Every once in a while, someone in a music therapy session or class will ask, “Why are you singing that song again?” Usually it’s an adult, wondering why he or she has to hear the song that’s been stuck in his or head head since the previous week.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick explanation, but there are two important reasons why songs are often repeated in my music classes and music therapy sessions.

Repetition Increases Engagement

When children are familiar with a song, they are more engaged because they know what the expectations are, and they are often more confident. Because of that, children (and the therapist) can focus on really targeting the goals and objectives of a song.

Sequencing songs, or songs that have a storytelling element to them, are great songs to repeat. Children are able to learn progressively over several sessions or classes, and can refine their skills, whether that skill is attention or recalling information. 

Repetition Increases Brain Activity

Did you know that preferred and familiar music increases brain activation? That means familiar and preferred music actually enhances the goals and objectives that music therapists are working on because our brains are more active and engaged! 

Also, music triggers the reward centers of the brain, which releases dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone that is involved with reward, and also allows neuroplasticity to happen. Neuroplasticity is the actual change that’s happening in the brain, and because music causes the release of dopamine, we are able to make brain changes more effectively in a musical setting. 

Seriously, music is so amazing, and what’s even more amazing is how music interacts with the brain! Between the confidence children gain when engaged in a familiar song and the science that supports repetition, there’s really no downside to repeating that new song you just learned a few more times. 

I hope these two MAJOR reasons reaffirm for all of you music therapists and music teachers out there just how important repetition is, and brings insight to those out there wondering why they might hear the same song several weeks in a row. 

I’d love to hear from you: What other benefits have you observed from repeating songs in music therapy sessions or music classes?

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