ASMTA Conference: Enhance your Teaching: Learn the Secrets of the Brain


Somehow this post got “lost” in my draft folder. But it’s never too late to share some notes from a presentation right? I hope you are able to get something from it as it’s been awhile since I attended this presentation last June. When it comes to the brain and music, there is always some interesting things we can learn… enjoy!

Presenter: Robyn Meahl

Why Science?

Offers a new lens to examine your teaching, reaffirms currently teaching process

Offers new teaching practices,methods backed with evidence.


What happens in the brain when we learn?

Brain myths- static, unchanging, use only 10% of brain, male and female brains are radically different, ages 0-3 are more important years for learning- all not true.


Learning cycle models:

Sense-Integrate-Act (hear a rhythm, clap and count, then play)

Act-Sense-Integrate(playing, hearing and correcting)


Important factors:

Motivation-No intrinsic motivation rewards centers in the brain are not activated.

Spacing- spread it out to insure maximum retention

Reflection- stop and reflect


Active learning- auditory and motor regions in brain are linked. Movement reinforces musical understanding.


Teaching application:

Get students moving as much as possible, clap or step to rhythms, play on drums, games and role playing.


Create a learning addiction:

-Learning is emotionally colored

-Positive impressions

-Negative impressions


It carries over (ie: parents attitude affects child’s)


Successful learning experiences causes the brain to release dopamine. Hormone release when experience pleasure.


Teaching application:

New formats and info- Change things up.

Exciting engagement- creativity and humor

Reinforcement- return to concepts, find different ways to teach the concept.


Flow state- match skill level with appropriate challenge

Too difficult- frustration, anger, shut down

Too simple- boredom, careless errors, disinterest

Within reach- flow- clicks


Set small goals on the way to the destination.


Learning is more successful when material is personally meaningful (like jazz- give them jazz)


Allow students to make learning choices- repertoire, styles, projects


Create curiosity-

-Spark interest in a topic before introduction

-Make advancing intriguing, rather than stressing.

Adjustable across all ages

-Mystery- investigation




Myth- you either got it or you don’t- wrong


Studies show- talent does not exist


Exceptional cases: Mozart’s education began in infancy. Long period of rigorous training.

Cultural differences: African children- earlier motor skill development. (when raised in different area’s the are “normal”)


Every student is equally deserving of our time and energy. Best indicators of success: Time spent practicing, Parental and teacher encouragement.


Environment- all children are “talented”. She gave example of when she was with one teacher she was the talented student, when she changed teachers she was no longer the “talented” student and performance tanked.


All deserve the same amount of effort and encouragement.


We can’t expect the same results from every student.


Multiple Intelligences-










Interdisciplinary activities- math can help music, music can help science, etc….


Teaching applications- studio projects, now students interest, incorporate other fields into lesson material.


Praise- Tradition says you are so talented, smart, good musician… (more harm then good)

If something goes wrong they feel defeated

Address effort. You listened so well this week, you played well because you worked so hard. Talk about accomplishments…


Intrinsic- learning addiction

Extrinsic- ‘candy’


Flow state- in absence of fear/stress. info doesn’t get there if student is stressed out about the info


Lessons need to be safe places where they don’t fear failure.


Video games- instant feedback


Have individualized achievable challenges

Frequent feedback en route to a goal

Break final goals into stage (level)


Automaticity- you can’t think of every note, but focus on the bigger details, musicianship.

Performance script- Musicianship, form, harmony, constructive guideposts


Listening Skills

Myth: critical listeners are increasingly rare.


Novice listeners have stronger emotional experiences with music.


They are more likely to continue.


Teaching application-

Create playlist, concert trips, listening guides, projects…


Enhance your practicing-

Stress mindfulness

Improved engagement



Habit formation

Self Compassion


Enhance our teaching


Wider variety of tools

Better understanding of student

More patience


Share info with parents

Share info with students

Incorporate info about the brain into lessons


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newsletter Subscription

Stay updated and sign up for our email list to receive the Music Educator Resources newsletter which includes monthly freebies, exclusive tips, resources and specials to help today’s teacher stay relevant and engaged! You may opt-out at any time.

Click to Sign Up and Grab Welcome Gift

Subscribe to Blog Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,356 other subscribers


Post Archives