Music and the body

My previous post introduced Music and Multiple Intelligence.

mi music


Movement as a nonverbal response has always been music’s natural partner. The best way to incorporate this is to dance. In addition to the enjoyment factor the wide-ranging benefits of physical exercise on learning are well documented. Dancing is an enjoyable way to move and an enjoyable way to exercise. Engaging in physical activity improves academic achievement, attitude, behaviour, and general health, mood, and sleep quality. Moving creates thinking and generates creative ideas. The cognitive, physical, and well-being effects of exercising to music are greater than when exercising without music.

Music can enhance the outcomes of a physical education class. In gymnasiums exercising to music makes a fundamental difference because listening to fast music increases heartbeat. When an appropriate selection of music accompanies an exercise there is a perception that less physical exertion has occurred. In other words, one might run for five miles, but it feels more like four. According to Australian Olympic sports psychologist Peter Terry, when people exercise to music they use one to two percent less oxygen and can run for eighteen percent longer. It is not clear why this is so, but it is a useful return on the investment. After exercise, slow music hastens recovery. In addition to offering these physical benefits music helps athletes achieve a state of mind conducive to their tasks. Australian swimmer Kieran Perkins attributed music as a key factor when he won the 1,500-metre Olympic gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. Perkins had a disastrous heat and just managed to qualify for the final. When interviewed about his remarkable turnaround Perkins said that for an hour before the race he focused his mind by listening to music. He won the gold medal in a world-record time. South African Olympian Brendon Dedekind uses pre-race music to energize himself but also for relaxation, focus, and privacy; music fast-tracks Dedekind’s emotional state before major sporting events. He says his choice of music is determined by his emotional requirements at the time. More recently US swimming superstar Michael Phelps has revealed his preference for listening to hip-hop to prime himself for big events.

We are increasingly understanding music’s effect on the body. A substantial amount of current medical research involves music and surgery. Post-operative recovery requires lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. In clinical trials, music’s ability to assist in establishing this desired physiology is encouraging.

We can find opportunities to move in the classroom. I include dance when I teach meter and time signatures. For triple meter I play Johann Strauss waltzes on the piano while students dance around the classroom perimeter, having a ball. On one occasion I was teaching Gregorian chant to a year-nine class. In true monk fashion we proceeded around the school with hands clasped, singing “Deo Patri sit Gloria!”

My next post will explore Music and Nature.

 An excerpt from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin

The Music Trust (review)    VMTA (review)

“A must read for all music educators” – Robert Adams, New Haven, USA.

“Super book. I am so impressed!” – Donna Michaels, USA

“Fantastic book, simply brilliant! – Ian Cooper, Norfolk, UK

“Don’t miss this opportunity!” – Mary George, USA

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

“Such a practical book. SO glad I purchased this. – Jocelyn Beath, NZ

“Most stimulating!” – Nicholas Carpenter, Prebendal, UK

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Teacher of Strings, UK.

“Deeply impressive, the breadth of research is fascinating!” – Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

“Awesome! I want to recommend it to every teacher I know” – Michael Williamson, Australia

“I loved it. Extremely helpful and inspiring!” – Cheryl Livingstone, Australia

“The best resource for music educators” – Andrew Heuzenroeder, Australia

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact for direct mail.

front cover final

Also by Michael Griffin


Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 123 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“This is really good for all kinds of vocal groups, choirs, conductors. Bravo!!”

“The thinking person’s guide to training a choir. Love it!”

“It’s great to have some fresh warm-ups to add to the repertory. The tips for actions and techniques are really useful, and the advice at the back of the book has made me review some of my strategies.”

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at


Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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Posted in Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, Physical education
One comment on “Music and the body
  1. Ebony Martin says:

    Thank you, I shall be sharing this with other teachers in my department and school. There’s some great strategies and information here, really helpful for teaching ADHD, ASD, EBD students and understanding how music affects them.

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