Is music a universal language?

Music can be found in every corner of the globe. It’s a human constant: we all love it, whatever our country of origin. And while it’s true that every civilization has its own traditions and culture when it comes to music, it turns out the similarities far outweigh the differences. People often say that math is a universal language… But that might be true of music as well.

A team of researchers led by Samuel Mehr at Harvard University spent 5 years studying music in 315 societies around the world. Their observations revealed that humans from every culture enjoy music in the same wide variety of situations. We all turn to music to dance, to soothe our babies to sleep and to express our love for one another. What’s even more interesting is that these different purposes have led to musical genres with specific, shared features across every culture.


Open your eyes—and ears—to different societies around the world

Sit down with your child and together, come up with an adult/child situation that involves music. You might pick rocking a baby to sleep, for example. Look up lullabies from different cultures and listen to them carefully. Ask your child if they can find any similarities between the songs you’re listening to and the ones they already know. If you’re listening to lullabies, they might notice that the songs all have a slow tempo, a soft quality, and involve singing. If you pick a different category, obviously, the shared features will be different. For example, if you listen to dance music from around the world, the songs will be faster and more lively. They might also involve other instruments.

Active listening will help your child (and you!) learn more about music and its many features. The wide world of music will gradually open up to you. And as a bonus, you’ll learn more about other countries and cultures.

Bon Voyage!


Additional activities to discover music as a universal language

The Mazaam Academy contains many different listening activities you can do with kids. You’ll find one-on-one games, as well as group activities, to help your little ones boost their cognitive skills and discover the key elements of music, all while having fun.

Mehr, S. A., Singh, M., Knox, D., Ketter, D. M., Pickens-Jones, D., Atwood, S., … Glowacki, L. (2019). Universality and diversity in human song. Science, 366(6468).


You’re curious and you want to help children benefit from the positive aspects of music?
Mazaam offers two solutions:

Write Us