Adapted from Hannon & Trehub, 2005

Researchers also tested another group of infants. These 12-month-old infants listened to Balkan folk music at home for two weeks. They listened to the music for 20 minutes everyday before their lab visit. Unlike the 12-month-old infants in the other study, these babies were able to notice meter changes in the foreign Balkan music.

Do these results seem familiar? In our previous module on early language learning, we talked about a ‘sensitive period.’ During this period, infants learn speech sounds in their native language quickly. During this same period, their ability to detect foreign speech sounds declines. In a similar way, infants may have a period when their brains are particularly primed to learn some basic musical components, like meter. This doesn’t mean that babies need to be enrolled in music lessons. But it does suggest that babies are listening to and learning from the music around them. They are building rich connections to music through their interactions with us and the music we love.