When it comes to music, few genres have stood the test of time like classical music. It has enthralled audiences for centuries and pulled millions into its orbit.
But why has it been so consistently popular? What’s so attractive about it?
One answer is that classical music has a reputation – rightly or wrongly – for being “smart.”
And not only that, but it has gained a reputation as being a tool for people to use to make them smarter.
But can it? Or will someone listening to classical music hoping to become a genius ultimately be disappointed?
Let’s delve in and try to answer the question, can classical music make you smarter? A quick warning: doing so might be harder than you’d think!
What Does Smarter Even Mean?
This is an obvious first question to ask. When people listen to classical music, hoping it will make them smarter, what specific kinds of improvements are they looking for?
Here are some possibilities:
- Raised test scores or better academic performance for themselves or their children.
- Greater ability to complete certain tasks by increasing focus, reducing distraction, or decreasing anxiety.
- Higher levels of personal satisfaction from spending time engaging with an art form that tends to reward study and analysis.
- Social cachet and grounds for thinking of themselves as intellectual because they engage with an art form with a “smart” reputation.
Let’s take those goals one by one to see if listening to classical music can address any of them.
The “Mozart Effect”: Is It Real?
The idea that classical music can boost intelligence gained popularity thanks to a phenomenon known as the “Mozart effect.” In the early 1990s, researchers claimed that listening to Mozart’s music temporarily improved spatial reasoning skills.
That finding sparked immense interest, leading parents to expose their children to classical music in the hopes of increasing their test scores or improving their academic performance.
3 Hours Classical Music For Brain Power | Mozart Effect | Stimulation Concentration Studying Focus
Unfortunately, subsequent studies seeking to reproduce those findings have produced mixed results, leaving us with no conclusive evidence to support the “Mozart effect.”
Music’s Profound Impact on the Brain
However, while the correlation between listening to classical music and increasing academic performance is tenuous, it is undeniable that music generally has a profound impact on the human brain.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the cognitive benefits of learning and playing musical instruments.
Classical music is indeed one of the musical genres that can stimulate various areas of the brain, such as memory, attention, and executive function. That’s something to keep in mind!
How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins
Can Classical Music Help You Focus?
One of the most significant cognitive benefits of classical music lies in its ability to enhance concentration and focus.
Intricate melodies and harmonies, like those often found in classical music, practically demand active engagement from listeners. Eventually, this can help train the brain to concentrate for extended periods.
For some people, this heightened focus might even be transferable to other tasks, such as studying or problem-solving.
So if you’re struggling to concentrate on that math problem or writing assignment, turning on some classical tunes could provide the mental boost you need. It’s worth a try, anyway!
Classical Music for Studying & Brain Power
Does Classical Music Reduce Stress and Anxiety?
As everyone knows, stress has a detrimental effect on cognitive performance, impairing memory, attention, and decision-making abilities.
But certain classical compositions can induce a state of relaxation, promoting mental clarity and enabling better cognitive functioning. If your starting state is “stressed out”, then classical music may well help you out!
Classical Music Can Make You Emotionally Smarter
Another question worth considering is whether classical music can promote emotional intelligence.
The expressive power of classical compositions can certainly evoke a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness and introspection.
Theoretically, this exposure to diverse emotional experiences through music might help to increase our emotional intelligence, much like reading a great book or seeing a great painting would.
By immersing ourselves in music, we cultivate a deeper understanding of the human condition, which can positively impact our interactions with others and our overall emotional well-being. If we can achieve that, that’s absolutely a form of growing intelligence!
Classical Music Can Feel Good to Analyze (Or Overanalyze)
Classical music tends to follow rules or conventions that are many generations old, and the ways in which composers follow and subvert those rules and conventions practically beg for analysis (and even overanalysis).
Over the years, this trait of the genre has helped to contribute to its “smart” reputation.
In addition, many pieces of classical music are fifteen, twenty, thirty, sixty minutes long…and sometimes, they last for hours! That’s a lot of interconnected material to absorb and engage with, and there usually aren’t as many breaks in this style of music as, say, in a Taylor Swift album.
Some people feel smarter after delving into a big work of art. So depending on your personality type, you may well feel smarter after diving in and learning more about your favorite classical music.
Indeed, it’s easy to see how critically engaging with classical music, and treating it as a lifelong learning project or outlet for analysis, could help make you smarter.
MEANDERING MUSIC – Satie Gymnopedie no. 1 – Analysis
But Please, Don’t Be Annoying About This
That said, let’s be clear. If you’re engaging with classical music for the sole purpose of becoming smarter… Don’t.
Every classical music lover knows of at least one person who listens just because of its intellectual reputation. All the rest of us find those people shallow and tedious.
Classical music, and the people who make it and listen to it, deserve fans who would love it even if it didn’t have the cultural baggage that it does. We’re already fighting a tough battle against charges of elitism.
The biggest organizations that present classical music performances, like orchestras or opera companies, by necessity have deep pockets and ties with a lot of wealthy and well-educated people. Therefore a lot of people who are hoping to burnish their reputation or appear intelligent to others do try to associate themselves with the genre.
But in the end, if you listen to classical music because you want to be perceived as intellectual or wealthy or powerful, you’re not going to have a truly rewarding experience in this genre.
In the end, you should love classical music for what it is, what it makes you feel, or how it changes your inner self. Not how it makes you look.
A Conclusion With Some Caveats
To sum, it’s important to underline – and then double-underline – and then triple-underline – that classical music is not a magic shortcut to becoming smarter.
Intelligence is a trait that is incredibly difficult to measure or even define, and it is influenced by all kinds of factors, including genetics, education, and environment. Classical music is not a panacea here, and it’s not going to magically raise your SAT scores or cure the anxiety that’s been holding you back.
However, incorporating classical music into our lives definitely has the ability to contribute to our cognitive development and overall well-being, and it can provide rewarding intellectual stimulation. So when using that narrower definition, then yes, it’s safe to say that classical music can make you smarter. And nobody will deny, it’s always smart to seek meaningful artistic experiences in your life.
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