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Prenatal Music & Prenatal Singing

I can’t believe it – 25 years ago!

Waaaaaay back in 1985, an article by D.J. Shetler appeared in the Music Educators Journal * which I did not see until today.

And I’m the one who is constantly looking for research about prenatal music and prenatal singing and its affects on the baby so that I can drill down the academic-speak for pregnant women and moms of all ages.

But this one slipped by me and it makes me wonder how many more are out there that need to be brought to light.  It also makes me realize that my work will never be done, which is a good thing.

Anyhow, this is what I discovered.

Shetler wanted to find out what happened, if anything, to babies who were given what he called “systematic prenatal musical stimulation” before they were born.  Basically, he wanted to see if there was any perceptible difference in music behaviors between the test group (pregnant women who used the prenatal music) and the control group (pregnant moms who did not use the prenatal music).  His observation of these babies went on between birth and six years of age.

Here is what he did:

  • Worked with 16 babies and their parents
  • Some of the babies were given a rich diet of prenatal music stimulation and had a home environment that was also rich in music stimulation
  • The rest of the babies were not given the prenatal music but did have the rich musical home environment after birth
  • In short, one group got the music before and after birth and the other group got the music only after birth
  • Once the babies were born, the parents brought them to Shetler to observe, at least every 60 days for 6 years
  • After birth, the babies (apparently all the babies in both groups) were given certain live and recorded sounds to listen to and played with what he called “sound toys,” which I think probably means xylophones or bells or some sort of keyboard, wind or rhythm instrument
  • At age 3 and up, the children (apparently all of them) also sang or played the piano or other instruments
  • He discussed developmental growth with all the moms and sometimes other family members

I am simply going to quote him to tell you what he found:

“The infants who received systematic prenatal musical stimulation exhibit “remarkable attention behaviors, imitate accurately sounds made by adults (including nonfamily members), and appear to structure vocalization much earlier than infants who did not have prenatal musical stimulation”

Wow! 25 years ago (and probably before that too) we had data available about the effects of prenatal music on the baby. And we are just now starting to really get this thing, or at least in this country. I’ve recently seen something about prenatal music concerts for pregnant women in Hong Kong and so it just makes me shake my head at this point. I suppose that is why I keep typing away on this blog!

For now, I will just say that there is something very important going on here with the prenatal music and prenatal singing connection to language and music development.

And I do mean VERY IMPORTANT, so don’t wait to give your baby music until after they are born. Do it now!
And here is a perfect place to start.

* Music Educators Journal, 71,(7), 26–27

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