Researchers Observe How Babies Learn About Music

Both researchers and lay people have long known that babies learn language by parroting the words they hear. However, a new study demonstrates that babies may also imitate singing they hear in songs.

In part of the study researchers analyzed audio recorded from 15 month old baby. The recording captured the child making sounds like the beginning of “Happy Birthday” a few hours after it heard the song played through a toy. The analysis showed that the baby was able to recreate the first six notes of the song, almost exactly. And in G major.

Researchers point out that in the first year of life children develop into very conscious music listeners. They are easily able to learn about the patterns and pitches and rhythms in the music they hear. However, researchers aren’t sure exactly how this happens.

The study is one of the first to follow an infant for a day and record its attempts at recreating music. And, at least in this one case, they found like when a baby mimics talking, this baby did the same for songs it heard.

This child wore a lightweight recording device and through a mixture of software that analyzed the data—the software is able to measure things like adult words a baby attempts to speak—and critical listening researchers were able to find patterns where it seemed the child was trying to mimic music happening around it.