New Book Explores the Link Between Learning and Music

DUBAI, JUNE 18, 2017 -   Canadian University Dubai’s Assistant Professor in Educational Neuroscience, Dr. Efthymios Papatzikis, has recently published a book titled, “Developmental Psychology in Music Education: When Sevcik meets Gagne,” which explores the link between how music is taught and popular theories about how people learn. 

Dr. Papatzikis, a former classical violinist who has focused the last few years of his research on brain development and perception through sound and music, decided to write the book after noticing a gap in the study of educational methodologies and how they apply to music education. 

“There are lots of studies about how people learn, how they learn to read, how they learn mathematics, science and history, but not how they learn music” explains Dr. Papatzikis. “So I decided to compare some of the most popular learning theories to a method of teaching someone how to play the violin.”

Dr. Papatzikis book starts with a common scenario in musical education, “Consider a violinist who wants to produce a single first note with a bow.   She starts with so many thoughts in her mind, consciously or unconsciously, about the right posture, the movement and the suggested practical result.  Then she tries.  She realizes there’s a problem.   There is something wrong with the quality of the sound.  Gathering her knowledge again for the second try, she adjusts the whole procedure, taking a different approach.   She uses her experience; she investigates her past to determine if she has met the same problem before and, if so, what the solution was.  She tries again, differently this time, and here finds success.   From now on she knows the right approach.”

“That’s a very simplified scenario,” says Dr. Papatzikis. “But it’s what happens in your mind when you’re learning to play an instrument.   But how does the student know to do this?  How can they distinguish the wrong note from the right one and correct it.  We have many theories about how people learn in other areas, from trial, error and perception, but not in music.”

Dr. Papatzikis’s found that leading learning theories, specifically Robert Mills Gagne’s “Conditions of Learning” which require students to use verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes in order to learn something, can be applied to music education as well. 

“Knowing this, as music instructors and educators, we can apply this knowledge to the way we teach and our understanding of how our students learn,” concludes Dr. Papatzikis. “This will of course have a long lasting impact on the field and greatly improve how we approach music education.”

The book, Developmental Psychology in Music Education: When Sevcik meets Gagne, can be purchased at