center or Head Start program, or even to your language school, the cognitive benefits of music will be evident.

For more information about bringing the benefits of music to your school or to find a local Kindermusik educator, visit the Class Locator.

Musical learning on the brain


We have music on the brain—all sorts of music. All. The. Time. We love to share music and musical learning with children and families in studios, schools, childcare centers, and more. Introducing children to a wide variety of musical genres gives them a greater understanding of what is possible through music. Today, thanks to a new study from Johns Hopkins University, we have jazz music on the brain. Here’s why.

What jazz teaches us about language development

Led by Charles Limb, M.D., the study tracked the brain activity of jazz musicians in the process of “trading fours.” Trading fours is a musical term that refers to jazz improvisation when solo instrumentalists take turns playing four measures each. The musicians respond to each other by repeating, elaborating, and altering what another musician plays.

During the study, 11 skilled jazz musicians participated. Limb and his team found that improvisation activated areas of the brain linked to syntactic processing. However, the musical exchange deactivated brain structures involved in semantic processing. In language development, semantic processing happens when the brain encodes the meaning of a word and relates it to similar words with similar meaning. Syntactic processing happens when the brain computes certain aspects of meaning from the underlying structure and not simply from the linear string of words.

“Until now, studies of how the brain processes auditory communication between two individuals have been done only in the context of spoken

language,” explained Limb in a press release. “When two jazz musicians seem lost in thought while trading fours, they aren’t simply waiting for their turn to play," Limb said. "Instead, they are using the syntactic areas of their brain to process what they are hearing so they can respond by playing a new series of notes that hasn’t previously been composed or practiced."

“We’ve shown in this study that there is a fundamental difference between how meaning is processed by the brain for music and language. Specifically, it’s syntactic and not semantic processing that is key to this type of musical communication. Meanwhile, conventional notions of semantics may not apply to musical processing by the brain,” he concluded.

5 ideas for using jazz improvisation with children at home and in the classroom

Idea #1: Go on a virtual field trip by attending a jazz concert. Try listening to one of the world’s best jazz pianists, Keith Jarrett. He improvised this entire performance.

Idea #2: Get out your own instruments or use your voices to improvise a family or classroom concert. Try your own version of “trading fours” by taking turns.

Idea #3: Learn more about the origins of jazz and play some jazz music online at PBSKids.

Idea #4: Explore various types of jazz music on Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes radio. Try jazz musicians such as Esperanza Spalding, Miles Davis, Preservation Hall Jazz Band or even one of the jazz genre stations.

Idea #5: While listening to jazz, move expressively around the room together. Movement is another way to experience the value of improvisation and emotional expression, while also gaining an appreciation of jazz music.

Interested in learning how other genres of music unlock a child’s potential, including early language development? Come visit a Kindermusik Class today.