Set the Learning Mood

FIND OUT the importance of setting a learning mood–and which music to use!

It’s amazing how music can help to create the moods in our lives. From romantic dinner music to rousing tunes at sports events, the sounds we hear impact we we feel and influence our experience. The effect of music on mood is largely based on the affect, or emotional qualities, of the sound. These qualities make our experiences more powerful because they can trigger feelings that literally cause a reaction in the neurochemistry of our brain and body. By consciously using this musical effect, we can help our students get into the optimal mood for learning and involve them in memorable classroom experiences.

A simple mood-setting technique to encourage a positive learning attitude is to play music that has a positive feel as students enter the classroom–before teaching even starts! You can reinforce this mood throughout the day by periodically playing positive music. Research shows that learning and recall can be enhanced when the brain is ‘primed’ for learning by setting a positive mood with music (de l’Etoile, 2002). Give it a try and see for yourself.

What’s considered positive music?

Although people do respond differently to the same piece of music, there are many common emotional expressions of positive music. In general, if a selection feels pleasant, happy, cheerful, joyful, comfortable, nurturing, relaxing, calming, peaceful, harmonious, uplifting, playful, or inspiring, it will have a positive effect in the classroom. Most styles of music have selections that are positive in feel. Bringing students into the process of determining the music that sets a positive mood is a good idea. However, providing examples of music beyond what they might normally listen to expands their musical tastes as well as contributing to their emotional repertoire. I call this musical ear-cleaning and highly recommend you make new musical offerings to your students.


Positive Mood Music

Positive music can uplift the spirit and shift a negative attitude to a more optimistic outlook. It generally has characteristic elements: a major key, pleasant harmonies, and a mid-level to slightly upbeat tempo. Average time lengths or recommended instrumental selections are included below, though different version may vary.

Movie Soundtrack Instrumentals

Movie soundtracks often become favorites and are composed to create various emotions. With the flurry of movies on the market, this list would become old in a short time–so stay in touch with music from movies that you feel set a positive feel.

Instrumental Music
Mannheim Steamroller Meets the Mouse excellent arrangements of Disney unes with piano, guitar, keyboards, strings, synthesized sounds
Mozart Effect for Children: Tune Up Your Mind, Don Campbell compilation
Mozart Variations, Windham Hill compilation (various instrumental groups)
Dance of the Renaissance or Emerald Castles (Irish), Richard Searles
Water Music, George Frederic Handel

Single Works
“Air on the G String” from Orchestral Suite #3 in D Major, J. S. Bach (5:30)
“Air” from Suite in D Major, J. S. Bach (5:24)
“Bridges on Canyon,” Memory Beat, Daniel Kobialka (5:57)
Allegro from Clarinet Concerto in A, W. A. Mozart (7:43)
“Cradle Song” from Lyric Pieces Op. 68, Edvard Grieg (4:45)
“Morning,” from Peer Gynt Suite, Edvard Grieg (3:45)
“Sheep May Safely Graze,” J. S. Bach (5:36)







2 Comments on “Set the Learning Mood

  1. Hello. I am wondering if the specific music selections that you have listed here would all be considered “positive mood music”? I am looking for a difference of welcoming music that provides positive energy and motivation versus music that is played during quiet study that would encourage focus and attention to task.

    Thank you,


    • Hi Margaret – Yes! Welcoming music suggestions are also positive mood music. However–your thought about the energy level of the music is very important because it does make a difference to the kind of mood that is set. It’s best if you can hear music suggestions to determine what has the energy level you want but in lieu of that here are some thoughts.

      In the suggestions lineup on this page (Set the Learning Mood) the Tune Up Your Mind Mozart music has some faster tunes along with some slower music. Mozart to Go and Mozart in Motion CDs in Don Campbell’s Mozart Effect series (not listed on this page) are generally higher energy throughout. The Mannheim Steamroller recommended here has good upbeat songs but like many recordings the energy level varies from one cut to the next. A lot of the other selections on the Set the Learning Mood page are more mid-level energy. If you are needing just one or two selections you can pick out and use the songs that set the mood/energy you want.

      If you want music to be played during breaks or as students enter or leave the room then upbeat popular music with positive lyrics is great to use as the words won’t get in the way of learning thought processes when used during these times.

      If you want to stay with upbeat instrumental music you might check the Music for Activations listing under Sound Suggestions, especially the Music for Movement. These would definitely raise energy levels and increase motivation!

      I hope this has helped you. Let me know if you have any other questions. Chris


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