Become More Musical Through Listening

Have you had an ear for music since you were a child and never been able to play so much as a note? Recent research conducted by the University of Amsterdam shows that the brain can learn about music simply through active exposure to it. It turns out that avid music listeners can develop sensitivity for skills that were thought to belong exclusively to the experts until just recently.

The majority of music scientists have long believed in what is commonly called the ‘Expertise Hypothesis’ – that musical abilities are mainly shaped by intense musical training. According to this theory untrained listeners have rather rough musical abilities. But the recent study conducted by the University of Amsterdam shows that this isn’t the truth of the matter. The University explored what has been dubbed ‘The Expertise Hypothesis’. By comparing the results achieved by both formally trained listeners and listeners lacking formal music training, they found that both groups performed similarly. The only thing both groups had in common was that they both had received sufficient exposure to a particular musical idiom. According to the researchers conducting the experiment, the results demonstrate that all the brain needs to learn about music is simply active exposure to a variety of music styles.

The results of tests were recently made available at the Music & Language conference that is organized by Tufts University in Boston. They are also due to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology titled “Human Performance and Perception”. According to the researchers conducting the test, the results show that not only can untrained listeners develop these so called ‘expert skills’, but that they will generally do better in the tests that relate to their preferred musical genre. This suggests that certain musical capabilities may be gained quite simply through exposure to music. In order to gain the needed information, the study made use of online listening experiments through which the skills of non-musicians and musicians of various ages could be more easily compared. It was one of the first studies to do so. So if you want to become a more educated music lover, it seems all you need to do is sit back, listen, learn and enjoy!