Five Burning Questions about Music

As the fall semester winds down, it’s a good time to learn to use the Web to effectively research the rest of your life outside school.

We’ve all had a song that follows us everywhere, to school, to your friend’s house, the grocery store, and the dinner table. You fall asleep to its rhythm and when you wake it’s still there. Whether you hate it or love it, you probably want to learn more about it.

As you likely know by now, many music and lyrics sites on the Web are the domain of scammers, spammers, hackers, hijackers, and all sorts of other people with bad intentions. We’ve scoured the Web to find the best legitimate Web sites that help you find the tunes, lyrics and meanings of those songs in your head.

How can I find a song, if I can’t remember all of the words?

If you heard the song on a recent TV Show and were putting out the fire on the stove as the credits were rolling, we recommend Tune Find, a search engine for finding music from current television shows and movies.

For older songs, try Lyrster, a search engine that indexes more than 350 lyric-hunting sites in English and French.  Some searches may also return music videos, or audio recordings, along with the lyrics. If Lyrster doesn’t help, here are a few more sites to check out to find music lyrics.

So now I know the name of the song, but what does it all mean?

So, you find the lyrics of the song but now you’re even more perplexed.  What do they mean? What did Don McLean mean when he sang, “And while the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown?” Who is the king? Who is the jester?  There are over 300 comments on Songmeanings.com about the interpretation of this song and the debate has been running for decades.  There’s no definitive answer, which is as it should be. Read others’ opinions, contribute your own, and arrive at your own personal meaning of the words. For more advice on finding song meanings, tour dates, and the latest songs before their released dates, read 5 Must-Bookmark Music Sites.

Will the police break down my door and arrest me if I download a song off the Internet?

Illegally downloading music is a crime. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued students for  illegal downloads,  perhaps to make examples of them.   Northwestern University’s Information Technology Department offers advice on how you can legally download music and films.  “When evaluating services to decide if they provide legal music and movie files, look for statements that they have obtained the copyright permission of the artists or company representing the artists. If you don’t see this information, be suspicious.” For a list of sites to legally download music, and a protocol for avoiding scam sites, see findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Downloading Music.

 Will I do better on my test if I listen to music while I study?

A study from the University of Wales Institute, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that listening to music that subjects liked didn’t help them perform any better on a serial recall test, than listening to music they disliked, according to WebMD.

Lead researcher Nick Perham added a caveat: “Listening to music you prefer prior to, rather than at the same time as task performance, does increase performance.” These findings do not conflict with prior findings that link listening to Mozart with improved concentration (the “Mozart Effect”). “Those studies are more to do with therapeutic interventions rather than performing tasks while background music is being played,” said Perham.

The University of Wales’ study had only a small sample size, testing 25 people, so perhaps more research is needed before anyone can say with authority that music and studying don’t mix.

Prior to this study, Stanford Professor Clifford Nass endorsed listening to instrumental music while engaging in certain tasks, because we use a separate part of our brain to process music and language. “So if you are reading and listening to instrumental music you get virtually no interference,” Nass said.

About.com has gathered 20 instrumental songs for those who like quiet background noise. For fewer interruptions, choose “preview all songs”  Pandora, the music genome project, is another great place to discover new artists and songs, both classical and modern.

What is Music Therapy and does it really work?

It might sound like hocus-pocus but “musical pharmacology” which aims to bring out the “active ingredients” in music and then formulate them “into medicinal compounds” is gaining credence.  One of the many conditions it’s used to treat is hypertension.

“Music can address the psychosomatic root causes “of the disorder,” Vera Brandes, director of a music and medicine research program at Paracelsus Private Medical University in Salzburg, Austria told The Times in 2009. A pilot study found that after four weeks, “patients experienced clinically significant improvements in heart-rate variability.”

Music therapy has also been used to relieve cancer pain, to treat Alzheimer’s patients and to subdue depression. Other researchers believe music therapy can help children who have difficulty processing language, including those with autistism.

So there you have it, your five burning questions extinguished. To learn more about buying music, concert tickets, or instruments, and to locate music news and reviews, visit findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Music.


Shannon Firth is a guest blogger on EasyBib’s EasyLife and a Senior Writer for findingDulcinea

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