WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- Researchers -- and parents -- have long known that babies learn to speak by mimicking the words they hear. But a new study carried out by The Ohio State University School of Music shows that babies also might try to imitate the singing they hear in songs.
As part of the study, scientists captured audio of a 15-month-old boy making sounds similar to the beginning of the song "Happy Birthday,” hours after he heard the song played on a toy. An analysis of the sounds showed the boy hitting the first six notes of "Happy Birthday” almost spot-on, in G major.
The study is among the first to measure an infant’s attempt to recreate music by following him for an entire day.
For the study, Lucia Benetti, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University School of Music and lead author of the study recorded one infant, a 15-month-old boy named James, through one 16-hour period. James wore a small, light recording device throughout the day, which captured every sound he heard and made. Benetti and her adviser, Eugenia Costa-Giomi, a professor of music education at Ohio State, then analyzed that audio data using software designed to measure language -- things like the number of adult words the baby heard and tried to say. Benetti also listened to the recording and transcribed the music he heard and the music he made, searching for patterns or places where the child seemed to mimic what he heard happening around him.
The study shows that it’s possible for babies to learn melodies from the music they hear around them, Benetti said. She said future work could examine a larger group of babies, with more data, to see whether James’ response was typical.