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The effects of music of varying types and duration on plants

The effects of music of varying types and duration on plants

 Introduction: (Initial Observation)

Plants lack the ability to hear sound as humans and most animals do. Plants are relatively simple organisms that use the light energy to conduct a photochemical reaction involving water and carbon dioxide. This chemical reaction known as photosynthesis produces a variety of simple and compound sugars such as starch and cellulose that form the body of the plant.

Plants also lack the ability to comprehend, analyze and think because they don’t have a brain.

Although plants cannot hear and understand music, many (mostly students in different grades) have studied the effects of music on plants. To go one step further, some people talk to their plants and believe that talking will promote growth and health in plants.

Is it possible that sound and music have any affects on plants?


This project guide contains information that you need in order to start your project. If you have any questions or need more support about this project, click on the “Ask Question” button on the top of this page to send me a message.

If you are new in doing science project, click on “How to Start” in the main page. There you will find helpful links that describe different types of science projects, scientific method, variables, hypothesis, graph, abstract and all other general basics that you need to know.  

Project advisor

Information Gathering:

Find out about sound and music. Read books, magazines, search the Internet or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the effect of sound waves and other wave forms (such as light, Infra Red, Ultra violet, X-Ray) on materials and live organisms. Keep track of where you got your information from.

Following are samples of information that you may find.

Types of Music

Rock – Popular music arising from and incorporating a variety of musical styles.

Country – Popular music based on the folk style of the southern rural United States or on the music of cowboys in the American West.

Folk – Music originating among the common people of a nation or region and spread about or passed down orally, often with considerable variation.

Classical – European music during the latter half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries.

Flamenco – A dance style of the Andalusian Gypsies characterized by forceful, often improvised rhythms.

Jazz – A style of music, native to America, characterized by a strong but flexible rhythmic understructure with solo and ensemble improvisations on basic tunes and chord patterns and, more recently, a highly sophisticated harmonic idiom.

Professor Gordon Shaw is President of the non-profit Music Intelligence Neuronal Development Institute

His brain research uses “music as a window into higher brain function”. Behavioral studies and neurophysiological investigations are done motivated by the structured trion brain model. Results show music enhances spatial-temporal reasoning and learning math, and is of scientific and educational relevance. He has over 165 publications in neuroscience and elementary particle physics including the book -“Keeping Mozart in Mind”. Academic Press 2000. He is co-discoverer of the Mozart effect. His theory work with WA Little in the 1970’s led to the trion model.


What is The Mozart Effect ®

The Mozart Effect is an inclusive term signifying the transformational powers of music in health, education, and well-being.

  • The Mozart Effect® represents
  • The use of music and the arts to improve the health of families and communities
  • The general use of music to improve memory, awareness, and the integration of learning styles
  • The innovative and experimental uses of music to improve listening and attention deficit disorders
  • The therapeutic uses of music for mental and physical disorders and injuries
  • The collective uses of music for imagery and visualization, to activate creativity, and reduce depression and anxiety


Music-loving plants, music-giving plants

Experiments show that plants thrive if soothing instrumental music is played in the background. On the other hand they shrivel and die if exposed to heavy metal or rock music. And now a Japanese company has created a gadget that puts you in touch with the ‘feelings’ of plants.


Question/ Purpose:

What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.

The purpose of this project is to determine if different types of music affect plant growth.

Identify Variables:

When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.

Independent variable is music type

Dependent variable is plant growth

Controlled variables are light and temperature.

Constants are the plant type, soil type and the amount of water and nutrients.


Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.

This is a sample hypothesis:

Plants have no brain and nor hearing organs, so they cannot hear and enjoy music the way that humans do. It seems to me that all others who have performed plant music experiments have been biased and have provided their own perception of music as their experiment results. I hypothesize music has no affect on plants.

This is another a sample hypothesis:

I hypothesize that music can stimulate plant growth by vibrating plant molecules and increasing the rate of photosynthesis reactions. Among rock, classical and jazz music that I am testing, rock will promote the highest rate of plant growth because of the variety of notes used in it.

Experiment Design:

Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”


In this experiment you will grow groups of identical young plants in controlled environments and identical conditions while playing a different type of music for each group. To ensure identical conditions (light, temperature, moisture, soil, water, air) you may have access to different rooms and pots with the same conditions or you may construct your own growth chambers.

What is a growth chamber?

A growth chamber is a small cabinet in which light, moisture, temperature and air circulation can be controlled. You can search the Internet for growth chambers in order to get some additional ideas on that.

Sound proof growth chambers for this project may be constructed from large carton boxes, wooden boxes or metal boxes with door.

You may also use empty fish tanks as growth chambers. Glass is relatively sound proof and gives you the choice of using natural light or synthetic light.

The light source can also be fluorescent Strip-Lite fixtures used on aquariums.

IMPORTANT: Only use Strip-Lites over glass tops. They are NOT designed to be safely used over open water.

If you don’t have access to a few empty glass aquariums, you may make your own sound proof boxes in many other ways.

For example you may alter carton boxes and make them sound proof for this purpose.

Styrofoam and sponge can be used to soundproof the boxes.

You will need one sound proof growth box for each plant group and each type and duration of music. You can make a sound proof box by getting a 2′ x 2′ x 2′ carton box and cover inside and outside of the box with some sound proof material. Materials used for a drop ceiling are good for this purpose and you can buy them from hardware stores. Any rubber based foam is also good for sound proofing the boxes. Music suppliers and those who sell material for constructing a music studio carry sound proof foam tiles. Carpet and blanket works as well. The top side of the box can remain open for light to enter, however you will close that too after placing your light source. Your light source can be a fluorescent light. Some opening is required for air circulation.

Procedure overview:

  1. Plant some seeds and wait for germination. You need to have at least 5 plants in each test group.
  2. Dispose of the seeds which do not germinate and transfer those who germinate to small flower pots.
  3. Make one sound insulated growth chamber for each test group. Light source for all boxes must be the same (natural or fluorescent).
  4. Place one group of plants in a growth chamber with no sound source. This will be your control experiment.
  5. Place all other groups of plants in growth chambers with a transistor radio or CD player. Use timers to turn your radio on and off as needed.
  6. Make observations and water all plants daily.
  7. Measure and record the plant growth.

Test groups:

Following are some suggested test groups.

  • Group of plants with no music
  • Group of plants with continuous rock music
  • Group of plants with rock music 3 hours a day
  • Group of plants with continuous classical music
  • Group of plants with classical music 3 hours a day
  • Group of plants with continuous jazz music
  • Group of plants with jazz music 3 hours a day

The above test groups require seven identical growth chambers. You may restrict your study to less groups if you cannot make seven growth chambers and you don’t have access to seven identical growth environments.


Following is a detail of the procedures:

Step 1: Grow plants from seeds.

Why Grow from Seed?

The most obvious reason for growing plants from seed is the lower cost per plant. Another reason is that many varieties can only be started (or are easier to start) from seed. Finally when you start growing plants from seeds, you will be sure that all your plants are in the same age. It is also a good practice to hand pick seeds that are the same size. (Wash your hands before you start or use tweezers. Bacteria on your hand can grow on seed and void all your experiments)

Soaking the Seeds

Most seeds will benefit from being soaked in warm (even hot but never boiling) water. The addition of a small amount (1/2 teaspoon per pint of water) of saltpeter (sodium nitrate) to the water may help many varieties of seed with very hard seed coats. Soaking for a few hours up to as many as 48 hours in the case of seeds with very hard coats will speed up the germination process. After soaking, blot them a bit with paper towels and plant them in the growing medium immediately or before they have a chance to completely dry out again.

Containers for Germinating Seeds

Any kind of plastic container at least 3 to 3 1/2 inches deep will work. Used containers should be rinsed with a solution of about 1 part bleach to 9 or 10 parts water. Rinse and dry thoroughly before using. I have used the containers that supermarket delicatessens use for salads and pastries, etc. The only problem with them is that holes must be punched at the bottom for drainage. Then some kind of a tray is needed below that to catch the overflow of water. The flats that are designed and manufactured specifically for germinating seeds seems to be the best solution over all. They are available with a variety of pocket inserts for various sizes of plants. It is possible to graduate from the smaller pocket inserts to larger ones as the plant begins to grow. They already have holes at the bottom that allow the excess water to drain into the tray in which they are snugly placed. The drainage of water is very important because soil that is too damp will either cause the seeds to rot or will allow the growth of mold, fungus and other diseases – one of the worst enemies of seeds trying to grow into seedlings. There are clear plastic lids that can be placed over these nursery flats to prevent drafts and to protect seeds from cold drafts. As the plants begin to grow, these lids need to be set off center to allow air flow and finally removed completely to allow the young seedlings adequate air flow. These flats can be reused year after year as long as the 1 part bleach to 9 or 10 parts water solution is used to wash them and then allow them to dry just before reusing.

Growing/Germinating Media

Growing Media, or Germinating Media is plural for Growing Medium or Germinating Medium, This is the material in which the seed is placed to germinate and grow. Of the various growing media, you will need to select the medium that is best for your specific purpose. Listed here are some of the options that are widely available for the gardener.

Peat moss is made up of decomposed aquatic plants and can be very acidic. It retains water and may not allow for adequate aeration or drainage. For this reason it is frequently used with other substances but not by itself.

Sphagnum moss is made up of dried bog material. It is fairly sterile and because it is very lightweight it can absorb as much as twenty times its weight in water. Its value as a fertilizer is not very good, and its ability to absorb water evenly is not very desirable. It, like Peat moss, is a good addition to make up a growing medium but is not the best substance to use by itself.

Vermiculite is expanded mica. It can retain a large volume of water for long periods of time. Although it contains a high level of magnesium and potassium and can hold nutrients and is good for aeration, it is not used by itself but is yet another ingredient in a final mixture for germinating seeds.

Perlite is a volcanic ash. It holds water on its surface but does not allow much absorption. It has no elements needed for plant growth and does not hold nutrients well. It does promote good aeration , stays cool and is a very good ingredient as part of a growing medium.

Sand is a good choice for root cuttings but is a bit too heavy for germinating seeds, it does not hold water, nor nutrients and is not recommended for germinating seeds.

Rich garden soil is good for plants but it does not offer the conditions necessary for germinating seeds because it does not allow for proper aeration and drainage for seeds. It is not sterile but after sterilization (bake it in a pan at 180 degrees for 30 minutes) it can be used as an ingredient in a good growing medium.

Special mixtures prepared for germinating seeds are available at nurseries and garden centers. These are very good for starting your seeds. For a little less money you can prepare your own mixture. A mixture of 1/3 to 1/2 sphagnum or peat moss or any combination of both with 1/2 to 2/3 vermiculite or perlite or any combination of both will make a very good growing medium for germinating most any kind of seed. The ideal mixture would have about 50% solid material, 25% air space (oxygen) and 25% moisture.


It is generally more economical to germinate seeds during the warm months when the heat and light from the sun is free. Temperatures generally in the mid 70s up to 80 degrees F. are needed to germinate most seeds, although there are seeds that require 70 degrees and lower. When temperatures inside drop below 70 degrees at night the germination of many kinds of seeds can be impeded or even halted. It is important to keep the seeds at a constant temperature and away from drafts such as those created by doors and windows. If they are growing near a window to take advantage of the light during the day, it is a good idea to move them farther back as the sun sets to avoid exposing them to drafts. The lack of constant heat is one of the main reasons that seeds fail to germinate.

When germinating seeds indoors during the winter or indoors in air conditioned environments it is important to keep the soil warm. There are several ways to accomplish this. In greenhouses heating coils can be used. For smaller batches of seeds in the typical home it is possible to set the seed flat upon blocks and put a 40 watt light bulb underneath the flat. 60 to 100 watts are likely to generate too much heat. The soil should feel warm, but not too warm. Care should be taken to avoid contact with flammable substances. A heating pad placed beneath the flat or seed containers can be used but care is needed for this too since the controls on some of these heating pads will allow too much heat. Again the soil should feel comfortably warm, not too warm or hot.

Besides warm soil, the air in the room where most kinds of seeds are germinating will need to be at least in the 70s. The higher up you place the seed flats the warmer the air is likely to be in any room. Since heat rises, the top of a refrigerator would be warmer than on a table at waist level. If the room temperature is 70 or 72 degrees f. the difference of 2 or 3 feet of height where the same room may have temperatures from 74 to 78 degrees f. can make the difference in whether or not some kinds of seeds will germinate. Those that require lower temperatures should be placed at lower levels within the room.

Once the seedlings appear and begin growing into plants, the heat should be reduced to around 65 to 70 degrees f. during the day with temperatures as low as 55 to 65 degrees f. at night. There are exceptions to this. Melons, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and nearly all tropicals will prefer 70 to 80 degrees f. during the day and 60 to 70 degrees f. during the night.


Light is not the same thing as heat. Although heat is generated by a light source such as the sun or artificial light, it does not continue generating heat when the lights are turned off or when the sun sets. The heat required to begin the germination process should remain constant, day and night, at least during the early stages. The light source may or may not remain constant, but will be necessary for long periods. Simulating the longer daylight hours of spring – 10 to 12 hours per day is best for most species. Those seeds that require constant light will need artificial light (fluorescent or grow lights are best) until germination occurs and possibly for some period of time afterwards. Seeds that require total darkness should be covered with black plastic until germination occurs. Once germination has occurred, all seedlings will need enough light for photosynthesis to enable them to develop into strong healthy plants. If seedlings are growing in overcast conditions of winter, the continued use of artificial lights will be required.


Before sowing seeds in the growing/germinating medium, water it thoroughly and let it drain off. Sow seeds and cover with plastic, glass, or with the specially designed clear plastic covers that can be purchased with the nursery flats. These seeds will probably not need to have anymore water nor mist added until after germination occurs but it is still a good idea to check the top of the growing medium daily to be sure. Too much water (inadequate drainage) will cause seeds to rot, mold, or fungus to grow. Check the growing medium every morning. When the top layer feels a bit dry it can be misted. Watering from the usual containers can disturb the seeds. It is best to sprinkle lightly or better yet, use a spray bottle with a mist attachment. This fine spray will lay down a nice amount of moisture and will not cause gullies or pockets to disturb the seeds. Water is best at room temperature or even a bit warmer – never use hot water nor water that is too cold such as cold water right from the tap. The best time to water is in the morning. Do not allow the growing medium to dry out and do not water so much that is remains soggy or wet. Always water from the top (a mister is best) rather than rely on adequate moisture to soak up from the bottom of the tray. The growing medium needs to be watered from the top down to assure an even distribution of moisture throughout. Too much moisture remaining at the bottom of the tray will cause problems associated with inadequate drainage and the layer at the top may remain too dry.


The first growth to appear on the seedlings are the cotyledons. These are not true leaves but are food storage cells. This food will only last the seedling a short time and it will be necessary to begin feeding the young plants just as soon as the first true leaves begin to appear, usually within a couple of weeks. Purchase a good quality all purpose water soluble plant food such as Miracle-Gro. Always read the label. When fertilizing young seedlings, start out with a mixture that is about 1/4 the strength that is recommended for mature plants. Use this solution about once a week. Gradually increase the ratio as the plant grows and becomes stronger. After several weeks and after the plant seems strong and healthy, increase the mixture of plant food to water to the full strength as recommended on the label. Do not believe, in the case of plant food or fertilizer, that “more is better”. The manufacturers test their products and know what formula is best. Follow the instructions on the label.

What type of seeds and how many?

You can plant any type of seed that you like. Just consult the seller and make sure that they will germinate fast. If you are not sure, just use beans (any type you like) as seed. Plant 3 seeds in each pot. The reason that you plant 3 in each pot is that some seeds may fail to germinate. You will need at least one germinated seed in each pot. Simply use a pencil to make a 1″ deep hole, place a bean seed in the hole and cover it.

Another method for growing beans is keeping the seeds out of soil or medium until they germinate.

First start the seeds off into growth by chitting them. Chitting overcomes the problem of seeds rotting before they germinate. Chitting, shown in steps 1 to 6 below, is carried out using a plastic food container like those used for sandwiches or the freezer.

1. Line plastic food box with absorbent paper.
2. Spray the paper so that it is thoroughly moist.
3. Place the beans about 1in. apart to give room for the roots to grow.

Lay a water retentive liner such as a folded paper kitchen towel in the base of the box. Spray the paper towel evenly with water to ensure that it is thoroughly moist all over. Pour away any excess water. Place the bean seeds evenly over the damp towel, about an inch or so apart, to allow for as little root disturbance as possible when the roots grow.

4. Label the lid and put it on the box.
5. Leave the box in a warm place such as an airing cupboard.
6. Inspect the seeds daily. When they have germinated with 1in. long roots they can be potted up.

Put the lid on the box. Label the box, most important if your are growing different varieties or other types of seed as well. Place the box in a warm place such as the airing cupboard or a sunny window ledge.

7. Fill a pot with compost and insert sprouted seed.
8. When the runner bean plants are this size you can start your music experiment.
9. You can later determine the plant growth by observing the plant size and the size of the leaves.

After the first week inspect the seed boxes carefully each day to check on germination. After the seeds have germinated and their roots are an inch long, they can be planted into pots. Fill a 3 and a half inch pot with Potting Compost. Make a generous sized hole in the center of the pot so that the seed can be just laid into it with the root pointing down, but without dibbing the root down into the compost and bruising it in anyway. Fill the surrounding area of the hole with compost to within half an inch from the top of the pot to leave room for watering.

Water the pots to ensure the compost is moist but not saturated. Then place at least 5 pots in each growth chamber that you have prepared in advance.

Check regularly that the pots are not showing signs of drying out, watering when necessary.

Step 2: Experiment the effect of music

Before starting this step, you should have your growth chambers ready and you should have enough same size young plants to place at least 5 plants in each chamber.

All boxes (growth chambers) must be as sound proof as possible. Label each box with your test group as follows:

  • No music (control)
  • Continuous rock music
  • Rock music 3 hours a day
  • Continuous classical music
  • Classical music 3 hours a day
  • Continuous jazz music
  • Jazz music 3 hours a day

Place radios or CD players in all boxes other than the control. If you are using a radio, you must identify and tune your radio to a station that continuously play the type of music that is needed for that box. If you you are using CD player, have CDs with the type of music that you are testing. For the boxes that must play only 3 hours a day, you may turn the device on and off yourself or you may use a timer that is available in most hardware stores.

Since the boxes are sound proof, you can increase the volume and not much sound will leak out.

Place at least 5 young plants in each chamber. Place the lights and secure them on the top of the box. Cover the box so no sound will leak. (You can ignore small sound leaks). Start the music for all test groups except the control group.

Open the boxes every day and water the plants with a measuring cup or graduated cylinder. Make sure all plants get the same amount of water and nutrients. Make daily observations and record your results and then close the boxes.

After 3 weeks make your final observations. Since you started from seedlings and young plants, any possible effect of sound must be noticeable at this time.

I have not done this experiment myself. Please let me know about your results.

Project Advisor

Materials and Equipment:


Results of Experiment (Observation):

Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.

This is a sample results table just based on the plant’s height.

Group Height 1 Height 2 Height 3 Height 4 Height 5 Average 
No music (control)
Continuous rock music
3 hours a day rock music
Continuous classical music
3 hours a day classical music
Continuous jazz music
3 hours a day jazz music

You may also use your results table to make a bar graph with one vertical bar for each test group. The height of bar will represent the plant height.

In addition to the plant height, other plant conditions may also be observed and recorded.


If you do any calculations, write them in this section of your report.

Summary of Results:

Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.

It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.


Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.

Related Questions & Answers:

What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.

Possible Errors:

If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.

If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.


List your references here. Your references may include this website and other websites that I have provided a link for them. It may also include any book that you may study about plant growth or the effect of sound on plants.

Books about the effect of sound on plants such as The Sound of Music and Plants may be found in your local library or purchased from Amazon.com