Music for early learning


Necessity is the mother of invention

In 2010, Dr. Gabriella Musacchia went on a search for an early music program for her infant son. Her own research experience with music neuroscience and a series of amazing articles on early music learning showed that infants as young as 6 months of age can be "enculturated"  to rhythms they heard most often.  Knowing this, she wanted to expose her baby to complex rhythms from different cultures to provide him a broad base of rhythmic experience. Music transmits culture in ways that other nonverbal arts can only partially do.  As we are becoming increasingly globalized, early exposure to other cultures can form the basis for enjoying cultural differences. While several music programs were available, none of them incorporated complex rhythms and interactive play to the degree that Dr. Musacchia was looking for.

So, in June of 2010, Dr. Musacchia started Baby Rhythms out of her home in Washington Heights, NY with a group of very special new moms from Jessica Shapley's mommy group. From there Dr. Musacchia conducted private sessions in New York and New Jersey by word of mouth for groups of parents and continued to develop the program. Currently, Baby Rhythms is at one of the premiere Culltural Institutions in New York, the 92 Street Y.  We at Baby Rhythms are delighted to bring our special brand of music education to the 92 Street Y families and be part of the incredibly talented staff and developers there. Featured below, is more on the science of early music.

usic expresses in transcendental ways what other nonverbal art forms can do only partially - See more at:
music expresses in transcendental ways what other nonverbal art forms can do only partially - See more at:

Scientifically, our brain rhythms have a unique set of harmonics that can be driven by rhythmic stimuli. Each of our brain areas "oscillate" at a particular rhythm. When we hear sound, it "resets" our brain according to the rhythmic beat of the sound.  Speech and language have a very complex rhythmic pattern.  Although you can't always clap your hands to it, the "rhythm" of speech hovers around 3 Hz, but has many complex rhythmic permutations.  Dr. Musacchia designed baby rhythms with this knowledge in mind, selecting songs from different cultures that engage complex neural oscillations in order to pave the way for learning the complex rhythm of language.

Perhaps most importantly, a wealth of research shows that music training can have profound benefits for learning and developing language and reading skills.  Positive musical experiences for infants, toddlers and preschoolers can foster and early love for music and begin them on a positive, enriched learning pathway.

Our approach is to translate research findings to real-world music applications for early learners.  The goal is to use these methods to foster a love for music, boost auditory awareness, and help each baby strengthen foundations for early learning. Our classes operate according to three principles and four goals.

The Circle: In a circle, the babies and toddlers can see all of their playmates and caregivers easily and can find commonality and variance in how we are playing music.  This is fun for everyone.  Many traditional cultures use the “drum circle” to bond socially, tell stories and transfer important messages. Because the complex rhythms that non-western cultures use stimulate our brains in powerful ways, we use these to show different forms of expression and timing. The Circle is a powerful tool to help babies learn “what grown-ups do” with these new sounds and how we can work and play together. 

The Triangle: Almost all of our activities encourage music play by using “interactive triangle” in which the three sides of the triangle are 1) you, 2) your baby and 3) an object.  The interactive triangle, also called “joint attention” facilitates quick learning and is often cited as one of the most powerful forms early learning. In the Baby Rhythms classes, we lead by example, using the attention triangle to teach the little ones to play with the instruments use them in rhythm with the music.

The Line: The line represents your child’s development and growth.  Baby Rhythms’ classes number one priority is to foster development and growth in your child.  We do this by creating a safe and fun space for music exploration and integrating the principles of cutting edge research into the program. A wealth of research has shown that repeated early music experience fosters brain development and can have a long-lasting positive impact on social interaction, language ability and hearing in some cases even into old age.  The line of development may not always be a straight one from point A to B, but by encouraging a love for music early, you give your child a “leg-up” and the opportunity for an avenue of expression to follow it with.

Class activities are designed to step through four main goals: 

1) Exposure
Baby Rhythms incorporates Indonesian, Hungarian, Jewish, Greek and other music that is not usually heard in our culture in order to keep the baby mind “open” to complex rhythms. The same principle is used in early language “immersion” techniques in order to bring baby up learning multiple languages.  

2) Exploration
Baby Rhythms gives your baby a hands-on chance to explore musical instruments in a group setting.  

3) Motor Development
Everything from walking to talking requires the rhythmic co-ordination of many muscle systems. Infants and toddlers need to work hard to gain proper control of these systems and for some babies, this can be especially challenging. In Baby Rhythms, gross and fine rhythmic motor skills are promoted by babies joining their caregivers in producing rhythms with musical instruments and dancing. As the babies enjoy the fun they are also learning to master fundamental skills in new ways.

4) Have FUN!
Baby Rhythms helps to show your baby that playing music is a fun way to socialize and engage with friends.  This helps boost babies' social confidence.  New research shows that babies who participate in early music training (at <10 months) experience less “stranger anxiety”, have a greater interest in communication and music and, most importantly, smile more often. 

definitions and links

Dr. musacchia's paper on how music shapes our brain's response to speech
L. Trainor and colleagues showed infants as young as 6 months could be musically enculturated

neuronal oscillations or "brain rhythms" are periodic like sound, and are driven by attention to rhythmic beats
United nations report on music as the international language
report on music as a major vehicle for cultural understanding 

enculturatioN: learning the values and content of a culture