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Using Music to Solidify Learning

October 30, 2013
Creative Training and Teaching Techniques
Using Music to Solidify Learning

Why is it so easy to remember the words to our favorite songs even years after listening to them?  Marc Ratcliffe, an Australian licensee of The Bob Pike Group, answered the question by explaining that brains are wired for rhythm, which is why music can be used as a vital tool in learning. During his breakout session titled “Creating a Soundtrack for Learning" at the 20th Annual Creative Training Techniques Conference, Marc detailed three applications and strategies for using music.


Background Music

Imagine you had a stressful day at work. After coming home, you put on a favorite song or an upbeat tune. Suddenly the stress of the day starts to melt away because music has the ability to stabilize physical and emotional rhythms.

Training participants often come into training sessions with an assortment of lingering stressors inhibiting their learning capabilities. By playing music as participants enter the room, a trainer can work to alleviate their tension and create a relaxed learning atmosphere.  

However, music is only useful in small doses. It is best to limit the use of background music to introductions and exits, breaks, games and group discussions.



Music simply catches our ears, making it useful for transitioning from one thing to the next. When music suddenly stops, listeners will often do the same. By softly playing music during group discussion time, trainers will be able to pull their participants from discussions and quickly redirect the focus back on them with a press of a stop button.

The technique can also be used in the same fashion to regain the attention of participants after a break. As participants leave for a break, start the music. The music will encourage the participants to relax after an extended period of learning. It will help them recharge for the additional learning and reinforce the comfortable learning atmosphere created within the session. When the trainer wants to recapture the attention of participants, all she needs to do is stop the music.


Song Parodies

Every participant is familiar with a multitude of song rhythms. This creates an opportunity for linking content to a popular song, which is already etched into participants’ brains. For this activity, divide participants into groups of five. Then instruct them to create a parody of a song that revisits the content they learned during a training session.  

For most popular music, a trainer needs to attain permissions from artists or the music licensing agencies (BMI, SESAC and ASCAP are the big three) to use most music during training sessions, but don’t let this obstacle deter you from reaping music’s benefits. With the purchase of royalty free music, a trainer can play songs without having to worry about copyright infringement.

Though there is plenty of royalty free music available online, it is important that a trainer finds the right mix. First of all, the music collection should not have any lyrics as they tend to take the learner’s attention away from the lesson. It is also important to have a variance in the pace of songs. Introduction and exit music is most effective when it is medium-paced, 90 to 110 beats per minute. Music played after breaks or during games is better if it is fast-paced, exceeding 110 beats per minute, because it builds a sense of excitement and stimulates motion, while slow music and its calming effect, is better suited for discussion and reflection.

To find a royalty free collection of music specifically designed for trainers check out our online store here.

by Jordan Meyers