Contributed by Mallory Livingston, Executive Director & Piano Teacher
Have you ever just needed to focus at work and plugged into some of your personal jams to block out the other distracting noises? Or wanted to relax and turned the radio onto your favorite track to just take a moment? Have you ever sat down to unwind with your learned instrument of choice to play something calming to your soul? Or even the opposite, and you just needed to hype up, get your blood flowing, and get excited?
If you have ever felt the need to experience any emotion whatsoever, be it tranquil or exuberant, music can help. But did you know it goes further than just our perception? A 2001 study at the University of Leicester found that when cows listened to calming music, their milk productivity went up by as much as 3%! Research showed that apparently when the cows listened to slower music at less than 100 bpm (beats per minute) they hit some relaxing sweet spot that upped their physical productivity on the farm.
While these finding seem wonderful for slower tunes, another study found that faster songs and different genres yielded the same result, that while simply listening to music, productivity grew in the bovine. But, according to Frannie Miller, a Texan milk farmer with a herd of 150 Jerseys, “our cows will tolerate some country and western, but they do not like Willie Nelson.” Suggesting that even a cow has musical preferences.
The point? By simply listening to music, they were able to be less distracted by the machinery, calmed them down to “moo” in a relaxing state, and biologically were more capable of performing organic tasks.
So what do cows have to do with anything in “real life?”
If such drastic results happen to cows when they simply listen to some slower tunes, think of the radical difference that could make with the general population. We already experience this at the grocery store and waiting in the elevator, but what of the rest of our life experience outside of lessons and the practice room? Simply listening to music can have an array of effects on the human body including (but not limited to); easing pain, improving workout performance and motivation, improve sleep quality, affect eating quantities, reduce stress, improve blood vessel functions, improve cognitive performance, and much more! All from simply listening. According to Dr Mercola in The Health benefits of Listening to Music, “When you listen to music, much more is happening in your body than simple auditory processing. Music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations.”
Further research has positively shown that music practice has many physical and psychological benefits, ranging from memory, coordination, mathematics, verbal competence, language, creativity, emotional development, the list goes on. So why do we not plug in, or practice, during more times of the day? It seems inadmissible to be wasting quality “free” time not listening to, or practice music.
So next time you have a moment, fill that with some Mozart, Selena Gomez, Frozen, Piano, Clarinet, Flute, or Banjo (just consider excluding Willie Nelson as a sign from the cows). Whether listening or playing, you will be rewarded.