“Rock Study”

An investigation into music effects on memorization and study skills

The DJ Music Memory Makers:
By Amanda Checco, Hannah Farrin, Owen Burke, Cameron Vail

Natural Systems 1 Fall, 2002 -Interdisciplinary Studies-Miami University


We did this study to see how different genres of music (specifically instrumental jazz, pop, folk and rap) effect memorization and study skills in visual, reading/writing and mathematics tests. Background information and our previous experience with music gave us the following hypothesis Subjects tested with no music will absorb material quicker and will be able to recite it more effectively than those who are subjected to music.The general success of each genre (in all tests) will be in order from most successful to least successful: Silence, Jazz, Folk, Pop, Rap. We also hypothesized that Subjects listening to music with distinct words and/or story lines will be inhibited in the absorption of reading and writing material, whereas music with no words (Jazz) will not limit their studying in these categories. In order to further investigate outside conditions that might effect a test we analyzed responses through subject surveys.

Our subject population was too small for us to make definitive statements about the impact of specific genres of music in our tests. Individual variations in the results significantly altered our data, thus creating what might be inaccurate comparisons between tests.
The data we have collected, however, hints at correlations that might be sound in tests that would be performed by larger groups.

When analyzing the separate tests, corresponding p-values hinted at an insignificant difference between genres of music and memorization

However, when all tests were analyzed together, there were clear differences between performances of tests subjects under different genres of music. The most prominent was the success of the Jazz genre of music, this verifying our previous hypothesis.

In college, time management is stressed as one of the most important things to establish as a first year in order to become successful in college. However, more importantly, it is specifically how one studies, not when, that affects the absorption of materials for success in the classroom as well as establish a positive or negative correlation in Grade Point Average.

Most students are subjected to multifarious genres of music in their residence halls all hours of the day, weather they like it or not. Some even choose to listen to music while they study because they claim it allows them to focus on the task. With this study we plan to accomplish a better perspective on how well the human mind functions under stimuli, in this case, music. How do different genres of music (specifically instrumental jazz, pop, folk and rap) effect memorization and study skills in the categories of visual art, reading/writing and mathematics on the Western Campus?

We plan to accomplish a study that will be informative, as objective as possible and be of use to future researchers, and students on the Western Campus. We are a generation that identifies and has become inseparable to music we claim. We find that the most important element of our research is that is extremity pertinent to the environment in which we live now. Music spans so many diverse categories, that any person can turn to multi genres of music for inspiration assertion of different characteristics and qualities within themselves. Music is also a tool for self-expression, which we all desperately seek in foreign settings like college. We want to excite people with our research, and get them motivated to find out what our results hold for them and their particular study habits with music. We want to span our project across different subject areas and music genres in order to really hone in on the interdisciplinary aspects of or studies here on the Western Campus. Our passion for this knowledge motivates and excites us. An actual research study brings us past our speculation and hopefully gives us valid answers. We hope to we be able to share our research findings with fellow students so they too will know if the punk rock they identify themselves with inhibits them from getting the "A" they strive for in their Natural Systems courses.
Materials and Methods

We will select songs from the instrumental jazz, pop, folk and rap genres. Each of these music genres has specifically different qualities that will help us differentiate why they achieve the results they do. For example we are using instrumental jazz because it has no words, pop because of its repetitiveness and rap and folk because of their intricate melodies and storytelling component. In order to get a song that is most typical of its genre we will refer to a widely used music database online called "Kazaa". This will assure that the songs we choose are generally regarded by the public as typical of their categories. The music will be played for one minute on a portable CD player and earphones at a medium sound level. We will record each subject's score from 1-10 on a data sheet and compile all visual art, mathematics and reading/writing averages on another data sheet.

The songs we have chosen for each musical genre are as follows:

Jazz: So What Miles Davis Album: Kind of Blue
Folk: Brief Bus Stop Ani Difranco Album: Not so Soft
Pop: Pop N’SYNC Album: Celebrity
Rap: Break yo neck Busta Rhymes

Musical qualities- key in interpreting results

Jazz- Slow tempo, instrumental (no words), inconsistent melody line
Rap- Fast tempo, fast spoken words, no story line, consistent beat and “melody line”
Pop- Medium/fast tempo, spoken and sung word, consistent melody line
Folk- Slow tempo (similar to Jazz). Melodic storyline.symplistic melody with voice

The similarities and differences in each song provide us with the specific elements that might make our subjects more or less successful in each test. We incorporate songs with these specific musical qualities in order to make substantial conclusions about what qualities of each music selection effected our subjects.

Time Line of research execution:

1. Week 1 - Each member of our group will find 10 willing participants to test over a period of one week. We will schedule them for the same time everyday for the week chosen. One person is allowed to take tests in more than one subject area.

2. Week 2- we carry out our tests for 10 subjects in each the visual arts, mathematics and reading/writing

3. Week 3- Compile all results

4. Week 4- Run similar experiments and have discussion with NS class to get more subjects participants and their thoughts on the subjects, suggestions for analyzing our results

5. Week 5- Investigate correlations and make links between subject results, class discussion and readings

6. Week 6- Draw conclusions/write up report

Class Involvement

Our main objective in discussion our experiment with the class is to get test subjects who not only go through the process of the tests, but also are able to give us feedback on why exactly they believe they respond as a group in different ways to different music genres. First we will discuss our research project and explain our processes and what we hope to gain from running the type of experiment. We will also provide relevant background information from literary recourses that we have complied to help them get a better understanding of our study in relationship with others that have been performed in the past. To further involve the class in our study, we plan to run a simulation of group tests similar to our individual tests. We will present our music selections to the class as a group. They will listen to the music and take the three tests consecutively. Then the class will fill out our survey. Afterwards we will request some specific feedback and criticism, and hopefully prompt a lively discussion. We also will discuss why music is so important to our generation, and we will make connections with our generations responsiveness to multifarious genres of music as a result of this.

Research Design
Our subjects (human recourses) will be 30 students from the Western Campus from any grade level. We will test 10 in a visual arts category, 10 in a reading category, and 10 in a mathematics category. Each of the 10 people in these three groups will be tested over a period of one week (5 days) with a specific jazz, pop, folk and rap song. Each meeting time will be at the same hour, at the convenience of the test subject. In order to create a control grofile://localhost/Volumes/afternoon/music/images/folkup, each test subject will also take a test without music, thus creating a control group. The tests for each category will go as follows:

Visual Arts
Subjects will be shown a basic 5 x 3.5 picture with specific details (see thumbnails below) they will study this picture for one minute with the first song. After one minute they will be asked to re-create the picture they saw, including as many details as possible. According to how many details they replicate, they will be given a score from 1-10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best). Each night they will be given a new image to study with the next music selection. On the 5th night they will study a picture with no music, so we can compare their music genre results to results with no music. These results will be compiled into a Control group, which includes all 75-test subjects. The subjects averages for all 5 nights will be compiled and marked on their survey form

Visual Arts Tests

Subjects will study a list of 20 random to each music genre. After one minute of studying, they will be asked to write down the list. According to how many words they can remember we will give them a score from 1-10. Each night they will study a different list to a different song. On the Fifth night they will study with no music, these results will be compiled into the control group for all 30 subjects.

Word Lists for Reading/Writing tests



Subjects will be given a sheet of 50 simple math equations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division: see sample test below) to solve in one minute while listening to each specific music genre. According to how many problems they are able to solve in the allotted time we will rate them on a scale of 1-10. Each night they will be given a different set of 50 problems to solve while listening to each different music genre. On the fifth night they, too, will solve problems to no music.

Note About Control Groups:
In order to create a control group (people who study with no music) we have decided to test all 30 subjects in all 3 groups with no music (on the 5th and last night of their tests). This way we can see how individual subjects study while not listening to music. We will compile their 5th night results separately (to create the group) from the rest of their tests.

Subject survey Subject tested in: Visual Arts Mathematics Reading/Writing

Subject's Results: Jazz: Folk: Rap: Pop: No Music:

1. In general, how many hours a week do you spend on work homework (any work outside class time: Reading/writing/exam study etc) ?

- 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 +

2. When you study you are using mostly:

Visual Arts Skills Reading/writing skills Mathematic Skills

3. At what time of day is it most productive for you to do your studying?

Early Morning (7am-10am) Mid-Morning (10am-12am) Afternoon (12am-5pm)

Evening (5pm-8pm) Night (8pm-2am)

4. What particular music genre do you prefer listening for enjoyment in your spare time?

Rap Pop Jazz Folk Silence

5. What music (if any) do you listen to while studying?

Rap Pop Jazz Classical Rock Techno Folk R&B

Country Heavy Metal Indie Reggae Other __________

6. What qualities of this music do you find are appropriate for when you study?

A distinct beat Words/storyline No Words Emotion Content

No conflicting noises intricate melodies other:_____________

7. Out of the four music selections you were tested on, which came the closest to the music you listen to in your spare time, and the music you listen to while studying?

Jazz Rap Folk Pop

8. What is your GPA? (If you feel comfortable sharing.)


9. Which of the following classes do you excel in the most:

Visually based classes mathematic/ logic based classes

Reading/Writing classes

10. You are a visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner?

Visual Kinesthetic Auditory

11 In general, how would you gauge your mood in the duration of these tests

1 2 3 4 5
Very positive/Enthusiastic Positive Neural Negative Very Negative/Stressed

After the test subject has taken all 5 tests in their subject area with each music genre we will interview them on the process, and get feedback on which music they believed kept them focused and allowed them to study better/faster. We will interview them about their study habits: what kind of learner they are (visual, kinesthetic, and auditory) how many hours a week they spend studying, and their GPA. This survey is not meant to prove any direct effect of music on GPA or study habits, but rather, a correlation to provide evidence to what we discover through our tests. We will not use this information for
Factual details, but rather discuss what we find in this section of our results.


Visual test results

The participants did the absolute best when listening to no music (control). Their results for Jazz did incredibly low in comparison to the control and pop. Folk and rap fell in between. The overall p-value is 0.0627. Just like with the literary test results these results are also higher than 0.05 and therefore insignificant, but very close to being significant.

Mathematic test results

The participants answered more problems correctly when listening to the genre pop. Interestingly the participants did second best when listening to no music (control) at all, and the worst when listening to rap. Rap was the closest genre to pop. The problem with these results, however, is that the overall p-value, 0.9212, shows that the date is insignificant. In order to be significant the p-value must be 0.05 or less.

Literary test results

The participants listening to no music all did the best. When listening to pop and rap, the participants did considerably worse. When listening to jazz and folk the participants did almost equally well. The p-value, 0.0618, is higher than 0.05 and therefore insignificant; however, it is incredibly close.

Interaction Bar charts

This graph shows how the participants did on all the tests with all the music genres. It is interesting to see that jazz and folk received similar results in all of the tests across the board. The pop, rap, and control fluctuated from test to test.
The p-value proved to be significant this time. The p-value is 0.0007, which is considerably below the 0.05.

This graph is saying with the three tests (literary, math, and visual) combined the control (silence) did the best overall. The mean scores was 68% and higher that any of the other genres. Pop came in next with a mean score of 60%. The pop had a wide span of scores from a little over 40% to almost 80%. Pop had the widest range of answers. The p-value for the % scores combined is 0.1138, however. This is over 0.05 and therefore means our results are not significant and we accept the Null Hypothesis.
Discussion & Conclusions

Our subject population was too small for us to make definitive statements about the impact of specific genres of music in our tests. Individual variations in the results significantly altered our data, thus creating what might be inaccurate comparisons between tests.
The data we have collected, however, hints at correlations that might be sound in tests that would be performed by larger groups.

When analyzing the separate tests, corresponding p-values hinted at an insignificant difference between genres of music and memorization

However, when all tests were analyzed together, there were clear differences between performances of tests subjects under different genres of music
When researching the different music genres, it was made pretty clear that music with no sound is better to study to than music with words. The most helpful music is thought to be classical but we wanted to see if maybe other music would have the same effect. Based on our research the most consistent types of music, in terms of helping to study and memorize, were jazz and folk. In looking at the graphs you can see that Jazz and Folk stayed at the same mean. We did, however, expect this. Our hypothesis was that the music with little or no words was going to be the easiest to study to. In our research prior to doing the project we became aware of the fact that music that is instrumental relaxes the mind and as well stimulates it. The other types of music that we studied, rap and pop, was as little extreme in the fact that they are not exactly the most favored music in the subjects that we tested. On the surveys taken post testing, many of the subjects were clear in their opinion about not enjoying the rap and pop because the fast beat and distracting words. That definitely had a lot to do with the results that we got.
It would be interesting to test an array of genres and more subjects so that we could have gotten some “significant” data. Also if time permitted we could have tried to be a little keener and specific as to exactly what types of music is really listened to among the students while studying, if any at all. Our research fits in a little with the Attractive group because it actually pertains to the student’s needs and desires. The research focuses on helping students understand what other students do to help themselves.
For further investigation it would be wise to use a whole lot more people. It would be real difficult, but it could be done. As well it would be good to figure out what the general population of western, or whatever the subjects may be, actually listens to and then use that music to find if students are really helping themselves study with their own music, or if they are just setting themselves up for distraction. Wouldn’t you want to know if you were studying to the wrong music?

Background Information/ Bibliography/ Literature Cited
Library/Journal References and Explanations

1) Renwick, Lucille. (2002). Learning With Jazz. Scholastic Instructor. January/February.

This article reveals how schools in New York have used Jazz in to motivate their students to learn. They have experimented with intertwining jazz and elementary schooling to produce higher test score and aptitudes. Their results show that students become more confident, their interest in the subject increases, and their level of achievement improves while studying to jazz music. We will use this as a basis to explain the results we get for subjects being tested with jazz. We hypothesize it will prove to be prominent in its ability to help test subjects focus on the tests in their subject area.

2) Lehr, Majorie R. (1998). Music Education: The Brain Building Subject. Teaching Music, December, Vol. 6 Issue 3, p42

This articles focuses on brain development under the influence of music. Studies have been executed to prove that learning an instrument an its musical notation /score increases brain development by establishing more neural pathways in the brain. The increased number of neural pathways in the brain, results in higher functioning in various subjects. We are using this article to get a better understanding of the physical motions the brain goes through while being subjected to certain types of music.

3) Peynircioglu, Zehra F. et al. (2002). Phonological Awareness and Musical Aptitude. Journal of Research in Reading, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 68-80.

This article analyzes experiments in which children from Turkey and the United States were tested with similar music, and then observed while taking tests (very similar to ours) in visual, verbal and mathematical categories appropriate to their age group. The results showed that children from Turkey responded poorly to the music because it was unfamiliar and strange to them. We are interested to see how music preference and familiarity might play a role in results for each person listening to the different music genres.

4) Eugenia, Costa-Giomi, et al. (1999). Straight Talk About Music and Research. Teaching Music. December, Vol. 7, Issue 3, p29.

This article discusses the connection between music and the cognitive development of children. It focuses on the relationship between the brain and music. We would like to hone in on properties of the brain that function the best under the music to better understand our results.

5) Edwards, Eleanor M. (1974). Music Education for the Deaf. The Merriam-Eddy Company. South Waterford, Maine.

This book is focuses on different methods of teaching deaf children how to play musical instruments. One method focused on was Deaf students picking up on music through the format of repetitive vibrations that travel through their body. We would like to investigate the possibility that more percussive, rhythmic music with a deep bass line (like rap) may stimulate the body and brain to produce high levels of material absorption.

6) Coyne, Nancy M. et al. (2000). The Effects of Systematic Implementation of Music on Behavior and Performance of the Special Needs Student. December 2000.

A section of this article described human ear and brain functions. The section discusses how the automatic nervous system regulates one’s vital signs and electrical activity of muscle, which measures one’s arousal level and determines one’s physical readiness for various activities. With this technical physical information we will be able to explain why a subject responds to a certain genre of music better than another, and to music as opposed to silence

7) Kagan, Susan C. (2001). The Effects of Music on Students Engaged in Reader Response Strategies. May 2001.

This piece offered multiple perspectives on the effects of background music on people in educational settings. Strong points are made about noise causing subjects to be distracted, limited, and even inhibited in concentration and performance. As a result, the readers attention is diverted from the test and comprehension. (Kagan). The article also discusses the inconsistencies of its studies. The studies discussed in the article are so similar to our study that we will be able to refer to the material as a foundation for our own experiments.

8) Yoon, Jenny Nam. (2000). Music in the Classroom: Its Influence on ChildrenÕs Brain Development, Academic Performance, and Practical Life Skills.

This article discusses how certain music slows down and equalizes brain waves. Brain waves can be modified by both music and self-generated sounds. Intense music that a subject dislikes may cause causes high amounts of stress on him or her, which may limit their abilities in the task they are engaged in. We will tie this information in with our surveying of each subject. We would like to find a correlation that music that subjects disliked inhibited their study skills by causing brain distress as discussed above.

9) The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Second Edition. (2001). Macmillan Publishers. Volume 9. Pages 65 and 68.

This encyclopedia discusses folk music and its varying definitions over time. It is very important that we define each genre of music according to the current time and place and remain constant with general public opinion of what each genre of music is. As discussed in the article, folk music spans in different cultures from rock to punk to alternative. We want to make sure that the folk we are using are clearly defined and relevant to society today.

10) Campbell, Don. (2000). The Mozart Effect for Children: Awakening Your Child’s Mind, Health, and Creativity with Music.

This article discusses the use of classical music enhancing academic skills of various types (Campbell). Our study investigates how music enhances or inhibits reading, math, and visual memory skills. However, we have decided to leave classical music out of our study, because so many experiments have already investigated its effects. Instead we choose to test its cousin, instrumental jazz. We hope to find similar correlations in the facts shown in the classical experiments with our subjects test results while listening to Jazz.

11) Kemp, Anthony E. (1992). Some Approaches to Research in Music Education. ISME Edition Number Five. International Society for Music Education.

This book offers some advice on how to go about researching and observing subjects while conducting a music study. We found it helpful because none of us have ever conducted a music study before.

Website References


This article discusses the different factors that effect students while studying. We need to understand and assess our subjects under these factors while constructing and executing our music study.


This article discusses memory and how subject matter is retained and regurgitated. Our study is predominantly based on how well subjects are able to understand, memorize, retain and regurgitate information. It is key in our experiment to understand the foundation of how brain function and memory works, and how subjects memories respond under the influence of music.


This article discusses how different volumes of noise effects memory. This article helped us on deciding what volume to play the music on in our own study.


This study focuses on music and its affects memory recognition. We are using this article as a reference and example as we execute experiments that are very similar.


This web page gives background information on how certain sounds stimulate and relax the brain, making people more at-ease with themselves and their surroundings. It describes how a relaxed person is more attentive, and therefore more open to information presented to him or her (which, the article goes into, enables people form relationships with others more easily than without a source of relaxing music). Two of the genres we have chosen, jazz and folk, we predict will have relaxing effects on the individuals. We are interested to see if these genres produce higher scores from our subjects because of their relaxing effects. We also will ask subjects what their general mood is while taking the test to see if there is an explainable correlation in our data between mood and learning ability.