10 Music Passion Project and Research Ideas For High School Students
7 minute read
Music is a universal language that transcends borders and time periods, holding a profound significance in our society. Whether it's rhythmic beats that get people dancing, meaningful lyrics that convey complex emotions, or the intricate melodies that stir the soul, music has the power to evoke feelings and even inspire action.
As a result, music is often offered in many high schools as classes that students can take, like choir, band, and orchestra. However, if you feel like your passion for music goes beyond just time that you dedicate in school or playing one particular instrument, then you might want to consider doing a music passion project.
Choosing what music passion project to do can be a difficult task, but you can make it easier for yourself by distinguishing between two project types. The first are projects that will involve learning how to produce music and the second is conducting research into the science or history of music. Both can be fulfilling project ideas, but conducting research will obviously involve more reading and writing, and creating music will involve more experimentation with software and/or instruments, so think about how you’d like to spend your time and what you’d enjoy doing most!
1. Can music help your brain heal?
Aim: Exploring whether music can act as an effective therapy following traumatic brain injury (TBI)
This project will delve into the cognitive, behavioral, and functional effects of music therapy following TBI. What happens to brain activity as examined through fMRI with implementation of music therapy? Are there changes in neurotransmitter release? Is there a measurable behavioral and cognitive effect?
Concepts and skills: Neurotransmitters, traumatic brain injury, therapy
Idea by music research mentor Samantha
2. Community engaged music activity
Aim: Organizing and planning a music event and learning about the nuances of event planning
Have you ever dreamed of putting together a concert for your community, school, or family gathering? For this project, come up with an interesting idea, write a proposal letter to potential sponsors, network and find collaborators, arrange and oversee rehearsals, and put a wonderful show together! You should also consider how you’d like to advertise the event, whether it’s a show or more of a competition, and how to set up the proper sound system for the event.
Concepts and skills: Event planning, community service, marketing, leadership and delegation
Idea by music research mentor Parisa
3. Why does Bach sound like Bach?
Aim: Learning about counterpoint and understand how it’s used in music
We revere master composers like Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart but their monumental works were not just a product of genius inspiration. Rather, a lost tradition of counterpoint pedagogy deserves a good deal of credit for giving classical music its characteristic sound and polish. In this project, dive into counterpoint and develop an understanding of how it works and how it’s been applied to classical works.
Concepts and skills: Counterpoint, music composition
Idea by music research mentor Lucien
4. Music psychology
Aim: Exploring a specific topic about how the brain engages with music
How does the human brain process music? How does music engage our perception and what does it do to us? If you're interested in the intersection of music and perception, a research project on the topic of music cognition or music psychology would be perfect for you. In such a project, you would narrow down on a particular music topic or question (ex. What is perfect pitch? What kinds of methods do music psychologists use? How does the brain handle rhythm?) and work to create a research paper or creative project around this line of inquiry.
Concepts and skills: Neuroscience, music psychology, writing a research paper
Idea by music research mentor Natalie
Explore the Fine Arts through research
Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion: literature, drama, film making, theatre, writing, poetry. Together, you create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!
5. Music listening experiment
Aim: Conducting a study to learn about why people like the music that they do
Music listening is personal - you may like music that others don't, and that's ok! It's all a part of the subjective experience of appreciating music. What we still don't know a lot about is why people enjoy certain types of music. Is it shaped by what we listened to growing up, by our friends, or by our experiences playing and/or dancing to music? Create a study that asks others what they like or dislike about specific types of music and why, and summarize your takeaways.
Concepts and skills: Survey design and analysis, music appreciation
Idea by music research mentor Samantha
6. Scoring a scene
Aim: Creating your own musical score from scratch and learn how music impacts film
Have you ever been amazed by soundtracks from films like Interstellar and the Godfather? This is your opportunity to create your own score for a sample scene from a film. Come up with the initial idea for what happens visually in the scene and then brainstorm how you want the viewer to feel through the score. Then, begin to arrange your musical score! For inspiration, you can research several movies and their music to understand how the music elevates the viewing experience.
Concepts and skills: Musical composition, film scores, creativity
Idea by music research mentor Cody
Aim: Writing your own short musical
Write a short dramatic piece featuring original characters, music, and lyrics, about anything ranging from, say, a dinner date gone wrong to an epic period piece about the history of the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights. Whatever you're passionate about, let's musicalize it!
Concepts and skills: Lyric writing, historical research, musical composition
Idea by music research mentor Farrah
8. Obscure genre research
Aim: Finding a niche music genre and understanding what makes it unique
Everyone is familiar with genres like pop, country, rap, and EDM, but what other niche genres are there that people haven’t explored yet? Research obscure and niche music genres, uncovering their history, key figures, and cultural significance. See if you can also discover what kinds of people like to listen to this niche genre and why it appeals to them.
Concepts and skills: Primary and secondary research, interviews/surveys, music appreciation
9. Musical mentorship program
Aim: Creating a mentorship program for young musicians and helping grow musical instruction in your community
Establish a mentorship program where experienced musicians in high school guide and inspire students in your school district’s middle or upper elementary schools. Mentors can offer personalized advice, lessons, and support to younger students, and this instruction can help supplement the work that full-time music teachers do. As you design this program, think through how you’d match mentees with their mentors, and how you would find designated times and places for them to meet.
Concepts and skills: Outreach and communication (for finding mentors and talking to teachers), interpersonal skills, logistics and event planning
10. DIY music production tutorials
Aim: Creating your own tutorials for music and learning how to grow your audience as a content creator
If you’re already experienced with music production using software, this could be a great next step for you! Create a YouTube channel or blog where you share tutorials on DIY music production techniques, where you can cover any topic you’d like or specifically the ones you feel you’re strong at. This can allow you to practice your skills while also learning how to build an audience, which is crucial for “making it” in the music industry in general!
Concepts and skills: Content creation, marketing, entertainment
After you’ve put in the time to research and polish your passion project, it’s time to decide how you want to showcase your project. In many of the project ideas above, there seems to be a natural endpoint or product that you’re trying to create (e.g., a musical score for a film, or creating a music mentorship program). That’s great, but also consider how you can reveal the story of your project and the work it took. For example, if you’re creating a musical score, you can start a vlog showing your behind the scenes process and inspiration for creating the score. That way, at the end of the project you not only have a musical score to show others, but you also have content that showcases the story of your work, and this can really help you stand out.
We want to share some great examples of music passion projects completed by Polygence student alumni!
Nishanth created a project where he used a data set of over 2000 Western classical music tracks to train an algorithm to identify which classical composer made a certain piece. Nishanth wrote a research paper discussing his findings (Using Machine Learning to Predict Classical Composers from Audio) and also shared the code he used for the prediction algorithm.
Benjamin was able to create a love song from scratch, where he first started by studying music theory and attending production lessons, before writing the initial lyrics and choosing melodies. Benjamin chose to showcase his work online and you can listen to his original song on YouTube!
Jasmita wrote a research paper exploring the concept of listening to background music while learning new material. In Jasmita's study, she looked into the effects of listening to familiar and unfamiliar music on performance during a reading comprehension task.
Learn more about Jasmita’s research project experience with Polygence!
In this article, we covered how to find your music passion focus, shared 10 different research and passion project ideas, and also discussed how to showcase your project once it’s complete.
If you’re interested in pursuing a music passion project, Polygence’s programs are a great place to start and learn from excellent mentors who are well-versed in music and its intersections with neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology.
Interested in doing an exciting research project? Click below to get matched with one of our expert mentors!