‘Repetition and Learning’

Posted in SSZ Briefings  ·  July 5th 2016

‘Repetition and Learning’

If you’ve ever wondered why a particular song is catchy, it may be because you’ve heard it before on the radio, in a store, or on a soundtrack.

And have you ever counted how many times the chorus repeats in your favourite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus?

Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. But why?

Active Learning – Acting Listening

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margullis, director of the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas, says that repetition creates an opening for the listener to become an imagined participant in the song. In other words, repetition invites you to play an active part in the music.  In this TED video she’s quoted as saying,

“Repetition gives rise to a kind of orientation to sound that we think of as distinctively musical where we’re listening along with the sound, engaging imaginatively with the note about to happen.”  Repetition also allows the listener to notice new things.

Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners.

This research confirms our own conviction that active (rather than passive) learning is what makes the difference for students.

Are there lessons from this research for how we teach?


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