Music Chemistry: The Formula of K-Pop

South Korean pop music, or K-Pop, is a rapidly growing sector of the music industry, and has experienced increased economic success and international exposure over the last few years. Although a variety of possible causes have been postulated for this heightened popularity, this study aims to quantitatively analyze one aspect of K-Pop in particular - the music itself. Utilizing a novel method involving musical correlational analytics, this research will anatomize successful K-Pop songs released between 2014 and 2016 and parse existing databases for records of those songs. These two sets of information will then be compared with each other and evaluated for meaningful correspondence. The results of this evaluation potentially hold revelations of how a K-Pop song’s content and commercial success are linked, leading to large-scale implications in terms of how K-Pop music producers choose to develop their songs. Beyond these in dustry-sp ecific ramifications, however, this study also adopts a methodology that can be applied to analyze other styles of music.

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  • Published: 21 March 2023

Changing positive and negative affects through music experiences: a study with university students

  • José Salvador Blasco-Magraner 1 ,
  • Gloria Bernabé-Valero 2 ,
  • Pablo Marín-Liébana 1 &
  • Ana María Botella-Nicolás 1  

BMC Psychology volume  11 , Article number:  76 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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Currently, there are few empirical studies that demonstrate the effects of music on specific emotions, especially in the educational context. For this reason, this study was carried out to examine the impact of music to identify affective changes after exposure to three musical stimuli.

The participants were 71 university students engaged in a music education course and none of them were musicians. Changes in the affective state of non-musical student teachers were studied after listening to three pieces of music. An inter-subject repeated measures ANOVA test was carried out using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) to measure their affective state.

The results revealed that: (i) the three musical experiences were beneficial in increasing positive affects and reducing negative affects, with significant differences between the interaction of Music Experiences × Moment (pre-post); (ii) listening to Mahler’s sad fifth symphony reduced more negative affects than the other experimental conditions; (iii) performing the blues had the highest positive effects.


These findings provide applied keys aspects for music education and research, as they show empirical evidence on how music can modify specific affects of personal experience.

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The studies published on the benefits of music have been on the increase in the last two decades [ 1 , 2 , 3 ] and have branched out into different areas of research such as psychology [ 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 ], education [ 1 , 9 , 10 ] and health [ 11 , 12 ] providing ways of using music as a resource for people’s improvement.

The publication in 1996 of the famous report “Education Hides a Treasure” submitted to the UNESCO by the International Commission was an important landmark in the educational field. This report pointed out the four basic pillars of twenty-first century education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be [ 13 ]. The two last ones clearly refer to emotional education. This document posed a challenge to Education in terms of both academically and emotionally development at all levels from kindergarten to university. In this regard, there has been a notable increase in the number of studies that have shown the strong impact of music on the emotions in the different stages of education and our lives. For example, from childhood to adolescence, involving primary, secondary and university education, music is especially relevant for its beneficial effects on developing students’ emotional intelligence and prosocial skills [ 1 , 14 ]. In adults, music benefits emotional self-regulation [ 15 ], while in old age it helps to maintain emotional welfare and to experience and express spirituality [ 16 ]. This underlines the importance of providing empirical evidence on the emotional influence of music.

Influence of music on positive affects

Numerous studies have used the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) to evaluate the emotional impact of music [ 17 ]. This scale is valid and effective for measuring the influence of positive and negative effects of music on listeners and performers [ 10 , 18 , 19 ]. Thus, for example, empirical evidence shows that exposure to a musical stimulus favours the increase of positive affects [ 20 , 21 ] found a significant increase in three positive affects in secondary school students after listening to music, and the same results has been found after listening to diverse musical styles. These results are consistent with Schubert [ 22 ], who demonstrated that music seems to improve or maintain well-being by means of positive valence emotions (e. g. happiness, joy and calm). Other research studied extreme metal fans aged between 18 and 34 years old and found statements of physiological excitement together with increased positive affects [ 21 ]. Positive outcomes after listening to sad music have also been found [ 23 ], who played Samuel Barbers’ Adagio for Strings , described by the BBC as the world’s saddest piece of classical music, to 20 advanced music students and 20 advanced psychology students with no musical background and subsequently found that the music only had positive affects on both groups.

Several experimental designs that used sad music on university students noticed that they experienced both sadness and positive affects [ 24 , 25 ] and also found that music labeled as “happy” increased positive affects while the one labeled as “sad” reduced both positive and negative affects [ 26 ]. For other authors the strongest and most pleasant responses to sad music are associated with empathy [ 27 ]. Moreover, listening to sad music had benefits since attributes of empathy were intensified [ 27 , 28 ]. In relation to musical performances, empirical evidence found a significant increase in positive affects [ 29 ]. Thus, music induces listeners to experience positive affects, which could turn music into an instrument for personal development.

Following on from Fredrickson’s ‘broaden‐and‐build’ framework of positive emotions [ 30 ], positive affects cause changes in cognitive activities which, in turn, can cause behaviour changes. They can also expand the possibilities for action and improve physical resources. According to Fredrickson [ 30 ], positive affects trigger three sequential effects: (1) amplification of the scope for thought and action; (2) construction of personal resources to deal with difficult simplifications; (3) personal transformation by making one more creative, with a better understanding of situations, better able to face up to difficulties and better socially integrated. This leads to an “upward spiral” in which even more positive affects are experienced. A resource such as music that can increase positive affects, can therefore be considered as a step forward in personal transformation. Thus, music teachers could have a powerful tool to help students enhance their personal development.

Influence of music on negative affects

There is a great deal of controversy as regards the influence of music on negative affects. Blasco and Calatrava [ 20 ] found a significant reduction of five negative affects in secondary school students after listening to Arturo Marquez’s typically happy Danzón N O 2. Different results were found in an experiment in which the change in participants ‘affects was assessed after listening the happy "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor and the sad "Everybody Hurts" by REM [ 26 ]. They found that the happy piece only increased the positive affects but did not reduce the negative ones, while the sad piece reduced both positive and negative affects. However, neither of these findings agree with Miller and Au [ 31 ], who carried out an experiment to compare the influence of sad and happy music on undergraduates ‘mood arousal and found that listening to both types had no significant changes on negative affects. Shulte [ 32 ] conducted a study with 30 university students to examine the impact that nostalgic music has on affects, and found that after listening to different songs, negative affects decreased. Matsumoto [ 33 ] found that sad music reduced sad feelings in deeply sad university students, while Vuoskoski and Eerola [ 34 ] showed that sad music could produce changes in memory and emotional judgements related to emotions and that experiencing music-induced sadness is intrinsically more pleasant than sad memories. It therefore seems that reducing negative affects has mostly been studied with sad and nostalgic musical stimuli. In this way, if music can reduce negative affects, it can also be involved in educational and psychological interventions focused on improving the emotional-affective sphere. Thus, for example, one study examined the effects of a wide range of music activities and found that it would be necessary to specify exactly what types of music activity lead to what types of outcomes [ 2 ]. Moore [ 3 ] also found that certain music experiences and characteristics had both desirable and undesirable effects on the neural activation patterns involved in emotion regulation. Furthermore, recent research on university students shows that music could be used to assess mood congruence effects, since these effects are reactions to the emotions evoked by music [ 35 ].

These studies demonstrate that emotional experience can be actively driven by music. Moreover, they synthesize the efforts to find ways in which music can enhance affective emotional experience by increasing positive affects and reducing the negative ones (e. g. hostility, nervousness and irritability). Although negative emotions have a great value for personal development and are necessary for psychological adjustment, coping with them and self-regulation capacities are issues that have concerned psychology. For example, Emotional Intelligence [ 36 ], which has currently been established in the educational field, constitutes a fundamental conceptual framework to increase well-being when facing negative emotions, providing keys for greater control and management of emotional reactions. It also establishes how to decrease the intensity and frequency of negative emotional states [ 37 ], providing techniques such as mindfulness meditation that have proven their effectiveness in reducing negative emotional experiences and increasing the positive ones [ 38 ]. The purpose of this research is to find whether music can be part of the varied set of resources that can be used by a teacher to modify students’ emotional experience.

Thus, although empirical evidence of the effects of music on the emotional sphere is still incipient. It seems that they can increase positive effects, but it is not clear their impact on the negative ones, since diverse and contradictory results (no change and reduction of negative affects after listening to music) were found. In addition, the effects of the type of musical piece (e.g. happy or sad music) need further investigation as different effects were found. Moreover, previous studies do not compare between the effects of listening to versus performing music. Such an approach could provide keys to highlight the importance of performing within music education. Therefore, this study aims to contribute to this scientific field, providing experimental evidence on the effects of listening to music as compared to performing music, as well as determining the effects of different types of music on positive and negative affects.

To this end, the effects of three different types of music experiences were compared: (1) listening to a sad piece, (2) listening to an epic and solemn piece, and (3) performing of a rhythm and a blues piece, to determine whether positive and negative affects were modified after exposure to these experimental situations. In particular, two hypotheses guided this study: (1) After exposure to each musical experience (listening to a sad piece; listening to a solemn piece and playing a blues), all participants will improve their emotional experience, increasing their positive affects and reducing their negative ones; and (2) the music performance will induce a greater change as compared to the listening conditions.


A total of 71 students were involved in this study, 6 men and 65 women between the ages of 20 and 40, who were studying a Teaching Grade. These students were enrolled in the "Music Education" program as part of their university degree’s syllabus. None of them had special music studies from conservatories, academies or were self-taught; thus, all had similar musical knowledge. None of them had previously listened to music in an instructional context nor had performed music with their fellow students. In addition, none of them had listening before to the musical pieces selected for this experiment.

All signed an informed consent form before participating and no payment was given for taking part in the study. As the experiment was carried out in the context of a university course, they were assured that their participation and responses would be anonymous and would have no impact on their qualifications. The research was approved by the ethical committee at the Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir: UCV2017- 18-28 code.


To assess emotional states, the Positive and Negative Affective States scales (PANAS), was administered [ 39 ]. In particular, the Spanish version of the scale [ 17 ], whose study shows a high degree of internal consistency; in males 0.89 in positive affects and 0.91 in negative affects; in women 0.87 in positive affects and 0.89 in negative affects. In this study, good reliability level in each experimental condition was obtained (0.836–0.913 for positive affects and 0.805–0.917 for negative affects (see Table 1 for more information on Cronbach’s α for each experimental condition).

The PANAS consists of 20 items which describe different dimensions of emotional experience. Participants must answer them regarding to their current affective state. The scale is composed of 20 items; 10 positive affects (PA) and 10 negative affects (NA). Answers are graded in a 5-options (Likert scale), with reversed items, ranging from extremely (1) to very slightly or not at all (5).

Musical pieces

The musical pieces choice stemmed from the analysis of some of the music elements that most influence the perception of emotions: mode, melody and intervals. Within the melody, range and melodic direction were distinguished. The range or amplitude of the melodic line is commonly divided into wide or narrow, while the melodic direction is often classified as ascending or descending. Chang and Hoffman [ 10 ] associated narrow amplitude melodies with sadness, while Schimmark and Grob [ 40 ] related melodic amplitude with highly activated emotions. Regarding the melodic direction, Gerardi and Gerken [ 41 ] found a relationship between ascending direction and happiness and heroism, and between descending direction and sadness.

In relation to the mode, Tizón [ 42 ] stated that the major one is completely happy, while the minor one represents sadness. Thompson and Robitaille [ 43 ] considered that, in order to cause emotions such as happiness, solemnity or joy, composers use tonal melodies, while to obtain negative emotions, they use atonality and chromaticism.

In this research, the selected pieces (“Adagietto” from Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony, MML; and “Titans” from Alexander The Great from Vangelis, VML) are representative examples of the melodic, intervallic and modal characteristics previously exposed. Mahler's and Vangelis's pieces completely differ in modes and melodic amplitude (sad vs. heroism). Likewise, Mahler's piece is much more chromatic than Vangelis' one, which has a broader melody made up of third, fourth and fifth intervals, often representative of heroism. Those features justify the fact that they have been used as soundtracks in two films belonging to the epic genre (Alexander The Great, 2004) and drama (Death in Venice, 1971).

The musical piece that was performed by the students was chosen in order to be easy to learn in a few sessions, since they were not musicians. So, three musical pieces were used for the experimental conditions, the first two musical pieces were recordings in a CD, while the third one was performed by the subjects.

The three chosen pieces are described below:

Condition 1 (MML): “Adagietto” from Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (9:01 min), performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado [ 44 ]. This is a sad, melancholic and dramatic piece that Luchino Visconti used in the film Death in Venice, made in 1971 and based on the book by Thomas Mann.

Condition 2 (VML): “Titans Theme” from Alexander the Great (3:59 min), directed by Oliver Stone and premiered in 2004, whose music was composed, produced and performed by Vangelis [ 45 ]. It has a markedly epic character with large doses of heroism and solemnity.

Condition 3 (BP): “Rhythm’s Blues” composed and played by Ana Bort (4:00 min). This is a popular African-American piece of music with an insistent rhythm and harmonically sustained by tonal degrees. This piece was performed by the participants using percussion instruments (carillons and a range of xylophones and metallophones).

The sample was divided into two groups (N 1  = 36 and N 2  = 35) that participated separately in all the phases of the study. The first two conditions (MML and VML) were carried out in each group's classroom, while the performance (BP) was developed in the musical instruments room. This room had 52 percussion instruments, including different types of chimes, xylophones and metallophones (soprano, alto and bass). It is a large space where there are only chairs and musical instruments and stands. The first group was distributed as follows: 6 chimes (3 soprano and 3 alto), 5 soprano xylophones, 5 alto xylophones, 5 bass xylophones, 5 soprano metallophones, 5 alto metallophones and 5 bass metallophones. The distribution of the second group was similar, but with one less alto metallophone.

Prior to the experiment, participants received two practical lessons in order to learn how to collectively perform the music score (third experimental condition). After the two practical lessons, during the next three sessions (leaving two weeks between each session), the experiment was carried out. In each session, an experimental condition was applied and PANAS was on-line administered online beforehand and afterwards (Pre-Post design). All participants were exposed to the three experimental conditions and completed the scale before and after listening to music.

In each of these three sessions, a different music condition was applied: MML in the first one, VML in the second one and BP in the third one.

As conditions VML and MML were listening to pieces of music, the instructions received by the subjects were: “You are going to listen to a musical piece, you ought to listen actively, avoiding distractions. You can close your eyes if you feel like to”. For the BP condition, they were said to play the musical sheet all together.

The aim of the study was to examine the effect of the music experience variable (with three levels: MML, VML and BP) in the Positive and Negative Affects subscales from the PANAS scale. The variable Moment was also studied to control biases and to analyze differences between the Pre and Post conditions.

The experiment was designed as a two-way repeated measure (RM) ANOVA with two dependent variables: Positive Affects and Negative Affects, one for each PANAS’ subscales.

The two repeated measures used in the experiment were the variables Musical Experience (ME), with three levels (MML, VML and BP) and the variable Moment, with two levels (PRE and POST). All participants were exposed to the three experimental conditions.

The design did not include a control group, similar to many other studies in the field of music psychology [ 27 , 30 ]. The control was carried out from the intra-subject pre-post measurement of all the participants. The rationale for this design lies in the complexity of the control condition (or placebo) design in psychology [ 46 ]. While placebos in pharmacological trials are sugar pills, in psychology it is difficult to establish an equivalent period of time similar to the musical pieces (e. g. 9 min) without activity, so that cognitive activity occurred during this period of time (e. g. daydreaming, reading a story, etc.) could bias and limit the generalization of results.

Additionally, one of the goals of this study was to compare the effects of listening to music compared to performance on affects. For this reason, two music listening experiences (MML and VML) and a musical performance experience (BP) were designed. In order to control potential biases, participants did not know the musical pieces in the experimental conditions and they had a low level of musical performance competence (musicians were excluded).

It was used SPSS statistics v.26 for the statistical analyzes.

Two ANOVA were performed. The first one, analyzed two dependent variables at the same time: Positive Affects (PA) and Negative Affects (NA).

In the second ANOVA, the 20 items of the PANAS scale were taken as dependent variables. The rest of the experimental design was similar to the first one, a two-way RM ANOVA with variables Musical Experience (ME) and Moment as repeated measures.

Examination of frequency distributions, histograms, and tests of homogeneity of variance and normality for the criterion measures indicated that the assumptions for the use of parametric statistics were met. Normality was met in all tests except for one, but the ANOVA is robust against this assumption violation. All the analyses presented were performed with the significance level (alpha) set at 0.05, two-tailed tests. Means and standard deviations for the 6 experimental conditions for both subscales, Positive Affects and Negative Affects, are presented in Table 1 .

Mauchly’s test of sphericity was statistically significant for Musical Experience and Musical Experience*Moment focusing on NA as the dependent variable ( p  < 0.05). The test only was significant for Musical Experience for PA as dependent variable ( p  < 0.05). The rest of the W’s Mauchly were not significant ( p  > 0.05), so we assumed sphericity for the non-mentioned variables and worked with the assumed sphericity univariate solution. For the variables which the W’s Mauchly was significant, the univariate solution was also taken, but choosing the corrected Greenhouse–Geisser epsilon approximation due to its conservativeness.

A significant principal effect of the Musical Experience variable F(1.710,119.691) = 22.505, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.243; the Moment variable F(1,70) = 45.291, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.393; and the Musical Experience*Moment interaction F(2,140) = 32.502, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.317 were found for PA.

Statistically significance was found for Moment F(1, 70) = 70.729, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.503 and Musical Experience*Moment interaction F(1.822, 127.555) = 8.594, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.109, but not for Musical Experience F(1.593, 111.540) = 2.713, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.037, for the other dependent variable, NA.

Table 2 shows pairwise comparisons between Musical Experience levels. Bonferroni’s correction was applied in order to control type I error. We only interpret the results for the Positive Affects because the Musical Experience effect was not statistically significant for Negative Affects. Results show that condition VML presents a significant higher punctuation in Positive Affects than the other two conditions ( p  < 0.05). It also shows that the musical condition MML is significantly above BP in Positive Affects ( p  < 0.05).

As regards Moment variable (Table 3 ), all but one Pre-Post differences were statistically significant ( p  < 0.05) for all the three conditions for both Positive and Negative Affects dependent variables. The Pre-Post difference found in Positive Affects for the VML Musical Experience did not reach the statistical level ( p  = 0.319).

Focusing on these statistically significant differences, we observe that conditions MML and BP, for PA, decreased from Pre to Post condition, indicating that positive emotions increased significantly between pre and post measures. On the other hand, for NA, all conditions increased from Pre to Post conditions, indicating that negative affects were decreased between pre and post conditions. Once again, one should bear in mind that items were reversed, thus, a higher scores in NA means a decrease in affects.

In order to measure the interaction effect, significant differences between simple effects were analysed.

The simple effect of Moment (level2-level1) in the first Music Experience condition (MML) in PA was compared with the simple effect of Moment (level2-level1) in the second Musical Experience condition (VML). Music Experience conditions 2–3 (VML-BP) and 1–3 (MML-BP) were compared in the same way. Thus, taking into account PA and NA variables, a total of 6 comparisons, 3 per dependent variable, were made.

The results of these comparisons are shown in Table 4 . Comparisons for PA range from T1 to T3 and comparisons for NA range from T4 to T6. All of them are significant ( p  < 0.05) which means that there are statistically significant differences between all the Musical Experience conditions when comparing the Moment (pre/post) simple effects.

In Table 5 , we can look at the differences’ values. As we said before the differences between Pre and Post conditions are significant when comparing the three musical conditions. The biggest difference for positive affects is between MML and BP (T3 = 8.443), and between VML and MML (T4 = − 6.887) for negative affects.

In this second part, the results obtained from the second two-way RM ANOVA with the 20 items as dependent variables are considered. Results of the descriptive analysis of each item: Interested, Excited, Strong, Enthusiastic, Proud, Alert, Inspired, Determined, Attentive, Active, Distressed, Upset, Guilty, Afraid, Hostile, Irritable, Ashamed, Nervous, Jittery, Scared ; in each musical condition: MML, VML and BP; and for the PRE and POST measurements, can be found in the Additional file 1 (Appendix A).

As regards the ANOVA test that compares the three experimental conditions in each mood, Mauchly’s Sphericity Test indicates that sphericity cannot be assumed for the musical experience in most of the variables of the items of effects, except for Interested, Alert, Inspired, Active and Irritable . For these items, the highest observed power index among Greenhouse–Geisser, Huynh–Feldt and Lower-bound epsilon corrections was taken for each variable. For the interaction Musical Experience*Moment, sphericity was not assumed for Distressed, Guilty, Hostile and Scared . For these items, the same above-cited criterion was followed.

Musical experience has a principal effect on all the positive affects, but only has it for 5 negative affects ( Nervous, Jittery, Scared, Hostile and Upset ) ( p  < 0.05). For more detail see Table S1 from Additional file 1 : Appendix B.

The principal effect of Moment is also statistically significant ( p  < 0.05) for all (positive and negative), but two items: Guilty ( p  = 0.073) and Hostile ( p  = 0.123). All the differences between Pre and Post for positive affects are positive, which means that scores in conditions Pre were significantly higher than in condition Post. The other way around occurs for negative affects, all the differences Pre-Post are negative, meaning that the Post condition is significantly higher than the Pre condition. For more detail, see Table S2 from Additional file 1 : Appendix B. In this way, Pre-post changes (Moment) improve affective states; the positive affects increase while the negative are reduced, except for Guilty ( p  = 0.073) and Hostile ( p  = 0.123).

Comparing the proportion of variance explained by the musical experienced and Moment (Tables s1 and s2 from the Additional file 1 : Appendix B), it is observed that most of the η 2 scores in musical experience are below 0.170, except Active and Alert , which are higher. On the other hand, the η 2 scores for Moment are close to 0.300. From these results we can state that, taking only one of the variables at a time, the proportion of the dependent variable’s variance explained by Moment is higher than the proportion of the dependent variable’s variance explained by Musical Experience.

The effect of interaction, shown in Table S3 from the Additional file 1 : Appendix B is significant in 7 positive moods ( Interested, Excited, Enthusiastic, Alert, Determined, Active and Proud ) and 4 negative moods ( Hostile , Irritable, Nervous , and Jittery ).

The pairwise comparisons of Musical Experience’s levels show a wide variety of patterns. Looking at Positive Affects, there is only one item ( Active ) which present significant differences between the three musical conditions. Items Concentrated and Decided do not present any significant difference between any musical conditions. The rest of the Positive items show at least one significant difference between conditions VML and BP. All differences are positive when comparing VML-MML, VML-BP MML-BP, except for Alert and Proud. So, in general, scores are higher for the first two conditions in relation to the third one, meaning that third musical condition presents the biggest increase for Positive Affects (remember items where reversed). For more detail see Additional file 1 : Appendix C.

As regard pairwise comparisons of Musical Experience’s for negative affects, only the items which had a significant principal effect of the variable Musical Experience are shown here. There is a significant difference between conditions VML and MML in item Nervous ; between VML and BP for Scared ( p  < 0.05). For Jittery ; all three conditions differed significantly from each other ( p  < 0.05). Conditions MML and BP differed significantly for Hostile ( p  < 0.05) and conditions VML and BP almost differed significantly for Upset item, but null hypothesis cannot be rejected as p  = 0.056. For more detail see Additional file 1 : Appendix C. All differences were negative when comparing VML-MML, VML-BP MML-BP, except for Nervous and Jittery . So, in general, scores are lower for the first and second condition in relation to the third one.

Positive effects increased significantly during the post phase of all the music experiences, showing that exposure to any of the three music stimuli improved positive affectivity. There were also significant differences between the three experiences in this phase, according to the following order of improvements in positive affectivity: (1) the rhythm and blues performance (BP), (2) listening to Mahler (MML) and (3) listening to Vangelis (VML). As regards the effects of the musical experience x Moment interaction , all the comparisons were significant, with bigger differences in the interpretation of the blues (BP) than in listening to Mahler (MML) and Vangelis (VML). However, the comparison between both experiences, although significant, was smaller. These results indicate that performing music is significantly effective in increasing positive effects. We will explain these results in greater detail below as regards the specific affective states.

As regards Negative Affects, the comparison of the simple effects showed that these decreased after the musical experiences, although in this first analysis the VML musical experience did not differ from the other two. However, the results of the effects of the interaction between musical experiencie x Moment showed that all the comparisons were significant, with a larger difference between MML and VML than the one between BP and each of the other experiences. Listening to Mahler (MML) was more effective in reducing negative affects, compared to both listening to Vangelis and interpreting the blues (BP). These results agree with previous studies [ 26 , 32 ], in which listening to sad music helped to reduce negative affectivity. In this study, it was the most effective condition, although exposure to all three musical experiences reduced negative affects.

The analysis of the specific affective states shows that most items that belong to Positive Affect scale are the most sensitive ones to the PRE-POST change, the different musical conditions and the interpretation of both effects. However, some items of the Negative Affect scale did not differ in the different music conditions or in the music experience × Moment interaction . For example, there were two items (Guilty and Hostile) that did not obtain significance. These results are consistent with the fact that music has certain limits as regards its impact on people’s affects and does not influence all equally. For example, Guilty has profound psychological implications that cannot be affected by simple exposure to certain musical experiences. This means we should be cautious in inferring that music alone can have therapeutical effects on complex emotional states whose treatment should include empirically validated methods. Also, emotional experiences are widely diverse so that any instrument used to measure them is limited as regards the affective/emotional state under study. These results suggest the importance of reviewing the items that compose the PANAS scale in musical studies to adapt it in order to include affective states more sensitive to musical experiences and eliminate the least relevant items.

The analysis of the results in the specific affective states, allows us to delve deeper into each experimental condition. Thus, regarding the results obtained in the complete scale of PANAS, listening to Mahler (MML), causes desirable changes by raising two positive affects ( Inspired and Attentive ) and reducing 10 negative affects ( Distressed, Upset, Afraid, Hostile, Irritable, Ashamed, Nervous, Jittery, and Scared ). This shows that this music condition had a greater effect on the negative affects than the other ones. These results agree with previous studies [ 26 , 32 ], which found that sad music could effectively reduce negative affects, although other studies came to the opposite conclusion. For instance, Miller and Au [ 31 ] found that sad music did not significantly change negative affects. Some authors [ 47 , 48 ] have argued that adults prefer to listen to sad music to regulate their feelings after a negative psychological experience in order to feel better. Taruffi and Koelsch [ 49 ] concluded that sad music could induce listeners to a wide range of positive effects, after a study with 772 participants. In order to contribute to this debate. It would be interesting to control personality variables that might explain these differences on the specific emotions evoked by sad music. In this study, it has been shown that a sad piece of music can be more effective in reducing negative affects than in increasing positive ones. Although the results come from undergraduate students, similar outcomes could be obtained from children and adolescents, although further research is required. In fact, Borella et al. [ 50 ] studied the influence of age on the effects of music and found that the emotional effects influenced cognitive performance (working memory) in such a way that the type of music (Mozart vs. Albinoni) had a stronger influence on young people than on adults. Kawakami and Hatahira [ 28 ], in a study on 84 primary schoolchildren, also found that exposure to sad music pleased them and their level of empathy correlated with their taste for sad music.

Listening to Vangelis (VML) increased 3 positive affects ( Excited, Inspired and Attentive ) and reduced 8 negative affects ( Distressed, Upset, Afraid, Irritable, Ashamed, Nervous, Jittery , and Scared ). Surprisingly, two positive affects were reduced in this experimental condition ( Alert and Attentive ). It could be explained due to the characteristic ostinato rhythm of this piece of music. It was found a similar effect in the study by Campbell et al., [ 26 ] in which sad music reduced both positive and negative affects. This musical condition also managed to modify negative affects more than positive ones.

Performing the blues (BP) increased all 10 positive affects, indicating that performing is more effective in increasing positive affects than listening. These results agree with the study by Dunbar et al. [ 29 ], who found that music performance significantly increased positive affects.

Performing the blues (BP) reduced 6 negative affects, although it was more effective in increasing positive affective states. Vigorous rhythmic music was also found to be positively associated with the use of all the forms of regulating emotions, which suggests that this type of music is especially useful for emotion modulation [ 51 ]. It was found an exception, since Jittery increased after the blues performance. It could be explained by the negative experience that is sometimes associated with music performance. Therefore, it should be taken into account that music performance could increase some negative effects. For example, Dimsdale et al. [ 52 ] found that a strong negative emotional response to a certain type of music in adolescents was related to risk behaviour, indicating that research into the repertory of music experiences needs to be broadened to diverse styles in different age groups to identify all the types of emotional response and their psychological consequences. However, this result should be taken with caution and further research should focus on whether the effect of increased agitation is usual after music performances.

To sum up, this study contributes to the scientific field on the following points: (1) all the musical experiences had significant effects on improving emotional states, increasing positive affects and decreasing the negative ones, which shows the importance of musical experiences on improving the affective sphere; (2) the specific affects that increased, decreased or did not change for each musical experience were identified, providing specific and useful keys for the design of future interventions; and (3) the differences between various types of musical experiences were analyzed, finding more improvements in the performing conditions than in the listening ones.

Limitations and future directions


The sample, made up of university students with a very homogeneous profile in terms of age and sociodemographic characteristics, could limit the generalization of the results. In addition, the low percentage of men in the sample could also affect the generalizability of the results, although no previous studies have reported gender-based differential effects on the positive and negative affects after musical experiences.

Besides, the choice of the pieces of music was based on theoretical criteria and students’ music preferences were not taken into account. This will be included in future research, since the specific choice of the pieces could affect the positive or negative valence of participants’ emotions. However, the goal of using pieces of music not chosen by participants was to elicit new musical experiences for them. Furthermore, no participant was a musician and none of them had previous knowledge of any of the pieces, which may lead to a bias in the results.

In relation to this, the huge amount of available pieces of music, all of them influenced by their cultural and historical context, make it difficult to generalize that certain music parameters correlate with specific emotions. It would be necessary a cross-cultural approach to reach that conclusion.

Future directions

It is recommended to introduce the variables of music preferences and music history to control their effect on the results and to be able to compare the different musical parameters of the pieces together with participants’ preferences.

Likewise, it would be interesting to identify the affects with a greater or lesser degree of influence by music, to adjust the psychological evaluation instrument to the characteristics of the experiment, including items of emotions that can be modified after exposure to a music experience.

The PANAS manual [ 39 ] indicates that a wide variety of affective states (60) and eight different temporal instructions were included in its construction, showing its great versatility. In further research, this instrument should be adapted to for a more specific application to music studies. For instance, by including other emotional states that could be related with the influence of music (e.g. Tranquility , Gratitude , Elevation ), in order to measure more exactly the effects of music on people’s affective experiences.

Accordingly, it would be interesting to evaluate participants' affective traits to establish a baseline and control personality variables, helping to delve into the different levels of the hierarchical structure of affectivity and its relationship with the various music parameters.

Finally, it is recommended that the psychology of music include objective psychophysiological measurements together with self-report evaluations, so that conclusions arising from the experiments have greater robustness and can increase the impact of the contribution to the scientific community.

This study have shown how different music experiences, such as listening and performing, influence the changes in positive and negative affects in student teachers. The results show that the three musical experiences studied are effective in improving the affects by comparing the emotional states before and after the music experiences. It was also showed that there are differences between the effects obtained in each of the music experiences. Besides, improving both types of affects will depend largely on the selected music for the purpose. Although further evidence is required, the results support the importance of music in education, since it provides tools to increase positive affects and to decrease the negative ones, which is important for emotional intelligence development [ 53 , 54 ].

The three music experiences studied are more effective in reducing negative emotional states than in increasing the positive ones. This finding provides useful clues for music teachers to provide strategies that favor emotional regulation. For instance, in order to reduce hostility, irritability and nervousness, students could be exposed to musical auditions of both sad and solemn pieces, choosing musical pieces with similar characteristics to those described in this study. These auditions will be a resource for stress management in the classroom, as well as a tool that students can adopt and generalize to other contexts. Moreover, it is highly likely that students have not heard this type of music before and this experience could increase their repertoire of musical preferences, enhancing their emotional regulation.

The blues performance had a greater impact on participants' positive affects than listening to the other two pieces so, if any teacher wants to increase them (e.g., enthusiasm, interest, etc.), students could be asked to perform simple pieces such as Rhythm's Blues. In this way, musical performance could increase students' resources, contributing to higher levels of motivation, concentration and interest, which promotes learning [ 55 , 56 , 57 , 58 ]. Likewise, it could be very useful for elementary and secondary music teachers, who will be able to contribute to socio-emotional improvement and personal development of their students. Particularly, musical experiences could be a valuable resource for secondary teachers, since music is important in adolescents' lives and can be an interesting tool for meeting their emotional needs [ 59 ]. This is supported by Kokotsaki and Hallam [ 60 ], who consider that performing music helps students feel like active agents of a group, develop a strong sense of belonging, gain popularity, make "like-minded" relationships, improve their social skills and foster a strong sense of self-esteem and satisfaction.

This study shows that experiencing with various unknown musical pieces can have positive effects on emotions. According to this finding, university professors of Teaching grade in music education should encourage future teachers to experience various musical styles, rhythms and tonalities, avoiding prejudices. Thereby, future music teachers will be able to use a diversity of musical experiences that broaden the emotional effects and fulfill the socio-emotional function of music education. In relation to Fredrickson's 'broaden‐and‐build' framework of positive emotions [ 30 ], music can become a mean of widening other positive emotional states, constructing personal resources and transforming people, and contribute to an upward spiral of positive emotions. Taking into account the underlying psychological mechanisms of the impact of music on the emotional states it will be possible to use it to improve emotional area and other aspects of the personal sphere, as Chang et al., [ 10 ] maintain. Therefore, music education is an important resource to improve the emotional development of students.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We should like to express our gratitude to the Valencia University student teachers for their disinterested and valuable contribution to this study.

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José Salvador Blasco-Magraner, Pablo Marín-Liébana & Ana María Botella-Nicolás

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JSBM and GBV contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by JSBM and GBV. The first draft of the manuscript was written by JSBM, GBV and PML. PML and ABN review, translate and editing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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  • 1 Department of Culture, Communication and Media, University College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 2 Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
  • 3 School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, Australia
  • 4 Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Editorial on the Research Topic The Impact of Music on Human Development and Well-Being

Music is one of the most universal ways of expression and communication for humankind and is present in the everyday lives of people of all ages and from all cultures around the world ( Mehr et al., 2019 ). Hence, it seems more appropriate to talk about musics (plural) rather than in the singular ( Goble, 2015 ). Furthermore, research by anthropologists as well as ethnomusicologists suggests that music has been a characteristic of the human condition for millennia (cf. Blacking, 1976 ; Brown, 1999 ; Mithen, 2005 ; Dissanayake, 2012 ; Higham et al., 2012 ; Cross, 2016 ). Nevertheless, whilst the potential for musical behavior is a characteristic of all human beings, its realization is shaped by the environment and the experiences of individuals, often within groups ( North and Hargreaves, 2008 ; Welch and McPherson, 2018 ). Listening to music, singing, playing (informally, formally), creating (exploring, composing, improvising), whether individually and collectively, are common activities for the vast majority of people. Music represents an enjoyable activity in and of itself, but its influence goes beyond simple amusement.

These activities not only allow the expression of personal inner states and feelings, but also can bring about many positive effects in those who engage in them. There is an increasing body of empirical and experimental studies concerning the wider benefits of musical activity, and research in the sciences associated with music suggests that there are many dimensions of human life—including physical, social, educational, psychological (cognitive and emotional)—which can be affected positively by successful engagement in music ( Biasutti and Concina, 2013 ). Learning in and through music is something that can happen formally (such as part of structured lessons in school), as well as in other-than-formal situations, such as in the home with family and friends, often non-sequentially and not necessarily intentional, and where participation in music learning is voluntary, rather than mandated, such as in a community setting (cf. Green, 2002 ; Folkestad, 2006 ; Saether, 2016 ; Welch and McPherson, 2018 ).

Such benefits are evidenced across the lifespan, including early childhood ( Gerry et al., 2012 ; Williams et al., 2015 ; Linnavalli et al., 2018 ), adolescence ( McFerran et al., 2018 ), and older adulthood ( Lindblad and de Boise, 2020 ). Within these lifespan perspectives, research into music's contribution to health and well-being provides evidence of physical and psychological impacts ( MacDonald et al., 2013 ; Fancourt and Finn, 2019 ; van den Elzen et al., 2019 ). Benefits are also reported in terms of young people's educational outcomes ( Guhn et al., 2019 ), and successful musical activity can enhance an individual's sense of social inclusion ( Welch et al., 2014 ) and social cohesion ( Elvers et al., 2017 ).

This special issue provides a collection of 21, new research articles that deepen and develop our understanding of the ways and means that music can impact positively on human development and well-being. The collection draws on the work of 88 researchers from 17 different countries across the world, with each article offering an illustration of how music can relate to other important aspects of human functioning. In addition, the articles collectively illustrate a wide range of contemporary research approaches. These provide evidence of how different research aims concerning the wider benefits of music require sensitive and appropriate methodologies.

In terms of childhood and adolescence, for example, Putkinen et al. demonstrate how musical training is likely to foster enhanced sound encoding in 9 to 15-year-olds and thus be related to reading skills. A separate Finnish study by Saarikallio et al. provides evidence of how musical listening influences adolescents' perceived sense of agency and emotional well-being, whilst demonstrating how this impact is particularly nuanced by context and individuality. Aspects of mental health are the focus for an Australian study by Stewart et al. of young people with tendencies to depression. The article explores how, despite existing literature on the positive use of music for mood regulation, music listening can be double-edged and could actually sustain or intensify a negative mood.

A Portuguese study by Martins et al. shifts the center of attention from mental to physical benefits in their study of how learning music can support children's coordination. They provide empirical data on how a sustained, 24-week programme of Orff-based music education, which included the playing of simple tuned percussion instruments, significantly enhanced the manual dexterity and bimanual coordination in participant 8-year-olds compared to their active control (sports) and passive control peers. A related study by Loui et al. in the USA offers insights into the neurological impact of sustained musical instrument practice. Eight-year-old children who play one or more musical instruments for at least 0.5 h per week had higher scores on verbal ability and intellectual ability, and these correlated with greater measurable connections between particular regions of the brain related to both auditory-motor and bi-hemispheric connectivity.

Younger, pre-school children can also benefit from musical activities, with associations being reported between informal musical experiences in the home and specific aspects of language development. A UK-led study by Politimou et al. found that rhythm perception and production were the best predictors of young children's phonological awareness, whilst melody perception was the best predictor of grammar acquisition, a novel association not previously observed in developmental research. In another pre-school study, Barrett et al. explored the beliefs and values held by Australian early childhood and care practitioners concerning the value of music in young children's learning. Despite having limited formal qualifications and experience of personal music learning, practitioners tended overall to have positive attitudes to music, although this was biased toward music as a recreational and fun activity, with limited support for the notion of how music might be used to support wider aspects of children's learning and development.

Engaging in music to support a positive sense of personal agency is an integral feature of several articles in the collection. In addition to the Saarikallio team's research mentioned above, Moors et al. provide a novel example of how engaging in collective beatboxing can be life-enhancing for throat cancer patients in the UK who have undergone laryngectomy, both in terms of supporting their voice rehabilitation and alaryngeal phonation, as well as patients' sense of social inclusion and emotional well-being.

One potential reason for these positive findings is examined in an Australian study by Krause et al. . They apply the lens of self-determination theory to examine musical participation and well-being in a large group of 17 to 85-year-olds. Respondents to an online questionnaire signaled the importance of active music making in their lives in meeting three basic psychological needs embracing a sense of competency, relatedness and autonomy.

The use of public performance in music therapy is the subject of a US study by Vaudreuil et al. concerning the social transformation and reintegration of US military service members. Two example case studies are reported of service members who received music therapy as part of their treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other psychological health concerns. The participants wrote, learned, and refined songs over multiple music therapy sessions and created song introductions to share with audiences. Subsequent interviews provide positive evidence of the beneficial psychological effects of this programme of audience-focused musical activity.

Relatedly, McFerran et al. in Australia examined the ways in which music and trauma have been reported in selected music therapy literature from the past 10 years. The team's critical interpretive synthesis of 36 related articles led them to identify four different ways in which music has been used beneficially to support those who have experienced trauma. These approaches embrace the use of music for stabilizing (the modulation of physiological processes) and entrainment (the synchronization of music and movement), as well as for expressive and performative purposes—the fostering of emotional and social well-being.

The therapeutic potential of music is also explored in a detailed case study by Fachner et al. . Their research focuses on the nature of critical moments in a guided imagery and music session between a music therapist and a client, and evidences how these moments relate to underlying neurological function in the mechanics of music therapy.

At the other end of the age span, and also related to therapy, an Australian study by Brancatisano et al. reports on a new Music, Mind, and Movement programme for people in their eighties with mild to moderate dementia. Participants involved in the programme tended to show an improvement in aspects of cognition, particularly verbal fluency and attention. Similarly, Wilson and MacDonald report on a 10-week group music programme for young Scottish adults with learning difficulties. The research data suggest that participants enjoyed the programme and tended to sustain participation, with benefits evidenced in increased social engagement, interaction and communication.

The role of technology in facilitating access to music and supporting a sense of agency in older people is the focus for a major literature review by Creech , now based in Canada. Although this is a relatively under-researched field, the available evidence suggests that that older people, even those with complex needs, are capable of engaging with and using technology in a variety of ways that support their musical perception, learning and participation and wider quality of life.

Related to the particular needs of the young, children's general behavior can also improve through music, as exampled in an innovative, school-based, intensive 3-month orchestral programme in Italy with 8 to 10-year-olds. Fasano et al. report that the programme was particularly beneficial in reducing hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity, whilst enhancing inhibitory control. These benefits are in line with research findings concerning successful music education with specific cases of young people with ADHD whose behavior is characterized by these same disruptive symptoms (hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity).

Extra-musical benefits are also reported in a study of college students (Bachelors and Masters) and amateur musicians in a joint Swiss-UK study. Antonini Philippe et al. suggest that, whilst music making can offer some health protective effects, there is a need for greater health awareness and promotion among advanced music students. Compared to the amateur musicians, the college music students evaluated their overall quality of life and general and physical health more negatively, as did females in terms of their psychological health. Somewhat paradoxically, the college students who had taken part in judged performances reported higher psychological health ratings. This may have been because this sub-group were slightly older and more experienced musicians.

Music appears to be a common accompaniment to exercise, whether in the gym, park or street. Nikol et al. in South East Asia explore the potential physical benefits of synchronous exercise to music, especially in hot and humid conditions. Their randomized cross-over study (2019) reports that “time-to-exhaustion” under the synchronous music condition was 2/3 longer compared to the no-music condition for the same participants. In addition, perceived exertion was significantly lower, by an average of 22% during the synchronous condition.

Comparisons between music and sport are often evidenced in the body of existing Frontiers research literature related to performance and group behaviors. Our new collection contains a contribution to this literature in a study by Habe et al. . The authors investigated elite musicians and top athletes in Slovenia in terms of their perceptions of flow in performance and satisfaction with life. The questionnaire data analyses suggest that the experience of flow appears to influence satisfaction with life in these high-functioning individuals, albeit with some variations related to discipline, participant sex and whether considering team or individual performance.

A more formal link between music and movement is the focus of an exploratory case study by Cirelli and Trehub . They investigated a 19-month-old infant's dance-like, motorically-complex responses to familiar and unfamiliar songs, presented at different speeds. Movements were faster for the more familiar items at their original tempo. The child had been observed previously as moving to music at the age of 6 months.

Finally, a novel UK-based study by Waddington-Jones et al. evaluated the impact of two professional composers who were tasked, individually, to lead a 4-month programme of group composing in two separate and diverse community settings—one with a choral group and the other in a residential home, both funded as part of a music programme for the Hull City of Culture in 2017. In addition to the two composers, the participants were older adults, with the residential group being joined by schoolchildren from a local Primary school to collaborate in a final performance. Qualitative data analyses provide evidence of multi-dimensional psychological benefits arising from the successful, group-focused music-making activities.

In summary, these studies demonstrate that engaging in musical activity can have a positive impact on health and well-being in a variety of ways and in a diverse range of contexts across the lifespan. Musical activities, whether focused on listening, being creative or re-creative, individual or collective, are infused with the potential to be therapeutic, developmental, enriching, and educational, with the caveat provided that such musical experiences are perceived to be engaging, meaningful and successful by those who participate.

Collectively, these studies also celebrate the multiplicity of ways in which music can be experienced. Reading across the articles might raise a question as to whether or not any particular type of musical experience is seen to be more beneficial compared with another. The answer, at least in part, is that the empirical evidence suggests that musical engagement comes in myriad forms along a continuum of more or less overt activity, embracing learning, performing, composing and improvising, as well as listening and appreciating. Furthermore, given the multidimensional neurological processing of musical experience, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that it is perhaps the level of emotional engagement in the activity that drives its degree of health and well-being efficacy as much as the activity's overt musical features. And therein are opportunities for further research!

Author Contributions

The editorial was drafted by GW and approved by the topic Co-editors. All authors listed have made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the Edited Collection, and have approved this editorial for publication.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


We are very grateful to all the contributing authors and their participants for their positive engagement with this Frontiers Research Topic, and also for the Frontiers staff for their commitment and support in bringing this topic to press.

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Keywords: music, wider benefits, lifespan, health, well-being

Citation: Welch GF, Biasutti M, MacRitchie J, McPherson GE and Himonides E (2020) Editorial: The Impact of Music on Human Development and Well-Being. Front. Psychol. 11:1246. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01246

Received: 12 January 2020; Accepted: 13 May 2020; Published: 17 June 2020.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2020 Welch, Biasutti, MacRitchie, McPherson and Himonides. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Graham F. Welch, ; Michele Biasutti,

This article is part of the Research Topic

The Impact of Music on Human Development and Well-Being

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All the Music Research Paper Topics You’ll Need During Your Education

There are plenty of music topics for research paper available, since various melodies have always accompanied us in our lives and have a vibrant history that continues to grow to this day. Almost as old as the human race itself, music has been present in all cultures, traditions, and parts of the world.

Although melody went through all kinds of transformations and changes throughout its long and eventful history, it never ceased to exist. Today, many people find music to be their vocation, so they direct their higher education and academia towards it.

Like anything else, higher music education is complex and requires students to complete a detailed research paper related to tune. Here you’ll find more than 100 topics you can use to create a custom research paper .

How to Choose Music Research Topics

If you chose a music major, you already know how broad the field can be. Not only are there various genres, but the art of creating a melody can be connected to and intertwined with just about any other topic or field.

So, most students struggle in selecting a single title from numerous research topics about music available to them. Even though this might be a challenging and time-consuming task, researching different topics can be quite an exciting journey if you choose a field you’re interested in.

music research paper topics

Tips to Choosing the Best Topic Right for You

For the best results, we suggest choosing a topic you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. A topic that concerns you is also a good pick. Whether that’s a particular musical personality, a specific genre, a discussion on ways how rhythm affects people, the history of songs, or something completely different, there are numerous ways to approach a chosen topic’s historical, social, and cultural peculiarities.

Choosing an interesting topic for your paper is essential if you want to achieve good results. Otherwise, the lack of motivation to tackle a topic you have no interest in will result in poor research, leading to a low-quality paper. So, there’s no good or bad pick when it comes to research paper topics on music, as long as this is something you’ll research and present in detail.

100+ Music Research Paper Topics

You’re probably looking for some topic ideas if you’re reading this article. Whether you have no inspiration for what you could write about or you’re simply looking for some alternative options, this article can provide you with numerous excellent topic ideas. We’ve divided our 100+ topics into 12 categories to find what you’re searching for effortlessly. Check them out!

Music history research paper topics

As previously mentioned, music history is a field you can find plenty of content about. Here are some topic examples that tackle the history of songs and melodies creation:

  • A History of Musical Instruments
  • The Origins of Tribal Percussion
  • Songs on the Radio Throughout History
  • How Popular Music Changed People’s Preferred Genres
  • The History of Country Sound
  • The Origins of Black Music
  • The Impact of African Music on American Pop Culture
  • The History of Reggae Songs
  • The Blues and the African American Society
  • Female Impact on Jazz Melody
  • The Globalization of Argentinian Music
  • European Songs History After World War II
  • Imperial Chinese and Japanese Music
  • The Impact of Wars on Sound
  • The History of Music in Theatres

Music controversial topics

Tones can also tackle some controversial topics. If you’d like to find some research topics about music that raise questions and deal with contemporary issues in society, here are several suggestions:

  • Is Modern Pop Music Ruining Societal Moral Values?
  • Is Country Style Associated With Political Conservatism?
  • The Rising Popularity of Transgender Singers Good or a Bad Thing?
  • Can Music Inspire Teens to Behave Badly?
  • Should Alcohol and Soft Drugs Be Recommended as Sources of Music Inspiration?

Music topics to write about

For people who simply need a broader topic that’ll help them or inspire them to think in a particular direction, think about basing your music research topics on one of the below-mentioned ideas:

  • Topics related to a specific artist, composer, or musical work
  • Topics focusing on a specific music genre
  • Topics dealing with songs of a certain period in history
  • Topics tackling sound in different countries, cultures, or parts of the world
  • Topics answering questions or concerns music might have raised or led to

Music theory topics

If you’re passionate about the theory, there’s nothing better than focusing your research on it and finding more about it throughout the entire process. Think about implementing one of the research paper topics on music theory mentioned here:

  • The Analysis of the Crucial Aspects of Music
  • Hidden Symbols in Melodies From the Renaissance Period
  • The Unique Characteristics of Music in the Romantic Era
  • The Remarkable Sound Features of the Baroque-Era
  • The Major Music Directions of the 20th Century

Debatable music topics

If you want to take your research paper writing to a whole new level, think about going for debatable music topics. They can be fascinating to research, write, and read, as they usually tackle ideas people often debate or have different opinions about. Here are some examples:

  • Does Pop Music Influence Beauty Standards?
  • Does Sound Production Improve or Worsen Music Quality?
  • Is the Quality of Music Education Good Enough in Public Schools?
  • Should Digital Songs Be Free for Everyone to Download and Listen To?
  • Can There Be a Distinction Between a Good and a Bad Music Genre?

Music persuasive speech topics

Persuading someone by taking a stand with a research paper isn’t easy, but it’s significantly easier if you have a good topic to rely on. Check these out:

  • Sound Plays a Big Role in the Advertising Industry
  • Music Greatly Impacted the Success of the Fashion Industry
  • Metal and Rock Music Should Be Banned
  • Music Should Be Free to Listen for Everyone
  • Melody Can Influence Our Life Decisions

Music psychology research topics

COnnecting music and psychology isn’t a new phenomenon. But, it’s still not as nearly researched as it should be, which is why it’s a great idea to choose psychology music topics for a research paper. Think about the following suggestions:

  • Can Music Affect Our Mood, State of Mind, and Overall Mental Health?
  • Can Playing Piano Improve Communication Skills Among People With Communication Issues?
  • Can Tones Affect Mental Development in Toddlers, Children, and Teens?
  • Does Music Education Truly Regulate the Abnormal Activities of Our Brain?
  • How Efficient Are Sound Therapies?

Music education research topics

Music is part of our education right from the beginning. Since students have specific lessons while attending elementary, middle, and high school, there are a lot of research topics for music education out there.

  • The Importance of Music Education
  • What Are the Most Successful Methodologies of Teaching Tunes?
  • 20th and 21st Century: Differences in Teaching Music
  • My Experience With Music Education Lessons
  • Crucial Reasons for Attending Music Classes
  • Is It Possible to Succeed Without Music Education?
  • Main Issues of Music Lessons in Higher Education
  • Can Music Assist in the Learning Process?
  • Does Music Offer Something to Younger Generations?
  • Should Formal Music Education Follow the Trends in the Pop Industry?

Music argument topics

Argumentative research papers are often the most interesting ones even though it’s tricky to write them as they can lead to numerous debates. Here are some helpful ideas for argumentative music research topics:

  • Alternative Music Genres Are Commonly Misinterpreted
  • Why Present-Day Songs Is Better Than Those From the 90s
  • Sounds Helps You Memorize, Learn, and Develop Faster
  • Classical Tones Is Still Relevant
  • Technology Will Dictate the Music Genres of the Future

Music thesis topics

Finding the perfect thesis topic will undoubtedly take some time and effort. Maybe these suggestions can help:

  • Differences Between Western and Eastern Music Styles
  • What Makes a Musician Stand Out Today?
  • The Role of Sound in Ancient Cultures
  • Music and Fashion Today
  • The Role of Rap and Hip Hop in Black and White Cultures

Country music topics

Country music is an integral part of American tradition and heritage. Here are some of the topics you can use if you want to highlight the importance of the country genre:

  • The History Behind Country Style
  • The Main Elements Found in Country Music
  • The Evolution of Country Songs in the U.s.
  • Country and Western Music in the Movie Industry
  • A Common Message Shared by Country Themes Works
  • The Key Instruments of the Country Music
  • What Made Country Songs So Popular?
  • Why Did Country Music Decrease in Popularity Over the Last Several Years?
  • Country: The Symbol of Americana
  • The Country Sound and Human Emotion

Classical music topics

For all fans of classical sound, here’s a list of 10 classical music topics for a research paper:

  • History of the Classical Music Genre
  • What Songs Are Considered to Be Classical?
  • Is the Classical Music Genre Still Impactful Today?
  • The Role of Classical Sound in Disney Production
  • Common Traits of Classical Music Listeners
  • The Most Impactful Classical Works
  • The Significant Role of Women in Classical Music
  • Can Metal and Classical Sound Find Common Ground?
  • What Makes Mozart Different From Other Classical Music Composers?
  • How Do Classical and Modern Melodies Differ?

Writing a detailed, well-researched, and high-quality paper isn’t simple. By using these topics and hiring our professional and skilled writing team, you can end up with one of the best music research papers. Whether you need some help with a research paper or would like to hire our services, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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Best 100 music research topics (just updated).

music research topics

If you are reading this, you are probably looking for the best music research topics for your next essay. Truth be told, choosing the right topic is very important. It can make the difference between a B and an A, or even between an A and an A+. Unfortunately, choosing the best topics is not as simple as you think. Even though the internet is full of music research topics, most of them are plain and, quite frankly, boring.

Your professor wants more than this. Let’s see why you need the most interesting topics and where you can find them. Of course, you are free to use any of our 100 topics for free and even reword them as you see fit. Read on!

Choosing Good Music Research Topics

By now, you are probably wondering why everyone keeps telling you to come up with the best music topics. The truth is that there are many, many benefits to choosing an awesome topic. Here are just some of them, so you can get a better idea of the importance of a great idea:

  • Excellent music research paper topics show your professor that you really did your best to get a top grade.
  • A good topic is one that you know much about. It should be relatively easy to you to research it and to write about it.
  • An awesome topic will pique the interest of your professor and will keep him or her reading. You will often get bonus points for this.
  • Great topics make you stand out from your classmates. Your professor will notice you, and the grade will reflect this.

Where Can You Find Decent Music Topics?

Finding amazing music research topics is easier said than done. Yes, the Internet is full of websites that are offering ideas. There are even websites where you can buy bundles of topics. However, the music argumentative essay topics you will get from these websites are not of the highest quality. Most of them are actually quite boring. And remember, you classmates are probably searching for music history research paper topics on the same websites as you do. You want your research topics on music or book review topics to be original, so your professor can have a reason to award your paper some bonus points. The best place to get excellent music topics to write about is this page. The list of ideas is updated frequently, so you can get an original topic for free right now.

Music History Research Topics

Are you looking for the most interesting music history research topics? If you do, just pick one from our list for free:

  • How did the Catholic church influence Renaissance music?
  • Social issues described in Baroque-period music.
  • Analyze the evolution of Romantic-era music.
  • How did the Baroque Opera come to be?
  • Who invented Medieval music and when?
  • Why has western music almost disappear in the last 10 years?
  • Analyze the evolution of music in the Classical era.
  • Analyzing violin music performance during the Romantic Era.

Music Argument Topics

Are you looking to find an argument and support it? Then you absolutely need to check out our exceptional list of music argument topics:

  • Music today is better than music in the 90s.
  • The most lucrative career for a musician.
  • Music helps you memorize faster.
  • The most popular kind of metal music.
  • The evolution of blues songs over the last 30 years.
  • Music helps children develop faster.
  • Hip-hop is a misunderstood music genre.
  • Jazz music is not obsolete.

Music Theory Topics

Interested in writing about music theory? Our amazing academic writers have put together a list of music theory topics for you:

  • Analyze the most important aspects of modern music.
  • Classical music has specific medical applications.
  • Hidden symbols in Renaissance-period music.
  • The unique features of Baroque-age music.
  • Analyze the evolution of music in the Baroque era.
  • The best music compositors in the Romantic era.
  • Remarkable characteristics of Romantic-age songs.
  • The peculiarities of Asian modern music.

Music Industry Topics

Writing about the music industry can be fun and entertaining. Your professor will love it. Pick one of our music industry topics and start writing:

  • What do you associate rock music with and why?
  • Should the music industry pay songwriters more?
  • How does illegal pirating of songs affect the music industry?
  • Do music sharing sites help new artists become famous.
  • Analyze the evolution of music labels in the US.
  • What differentiates a music label from all others?
  • Music talent shows and their effects on a musician’s career.
  • The difficulties of signing a contract with a major music label in the US.

Research Paper Topics on Music for High School

Are you a high school student? In this case, you will need our research paper topics on music for high school:

  • The best compositors of the Baroque Era.
  • What differentiates modern music from classical music?
  • Notable women in classical music.
  • Analyze the evolution of music in the Modern age.
  • How was Beethoven’s music influenced by his loss of hearing?
  • How would our world be without music?
  • Does music cause negative effects on US teens?

Music Thesis Topics

Writing a thesis about music is not easy. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult projects in your academic career. Start right now by choosing one of the best music thesis topics:

  • What made a musician stand out in the Baroque Age?
  • The most notable musical experiments in the Classical age.
  • Comparing Renaissance and Medieval music styles.
  • Analyze the evolution of music in the Renaissance age.
  • How did royalty in the UK benefit from music in the Renaissance era?
  • Discuss a folk song from the Renaissance age.
  • Differences between Asian and European classical music.

Music Controversial Topics

Music, like most other disciplines, has plenty of controversial topics you can talk about. Don’t waste any time and pick one of these music controversial topics:

  • Does digital music cut the profits of musicians?
  • Who owns the intellectual property to a song?
  • The difficulties of getting songwriting credit.
  • Illegal downloads are changing the music industry.
  • Should music education still be included in the curriculum?
  • Analyze medieval liturgical music.
  • Music should be free for everyone to download and use.

Persuasive Speech Topics About Music

Are you required the write a persuasive speech about music? If you are, you may need a bit of help. Pick one of these persuasive speech topics about music (updated for 2023):

  • Music has a significant effect on advertising.
  • The changes rap music has brought to the US culture.
  • Indie is a term that should not apply to music.
  • Metal music should be banned from the US.
  • Does listening to music have a great influence on mental health?
  • The amazing evolution of music in the Medieval age.
  • People should be free to listen to the music they like for free.
  • The fashion industry wouldn’t be where it is today without music.

Easy Topics About Music

Perhaps you don’t want to spend 5 or 6 hours writing the research paper . You need an easier topic. Choose one of these easy topics about music and write the essay fast:

  • How can one become a symbol of modern music?
  • My favorite singer today.
  • Which musician from the past would you bring back to life and why?
  • Do politics influence modern music?
  • Compare and contrast two music genres.
  • Analyze the evolution of music in the modern age in the United States.
  • The side effects of turning the volume too loud.
  • How is classical music used in Disney movies?

Music Education Research Topics

Are you interested in talking about music education? Perhaps you’ll have some suggestions to make after you’ve done the research. Just choose one of the music education research topics below:

  • Can E-Learning be applied to music education?
  • Can music teachers offer distance learning services?
  • The advantages and disadvantages of Zoom music lessons.
  • Why are music worksheets so important for high school students?
  • How did the Internet change music education?
  • Why are modern music studies so important?
  • Should we learn more about Asian music in school?
  • How can students learn music while respecting COVID19 measures?

Highly Interesting Music Topics

We know you want a top grade on your next music research paper. We advise you to select one of these highly interesting music topics and surprise your professor:

  • How did pop music came to existence and why?
  • Analyze the history of hip-hop music.
  • Compare metal music with classical music.
  • Why is rock music so popular in the United Kingdom?
  • Which song would best present our species to aliens?
  • Compare and contrast Korean and Chinese music.
  • Analyze the popular themes of Japanese music.
  • The stunning rise of K-pop bands.

Informative Speech Topics About Music

It’s difficult to find good informative speech topics about music these days. If you want to stand out from the rest of your classmates, choose one of our topics:

  • Discuss the ideas presented in romantic music.
  • What do people who appreciate classic music have in common?
  • Analyze the most popular Bach music.
  • Describe the role of market music in the Baroque era.
  • Analyze the evolution of European music.
  • Ways to make classical music popular with teens in the UK.
  • Discuss the most popular musical instrument in the Classical age.

Music Essay Topics for College

Are you a college student? If you want an A+ on your next research paper, use one of these music essay topics for college students:

  • Does modern music contain medieval themes?
  • Analyze a song from the Renaissance age.
  • Why is blues music so important for our culture?
  • Who invented the blues genre and when?
  • Analyze the evolution of American folk music.
  • Most popular names in Baroque-age songs.
  • Modern interpretations of medieval songs.
  • Listening to blues music can lead to depression.

Need some more music history paper topics? Or perhaps you need a list of music related research topics to choose from for your thesis. Our best paper writer can help you in no time. Get in touch with us and we guarantee that we will find the perfect music topic for your needs. You will be well on your way to getting the A+ you need. Give us a try and get an amazing research topic on music in 10 minutes or less!

Child Development Research Paper Topics

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160 Hot Music Research Paper Topics For You

music research topics

Music has been part of human beings since time immemorial. As it evolves, everyone has a specific taste for a specific song, genre, or musical instrument. Some of the top genres include roots, reggae, hip-hop, jazz, and rock music. The evolution and popularity of music have made it become one of the important subjects taught in schools worldwide.

If you are in college, pursuing music as a career, one of the important tasks when writing every research paper is picking the right topic. However, selecting an exciting music topic has always been a challenge for most students. To help you with the problem, we have listed the top 160 music research topics. Go ahead and select any of them or tweak them to reflect your preference.

How To Select The Best Music Topics For Research Paper

  • Special Tips to use when Selecting Research Topics about Music

Top Music Research Paper Topics

Music argument topics, music history topics, hip hop research paper topics, jazz research paper topics, music appreciation research paper topics, music education research topics, pop culture research paper topics, rap topics ideas, fun music topics.

The ability to come up with the right topic for your music research paper is an important skill that every student should develop. Here are some steps to follow when looking for the most appropriate music research paper topics.

  • Go for the research topic about music that is interesting to you.
  • Only pick the music topics to write about if they have ample resources.
  • Ensure only to pick interesting music topics that meet your college requirements.
  • Go for the topic that you can comprehensively write on.

Special Tips to Use When Selecting Research Topics About Music

If you want to enjoy every moment working on your research papers, it is advisable to cast eyes beyond what is easy and popular. This means trying to check interesting topics that will allow you to answer tough research questions about music. Here are additional tips to help you:

  • Brainstorm the current music topics.
  • Comprehensively research the subject of interest before starting to develop the topics.
  • Consider starting with music thesis topics and finally narrow to the one you consider the best.
  • Follow current affairs in the music industry.
  • A closer look at the evolution of music over the years.
  • Analyzing the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
  • Analyzing the relationship between music and dance.
  • A closer look at the most lucrative careers for musicians.
  • Music and health: What is the relationship?
  • How does music impact fashion?
  • Which music genre has impacted music more?
  • A closer look at music marketing for different genres.
  • Does music help learners concentrate when doing assignments?
  • How does music affect clothing style?
  • Evaluating the influence of music on culture in a country of choice.
  • Analyzing the use of music for advancing political propaganda.
  • How has production in music changed in the recent past?
  • Drawing the connections between popular and contemporary music.
  • Comparing music in the US with that of Latin America?
  • In what ways are music and poetry related?
  • Classical music: Does it still play a major role in music production today?
  • Evaluating the main processes used in music production today.
  • Analyzing the importance of music theory in music production.
  • Music production: Why do some musicians ask others to write their songs?
  • Pirating is one of the biggest threats to the growth of the music industry.
  • Music can be a great rehabilitation procedure for inmates.
  • The cost of music production is a major obstacle to the faster growth of the industry.
  • Exploring the factors that have made Chinese music develop slower compared to western music.
  • Evaluating the most important skills that an artist needs to produce a song.
  • How does music compare to other types of media today?
  • How does music impact the way people think?
  • What are the most notable challenges in music production?
  • How does creating music impact how people think?
  • Comparing the roles of women in contemporary and modern music.
  • What challenges do minority groups have in music production?
  • What are the legal implications of downloading music?
  • Music production: How does contemporary and modern music production differ?
  • What role do social media platforms play in music distribution?
  • Evaluating common traits of people who like listening to classical music.
  • How does music affect teen behavior?
  • Is music helpful in your daily activities?
  • Analyzing music as a tool of advertisement.
  • The future of music.
  • Exploring the significance of music in education.
  • Assessing the contribution of music to the US economy.
  • What is the contribution of music to the US economy today?
  • A closer look at the impact of pop music on people’s culture.
  • What are the key differences between 21 st and 20 th -century pop music?
  • How is music production affected by different laws in the US?
  • Analyzing the ethical impacts of downloading music.
  • Analyzing the evolution of symphonic music.
  • A closer look at the use of classical music in the video production industry.
  • Women who played significant roles in classical music.
  • What differentiates Mozart music from other types of classical music?
  • A comparative analysis of two top classical musical producers.
  • The economic impacts of free music downloading.
  • How does revenue from music and film production compare?
  • Analyzing the main characteristics of country music.
  • Exploring the relationship between drugs and psychedelic rock.
  • A closer look at the merits and demerits of capitalistic perception of the music industry.
  • Analyzing the modern approaches to songwriting.
  • How has jazz impacted the American culture?
  • Exploring the roots of African-American melodies.
  • A historical comparison of hip-hop and jazz.
  • What does it take for a musician to succeed today?
  • Should the government fund upcoming artists?
  • Which classical artist has had the biggest impact on you?
  • The impact of the British music invasion of the US market.
  • How is music used in war?
  • Comparing high and low culture in the current music.
  • Exploring the difference between music and poetry.
  • Comparing the most lucrative careers in the music industry.
  • What impact does music has on children’s cognitive development?
  • Analyzing the history of American music education.

Different forms of music exist that we learn in various genres. In many institutions, music argument topics are assigned to know a student’s response regarding their opinions towards a genre. These music types range from classical to country, pop, jazz, blues, afro beats, and rock music. Understanding each one and knowing examples will help students choose the right argument. Some topics include;

  • Evolution of rock music in comparison with rap music.
  • What is behind the various instruments and their history in creating a particular genre of music?
  • How the merging of societies and cultures influence native music.
  • Reasons why rock music was used in the cinemas for long periods instead of another genre.
  • The effect of globalization on pop and jazz music.
  • The prominence of jazz music in the US over a short time.
  • How black women fought and argued over social injustice through jazz music.
  • Does jazz music celebrate black culture or glorify oppression?
  • Women or men – who have played more roles in the development of classical music?
  • The prominence of rap music in the present generation. Result of depreciated quality of music or evolution?

Music contains a broad history, with studies on performance, composition, reception, and quality over time. The history of music is usually intertwined with the composer’s life and development of the particular genre they create. Some music history topics include;

  • History of pop music in America in the 20th century.
  • Musical styles of England in the 21st century.
  • The history of afro-beat and their development across West Africa and the rest of the world.
  • Historical performance of music: the study of Beethoven’s works.
  • History of Jazz and its development in the United States.
  • Music in Ancient cultures: Native music
  • The role of women in music development
  • History of classical music
  • Different types of music in the 19th century
  • Important of renaissance music in history.

Present-day hip-hop music developed its culture and lyrical pattern. The style has evolved and gotten more refined and flexible over the years. Going into its history, many facets inspired it to what it has become today. Some hip hop research paper topics include;

  • The history and structure of hip hop music
  • Hip hop and its ties with poetry
  • Hip hop culture and fashion today
  • Old school vs. new school hip hop
  • Rap and hip hop culture
  • Violence in rap and hip hop
  • The evolution of hip hop and rap music
  • The positives and negatives of hip hop and its culture
  • Bland misogyny in hip hop music lyrics
  • The role of hip hop in white and black cultures

Jazz has a rich history in black culture and black liberation and its development led to major cultural shifts across the world. This music genre is refined and is deep-rooted in black history. It is music for the soul. Here are some jazz research paper topics;

  • What is jazz music? An explanatory approach to its culture and relevance.
  • History of jazz music.
  • Jazz music and pop culture
  • Jazz music and its listeners: Who listens to modern jazz?
  • Why 1959 was a turning point in the history of jazz?
  • The significance of jazz on the civil rights movement
  • The history of jazz dances in America
  • Some of the best jazz musicians of the 20th century
  • Development of jazz music into the post-modern era.
  • A study and review of the different dimensions of jazz.

Research topics on music appreciation mainly look into the reception and criticism of a given piece of music. This is achieved while examining vital music facets such as rhythm, performance, melody, and instrumentation. Here are some good examples of music appreciation research paper topics.

  • The best generations of music
  • The greatest musical icon: the life and times of Michael Jackson
  • Music appreciation in the 21st century
  • Music philosophy and its value
  • Notable mentions in music evolution
  • The theory of music and its importance
  • The unique and different eras of music
  • Music and its welcomed effect on the brain
  • Music in different continents
  • The love for opera

Music education is integral and important to enlightening younger generations about musical history, culture, evolution, and present significance to society. Without music to decorate our lives, time is just a dull passage of raw emotions and existence. Music knowledge and understanding is vital, and it affects our culture and way of life. Here are some music education research topics;

  • Scope of music therapy
  • The role of music in political movements
  • Music and society
  • Music business and management
  • Functions of music therapy relating to intellectual improvement
  • Significance of music education
  • Contemporary music and its controversies
  • Music and human emotion
  • Technology and the evolution of music production
  • The birth and prominence of music videos

Pop culture comprises numerous categories, including music, fashion, social media, television, language, and many more. It has gradually become an integral facet of our society. It has its perks and criticisms, but it is here to stay and makes our lives a lot more interesting. Some noteworthy pop culture research paper topics are;

  • What makes pop culture popular?
  • Is pop culture bad or good for the present society?
  • Does pop culture disrupt moral values?
  • Modern technology and its effects on pop culture
  • How does American pop culture affect the global economy?
  • Technology and ethical issues in pop culture
  • Pop culture and its educational benefits
  • How is humanity’s development expressed in pop culture?
  • Is it necessary to study pop culture?
  • Pop culture and its demerits to the society

Rap has become a mainstay in our music genre today. After its rocky start, it has fully become integrated into our music culture and lifestyle. Rap is an expression of life situations, love, religion, family, and who we are. Some rap topics ideas include;

  • Rhythm and melody
  • The art of flow and rhyme in rap
  • Rap dimensions: tone and delivery
  • Evolution and history of rap music
  • The negatives and positives of rap music
  • Contemporary rap music
  • The role of rap music in black communities
  • Does rap incite and encourage black violence?
  • The history and origin of rap
  • Rap as a means of expression

Music will always be an exemplary form of self-expression and art. Over the years, it has progressed and transformed through various dynamics. Today, at least a hundred music genres out there are fun and beautiful in their diversity. There are many fun music topics, and some of them include:

  • How music helps fight stress and psychological problems
  • The most iconic musical instruments for creating music
  • Which music inspires you and why?
  • Music in the 21st century
  • The most common and popular type of music
  • Reflection of social issues in music
  • A couple of reasons to listen to music
  • What differentiates good music from bad music?
  • Different dimensions of music
  • Imagining a non-music world.

After selecting the best research topic about music, the next step is writing your paper. This task is even more monumental than selecting the topic. Here, you need to craft an outline, have impeccable writing skills, and complete your task within the stipulated timelines. Is this too much? If you find it a challenge to write your paper, the best option is seeking writing help. The assistance is provided by affordable writing experts who understand how to create a good music thesis statement and have an impressive experience to craft winning papers. Do you want assurance of high grades? If “yes,” it is time to work with experts!

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In Mexico, piñatas are not just child’s play. They’re a 400-year-old tradition

A worker hangs the most traditional style of “piñata,” a sphere with seven spiky cones, that will be filled with fruit and candy at a family-run piñata-making business in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. This style of piñata has a religious origin, with each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins, and hitting the globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

City workers set up tents for a piñata fair during the Christmas season in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. The piñata business is steady all year, mainly with birthday parties, but it really picks up around Christmas because they are interwoven with Christian traditions in Mexico. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

María de Lourdes Ortiz Zacarías sells piñatas at her small family-run piñata-making business in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. The family started their business in Acolman, where Ortiz Zacarías’ mother was known as “the queen of the piñatas” before her death. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Crepe paper that was cut to decorate Christmas “piñatas” hang at a small family-run business in Acolman just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. There are countless designs, from Disney characters to political figures, but the most traditional style of piñata is a sphere with seven spiky cones. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A tourist take a selfie with a painting showing Catholic missionaries breaking a piñata on display inside the municipal building in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. Spanish chronicler Juan de Grijalva wrote that piñatas were used by Augustine monks in the early 1500s at a convent in the town of Acolman. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A traditional “pinata” is displayed at the municipal building in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. This style of piñata has a religious origin, with each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins, and hitting the globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

A piñata maker works on a traditional design, a sphere and seven spikes, at a family-run piñata-making business in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. This style of piñata has a religious origin, with each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins, and hitting the globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Cut paper flags announce the piñata fair in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. Grandparents in Mexico can remember a time when piñatas were clay pots covered with paper and filled with hunks of sugar cane, fruits and peanuts. But the tradition goes back even further. Some say piñatas can be traced back to China, where paper making originated. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Traditional Christmas “piñatas” that will be filled with fruit and candy are displayed at a small family-run business in Acolman just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. This style of piñata has a religious origin, with each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins, and hitting the globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

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ACOLMAN, Mexico (AP) — María de Lourdes Ortiz Zacarías swiftly cuts hundreds of strips of newsprint and colored crepe paper needed to make a piñata, soothed by Norteño music on the radio while measuring pieces by feel.

“The measurement is already in my fingers,” Ortiz Zacarías says with a laugh.

She has been doing this since she was a child, in the family-run business alongside her late mother, who learned the craft from her father. Piñatas haven’t been displaced by more modern customs, and her family has been making a living off them into its fourth generation.

María de Lourdes Ortiz Zacarías sells piñatas at her small family-run piñata-making business in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. The family started their business in Acolman, where Ortiz Zacarías’ mother was known as “the queen of the piñatas” before her death. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Ortiz Zacarías calls it “my legacy, handed down by my parents and grandparents.”

Business is steady all year, mainly with birthday parties, but it really picks up around Christmas. That’s because piñatas are interwoven with Christian traditions in Mexico .

FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, file photo, ornaments hang on a Christmas tree on display in New York. (AP Photo/Swayne B. Hall, File)

There are countless designs these days, based on everything from Disney characters to political figures. But the most traditional style of piñata is a sphere with seven spiky cones, which has a religious origin.

Each cone represents one of the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Hitting the paper-mache globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin, with the added advantage of releasing the candy within.

Piñatas weren’t originally filled with candy, nor made mainly of paper. Grandparents in Mexico can remember a time a few decades ago when piñatas were clay pots covered with paper and filled with hunks of sugar cane, fruits and peanuts. The treats were received quite gladly, though falling pieces of the clay pot posed a bit of a hazard.

Traditional Christmas "piñatas" that will be filled with fruit and candy are displayed at a small family-run business in Acolman just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. This style of piñata has a religious origin, with each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins, and hitting the globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

But the tradition goes back even further. Some say piñatas can be traced back to China, where paper-making originated.

In Mexico, they were apparently brought by the Spanish conquerors, but may also replicate pre-Hispanic traditions.

Spanish chronicler Juan de Grijalva wrote that piñatas were used by Augustine monks in the early 1500s at a convent in the town of Acolman, just north of Mexico City. The monks received written permission from Pope Sixtus V for holding a year-end Mass as part of the celebration of the birth of Christ.

But the Indigenous population already celebrated a holiday around the same time to honor the god of war, Huitzilopochtli. And they used something similar to piñatas in those rites.

The pre-Hispanic rite involved filling clay jars with precious cocoa seeds — the stuff from which chocolate is made — and then ceremonially breaking the jars.

A piñata maker works on a traditional design, a sphere and seven spikes, at a family-run piñata-making business in Acolman, just north of Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. This style of piñata has a religious origin, with each cone representing one of the seven deadly sins, and hitting the globe with a stick is a symbolic blow against sin. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

“This was the meeting of two worlds,” said Walther Boelsterly, director of Mexico City’s Museum of Popular Art. “The piñata and the celebration were used as a mechanism to convert the native populations to Catholicism.”

Piñatas are also used in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, mainly at children’s parties.

The piñata hasn’t stood still. Popular figures this year range from Barbie to Spider-Man. Ortiz Zacarías’ family makes some new designs most of the year, but around Christmas they return to the seven-pointed style, because of its longstanding association with the holiday.

The family started their business in Acolman, where Ortiz Zacarías’ mother, Romana Zacarías Camacho, was known as “the queen of the piñatas” before her death.

Ortiz Zacarías’ 18-year-old son, Jairo Alberto Hernández Ortiz, is the fourth generation to take up the centuriesold craft.

“This is a family tradition that has a lot of sentimental value for me,” he said.

Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at


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What is AP Research and How Do I Find a Topic of Inquiry?

10 min read • december 22, 2021

Dylan Black

Dylan Black

Introduction to AP Research

Welcome to the second class in the AP Capstone program! Fresh out of AP Seminar, you're ready to take on the next and final step in your journey to earning a Capstone Diploma: AP Research. AP Research is a class that is all about the students . That's right, the students. This class can be summed up in one word: individualistic . As will be seen in just a few minutes, the class truly is what you make of it. In this guide, we'll dive right into it with what AP Research is all about, what differs it from Seminar, and how to find the perfect topic of inquiry and research question .

Source: Tenor

What is AP Research?

AP Research is a beast 👹 of a course, and while this might be coming from my perspective as a veteran of the course, most students will agree that it is a TON of work, and only 8 to 9 months maximum to do it.

While AP Seminar consists of using collected, already established evidence to prove points, AP Research has you collecting your own data. Meaning you'll need to conduct a study, analyze content, experiment, or whatever you want.

Seriously. Whatever your little heart ❤️ desires.

I’ve seen papers on milk cartons, data mining on social media, Disney’s Big Hero Six, and everything in between. In my class alone, there were students studying nutrition, concerts, climate change, water cleanliness, and so much more. The only thing that truly ties together these papers is that they are new, original research that adds to a body of knowledge. Pretty broad, we know.

To further push this point, here are some sample AP Research paper titles from high scoring students:

“Making Health Education LGBTQ+ Inclusive in Vermont High Schools”
“Growth For Good: How Past Experiences Motivate Executives to Join Double Bottom Line Organizations in The Indian Construction Industry”
“Music Chemistry: The Formula of K-Pop”

And those are just from 2017 alone. AP Research lets loose the reins and allows students to quite literally go wild on whatever they want to study. That's why AP Research is such an awesome course .

There are five required sections to the paper: an introduction, a literature review , a methodology , data and/or results and analysis, a conclusion, and a bibliography . The following guides will follow this structure as you go through the AP Research journey.

Throughout the year, students do intensive, in-depth research into a specific discipline , identify a gap in that field, and fill it. This includes conducting a formal literature review ; designing a proper, justifiable methodology that will fill the gap; and, finally, actually doing it. The first step of it all, however, is finding a topic, and that's what we'll take a look at first.

How to Find A Topic of Inquiry

What even is a topic of inquiry.

A topic of inquiry can be defined fairly succinctly: it is the topic that a paper covers. For example: if you are studying education, a topic of inquiry may be "the impacts of flipped classrooms on high school level regular, honors, and AP math classes". Note that the topic of inquiry is detailed and specific. This might seem really simple, but in reality, figuring this out can in fact be one of the hardest parts of this class. Odds are, your teacher had you thinking about this early, maybe even over the summer. Many students think topic of inquiry = discipline . This is NOT true. A discipline is the broad area of study that a paper is focused within. For example, disciplines include economics, film, art, chemistry, physics, music, and even broader, hard sciences, social sciences, humanities, etc. Rather, a topic of inquiry is narrow. It's specific. Think of it this way: if someone put all of a class's topics of inquiry in a hat and pulled them at random, they should be able to easily identify each person who wrote that paper, even if a few students had similar broad focuses.

Finding a Broad Focus

The first step in finding a topic of inquiry is identifying a discipline . This can be a subject you want to major in, a passion of yours, or just something you want to learn more about. Personally, I suggest going with something you have some prior knowledge in, but that doesn't mean you can't explore something new. On a similar note, you may go into Research with what you think is a plan, the perfect plan, a research question and topic of inquiry that will carry you straight to a 5. However, when starting Research, expect for your plans to change . I'll use myself as an example. The summer going into AP Research, I was dead set on doing educational research. I even had a topic of inquiry in mind: I was going to study the impacts of flipped classrooms on different levels of classes (AP, Honors, etc.). Perfect, beautiful, time to win Research. However , this plan very quickly fell apart, and by the end of October, I was re-narrowing a topic of focus about Moon , a science fiction film by Duncan Jones.

In my philosophy, finding your "perfect topic" isn't something you can necessarily "try" to do. If you keep asking yourself "is this my topic?" you'll overthink and keep flip flopping. Instead, you'll know your topic when you see it. I know this sounds sappy and almost romantic, but it's true (heck, my teacher referred to "marrying" your topic at least 3 times). I first watched Moon in chemistry class nearly a YEAR before Research started and I found myself studying its themes of Marxism within two months out of nowhere.

Narrowing a Focus and Finding a Gap in . . . Wait For It . . . Research!

So you've got a broad focus, now what? At this point, you want to start narrowing it down . When I say narrowing, I mean taking what is typically a broad idea and doing research (ah, there's the dreaded word!) to go from this broad topic to a true topic of inquiry . Before we get into this, let's start talking about gaps .

What is a Gap?

Image from Medium .

AP Research is all about finding and closing a gap in the body of knowledge . These are some new terms, so let's start by defining them.

The body of knowledge is all of the "stuff" that is known about your broad focus. For example, let's suppose you have decided that you want to study perceptions of advertising among different age groups (this was just a random off the cusp topic—if you don't want to do something like this, that is fine ). Obviously, this broad a topic has been studied. The body of knowledge is all of that stuff that HAS been studied. Essentially, it is the research questions that have already been addressed and therefore have already been covered. Your goal in AP Research is to find a question that hasn't been answered and then answer it! That's where the gap comes in.

Get very, very used to this term folks. The gap describes this tiny bit of research that has not been uncovered, and guess whose job it is to uncover it? YOU!!!! Welcome to the purpose of AP Research: filling the gap .

The idea of the gap can feel super intimidating, and that's because it is! Research is so crazy deep and so intense and the idea of having to find something nobody has studied can feel impossible. In fact, it really is. There is no way to read every paper on every subtopic of subtopic of your body of knowledge. On this point, by filling the gap, I'm not saying you have to make a revolutionary discovery and save the world. In fact, the opposite applies to the majority of AP Research papers. Odds are, you're not about to cure cancer or solve global warming with your paper. Instead, find something small and very niche about your topic—which isn't to say it won't be interesting/important to your discipline and certainly not the discourage you, just that most AP Research papers aren't going to be published in Nature anytime soon.

On a similar note, feasibility is a really important part of narrowing down your focus. When coming up with a topic of inquiry , understand your limitations. You are (assuming school starts in August) given approximately 10 months to conduct your research, write your paper, and do your presentation. While you shouldn't let this hold you back, you should know that you cannot plan anything super large or super time consuming. For example, you may really want to study a population over multiple years, but you simply don't have the time.

For example, suppose your topic of inquiry was "migration patterns of blue whales between June and September in the Northeast Atlantic." While this is a super interesting topic and one that may be a really great paper, it is far from feasible. Not only is there the problem of location, but timing and the sheer expense of taking on a project like this is simply not feasible. In some cases, like perhaps in this one, the solution may unfortunately be to pick a different topic. However, if you're able to make your topic more feasible by adjusting things for timing, costs, etc. you'll have a better topic in the end.

Finding the Gap With the Power of Little-R Research

So now that we understand what the gap is and why it's important, let's talk about how to find the gap. The simple answer is research! When I say research in this context, I'm referring to what's called " little-r research " . This means that I'm referring to the use of databases and other tools to find already published work, basically what you did in AP Seminar last year. By comparison, " big-R Research " can be described as your generation of new data and facts that have not been figured out yet. These are by no means scientific terms, but can help when describing how we do research/Research.

When doing your little-r research , you want to use databases and collect as much data and papers as you can. I recommend finding 50+ sources about your topic, slowly narrowing down as you go forward. By reading and really diving deep into these sources you'll be able to A) slowly figure out what questions you have and B) narrow down your topic of inquiry to eventually finding (drumroll . . .) A GAP!!! This is NOT an easy process and will take a lot of thinking and effort on your end, but eventually you'll find a very VERY specific topic of inquiry that will fill a gap situated in a body of knowledge AND you'll essentially be an expert in your topic. Seriously, this is going to be like drinking information from a firehose.

A visual model of a gap. Source: Psychological Health Center of Excellence

A Note on Credibility and Choice of Sources

When doing your little-r research , it's important to take note of new standards of credibility and how to choose your sources. In Seminar, the most typical form of credibility was someone's credentials: things like PhDs, other degrees, positions, etc. While this still plays a large role in credibility in Research, it goes one step farther here. No longer is just someone's degree a telling sign of their credibility, but also their prior research. As you get more and more specific, you need experts .

For example, let's suppose that we moved from our broader topic of perceptions of advertising among different age groups to now finding a gap and filling it by researching how Baby Boomers vs. members of Gen-Z respond to advertising on social media platforms, specifically comparing TikTok to Instagram (again, random topic and a random gap. This is all for example purposes!). First and foremost, dang, our topic has become focused! But secondly, when doing our little-r research now, the papers that we read have to be just as focused. Therefore, when evaluating credibility, we want people with this in-depth specific, knowledge, not just "PhD in Advertising".

Furthermore, the sources that you use will vary greatly based on your question, discipline , and focus. A paper on medicine is going to have a MUCH different source layout than historical research or economic research. Thus, you want to learn how your discipline conducts research on an individual level and what sources are optimal for your eventual introduction and literature review .

Whew! That was . . . a lot. However, you now know how to figure out what you want your topic to be and are ready to officially start the research process! AP Research is a beast of a course, but with the proper time and effort, it is truly a class that allows students to explore their interests and become an in depth expert on a specific topic. In the next guide we'll take a look at writing the introduction to your paper. Good luck!

Image from GIPHY .


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  1. AP Research Performance Task Sample and Scoring ...

    Download sample Academic Papers along with scoring guidelines and scoring distributions. If you are using assistive technology and need help accessing these PDFs in another format, contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 212-713-8333 or by email at [email protected]. 2020: Through-Course Assessment. Performance Task Overview.

  2. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    AP RESEARCH 2017 SCORING GUIDELINES Performance Task Rubric: Academic Paper NOTE: To receive the highest performance level presumes that the student also achieved the preceding performance levels in that row. ADDITIONAL SCORES: In addition to the scores represented on the rubric, readers can also assign scores of 0 (zero). - A score of . 0 . is assigned to a single row of the rubric when the ...

  3. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    Describes a nonreplicable research method OR provides an oversimplified description of a method, with questionable alignment to the purpose of the inquiry. Describes a reasonably replicable research method, with questionable alignment to the purpose of the inquiry. Logically defends the alignment of a detailed, replicable research method

  4. Music

    College Board AP Research Sample Paper B (2017) Making Health Education LGBTQ+ Inclusive in Vermont High Schools. College Board AP Research Sample Paper D (2017)

  5. Impact of Music on Student's Academic Performance.

    Nicolas Scelles. We investigated the influence of music during learning on the academic performance of undergraduate students, and more particularly the influence of affects induced by music ...

  6. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    AP ® Research Academic Paper 2020 Scoring Guidelines. The Response… Score of 1 . Report on Existing Knowledge . Score of 2 . Report on Existing Knowledge with Simplistic Use of a Research Method . Score of 3 . Ineffectual Argument for a New Understanding . Score of 4 . Well-Supported, Articulate Argument Conveying a New Understanding . Score ...

  7. Music Chemistry: The Formula of K-Pop

    Music Chemistry: The Formula of K-Pop | AP Research Music Chemistry: The Formula of K-Pop College Board Sample Paper B May 2017 PDF Cite Abstract South Korean pop music, or K-Pop, is a rapidly growing sector of the music industry, and has experienced increased economic success and international exposure over the last few years.

  8. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    The paper earned a score of 2 because it presents a narrowing topic of inquiry (page 3, paragraph 1: "This research seeks to delve into the lyrics of women empowering songs from these five artists ... and understand how they impacted the feminist movement") that is not carried through in the paper's method.

  9. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    2021 College Board. Visit College Board on the web: Barbie-ism: the Evolution of Barbie Movies Since 2001 AP Research May 20, 2021 Word count: 4081 Literature Review The original Barbie doll was first introduced in 1959 by Ruth Handler; named after her daughter Barbara.

  10. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    AP® RESEARCH 2017 SCORING GUIDELINES Performance Task Rubric: Academic Paper. NOTE: To receive the highest performance level presumes that the student also achieved the preceding performance levels in that row. ADDITIONAL SCORES: In addition to the scores represented on the rubric, readers can also assign scores of 0 (zero).

  11. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    AP ® RESEARCH 2018 SCORING COMMENTARY . Academic Paper . Overview . This performance task was intended to assess students' ability to conduct scholarly and responsible research and articulate an evidence-based argument that clearly stated research question. More specifically, this performance task was intended to assess students' ability to:

  12. Changing positive and negative affects through music experiences: a

    The results revealed that: (i) the three musical experiences were beneficial in increasing positive affects and reducing negative affects, with significant differences between the interaction of Music Experiences × Moment (pre-post); (ii) listening to Mahler's sad fifth symphony reduced more negative affects than the other experimental condition...

  13. Frontiers

    Editorial on the Research TopicThe Impact of Music on Human Development and Well-Being. Music is one of the most universal ways of expression and communication for humankind and is present in the everyday lives of people of all ages and from all cultures around the world ( Mehr et al., 2019 ). Hence, it seems more appropriate to talk about ...

  14. PDF AP Research Academic Paper

    AP ® Research Academic Paper Sample Student Responses and Scoring Commentary ... This research paper will also, so as to minimize the effects of monetary standing on pecuniary contributions, solely gauge "willingness-to-donate" and do so within the context of a hiker population. Thus no monetary transaction will be conducted and my

  15. PDF Writing a Music Research Paper: A Primer

    Writing a Music Research Paper: A Primer Like most other disciplines, research that you will do in the area of music can get interdisciplinary very quickly—after all, music is an inexorable component of most of our daily lives. Some examples include looking at music through: a historical, cultural studies, religious, or political lens.

  16. AP Research

    College Course Equivalent. AP Research is an interdisciplinary course that encourages students to demonstrate critical thinking and academic research skills on a topic of the student's choosing. To accommodate the wide range of student topics, typical college course equivalents include introductory research or general elective courses.

  17. What are some examples of topics that students might research in AP

    Algorithm of K-pop music Effects of sleep deprivation on academic achievement in teens Learning chemistry through musical chords Environmental injustice in subsidized housing Effect of popular opinion on the implementation of Supreme Court decisions

  18. Music Research Paper Topics You Might Consider Using

    100+ Music Research Paper Topics You're probably looking for some topic ideas if you're reading this article. Whether you have no inspiration for what you could write about or you're simply looking for some alternative options, this article can provide you with numerous excellent topic ideas.


    research will cover the development of African American expression and how this expression developed into a multiracial form of music, known as hip hop. The influence of hip hop music on consumers will also be analyzed through this research. Hip hop music can be used to influence listeners in a positive or negative way.

  20. Music Students' Use of Mobile Applications for Learning Purposes

    Abstract and Figures. This paper analyzes the use of mobile applications for learning purposes by music education department students. The survey design was used as the research method. The Mobile ...

  21. Best 100 Music Research Topics of All Times

    Toll Free: +1 (888) 354-4744 Email: [email protected] Writing custom essays & research papers since 2008 Order right now November 19, 2020 Best 100 Music Research Topics (Just Updated) If you are reading this, you are probably looking for the best music research topics for your next essay.

  22. 160+ Extremely Hot Music Research Paper Topics

    Back to blog 160 Hot Music Research Paper Topics For You Music has been part of human beings since time immemorial. As it evolves, everyone has a specific taste for a specific song, genre, or musical instrument. Some of the top genres include roots, reggae, hip-hop, jazz, and rock music.

  23. In Mexico, piñatas are not just child's play. They're a 400-year-old

    ACOLMAN, Mexico (AP) — María de Lourdes Ortiz Zacarías swiftly cuts hundreds of strips of newsprint and colored crepe paper needed to make a piñata, soothed by Norteño music on the radio while measuring pieces by feel. "The measurement is already in my fingers," Ortiz Zacarías says with a laugh.

  24. What is AP Research and How Do I Find a Topic of Inquiry?

    "Music Chemistry: The Formula of K-Pop" And those are just from 2017 alone. AP Research lets loose the reins and allows students to quite literally go wild on whatever they want to study. That's why AP Research is such an awesome course