Rick Beato, co-founder of Nuryl, will talk about the scientific research behind this, the astounding results he’s seen with his own children and provide tips on how this can increase your child’s attention span, memory formation, language development, and ability to process information. Nuryl.com is an infant brain training app that is designed to “super charge” your baby’s brain through high information music.
Full Interview Transcript
Kelly: Rick, thank you so much for being here. I am so fascinated by your Nuryl app, and I had wish I had known about it when I was pregnant with my own kids, who are two and four now.
Kelly: Tell us about your son in particular. I know you have three kids, but your son is amazing. I mean he’s got perfect pitch. He speaks all these languages and his memory recall! He’s brilliant.
Rick: Yes. Well, as most people that are parents know, when you have your first child, you really have no benchmarks to compare them to unless you have a family that has kids or you’ve been around other kids. But typically, most people don’t have any idea what a child’s developmental markers are.
I didn’t really think anything was up. I would play for Dylan, I would make new playlists every month until Dylan was two.
We didn’t have any idea that anything was unusual about Dylan’s behavior or that he had any abilities or anything like that. We would say to each other Dylan has really good memory.
We go to a restaurant, and then six months later, we go in. He’d only be two years old, but he would remember the person’s name that waited on us. We always would good joke about that. Dylan’s got a great memory. But until I realized he had perfect pitch, none of this dawned on me.
Kelly: Talk about the research then. How did you come up with the actual songs, the composers? What is high information music?
Rick: I have a composer friend of mine that’s Turkish. His name is Aydin Esen. It was really his music that gave me the idea of Nuryl.
I had these concerts that I’ve recorded in the late 80’s of his improvisation. He’s just the most fantastic improviser that you could imagine. I thought, “Boy, if you’d play it to a baby, music wouldn’t sound normal to him.” It was mostly just out of curiosity.
Once I realized that Dylan had perfect pitch when he was three, then I started saying, “Why does Dylan have perfect pitch?” because I have 18 nieces and nephews, and none of them had perfect pitch. I mean, this is really highly unusual. Why Dylan and why not anyone else?
I started doing research, and I watched a particular TED Talk called the linguistic genius of babies with Patricia Kuhl, who was a professor at the University of Washington. She said all these studies, and basically in language acquisition of babies.
As I’m watching this TED Talk, it occurred to me when she talks about this critical window of learning opportunity in the first nine months a baby’s life, where their brains are wired to learn the algorithms of language. When they hear sounds, they have to decide where words begin and end, and they have this recognition of phonemes.
There are about 6,500 languages that are spoken on Earth. Out of those languages, there are 2,000 phonemes. In English, we use 44 of the 2,000, but all babies are preprogrammed to be able to hear the sounds of all 6,500 languages. They can hear these phonemes, which are the sounds that make up syllables essentially.
Then it occurred to me. This happens all the way up until about age seven. There’s a first critical window that goes to until age two or so. Then there’s a second one that kids can develop language of fluency incredibly easy up until the age of six.
Well, it just so happens that perfect pitch development, they never find kids developed perfect pitch after the age of six. I said to myself, “Well, that must be completely related because music is a language in the same way with sounds.” The phonemes are the notes. The rhythm is the punctuation. I mean there are all these similarities between them.
Then I thought this must be why Dylan has this incredible memory for numbers, for languages. It’s all the same things are related to language acquisitions. It was only afterwards that it occurred to me to look into this.
Rick: That’s where I came up with the idea of Nuryl because people started asking me, “What did you do with Dylan?” Well, I said, “Well I had 600 songs and two years of playlist that I played for him.” That was really the impetus. It was kind of the theory developed afterwards by reading a lot of scientific studies on it.
I think that the science and the neuroimaging that’s happening now that they can do with that is not invasive with babies is really changing the way that people think about what infants are able to accomplish. I think that that’s really exciting. I think that’s going to have incredible impact in the future in kids’ ability to learn.
Kelly: Why the particular composer and what’s different about your music versus listening to Mozart or something like that?
Rick: Okay. There’s predictability in most classical music up until the late romantic era and the early 20th century composers. We’re talking maybe from Liz, to Wagner, Chopin, Beethoven, on in to Debussy, Ravel, and then 20th century composers like Schoenberg and Stravinsky, things like that. I would play that music along with Bach. I’d play some of the Bach preludes and fugues, but mainly, the really highly layered music.
A lot of baby apps, people say old music is created for babies, but then they play the synthesized pieces that have no content. There’s no melodic content other than the melody line and maybe an auxiliary bass line or something. It’s usually done with synthesizers.
Babies need to hear the complexity of an orchestra. They need to hear music that’s unpredictable. Excuse me, I’m sorry. Much of Mozart is predictable. You can predict where the cadences are going. Babies actually tune out unless there’s an element of surprise to the music.
Jazz, being improvised, there’s a lot of surprise, especially with really sophisticated jazz. This composer friend of mine, Aydin Esen has really sophisticated music. Harmonically, meaning the chords that he plays, and melodically, the types of melodies that use all the notes of the chromatic scale and are really technically dazzling a lot of the things that are just–I mean it’s a lot for a lot people to listen to because it’s very, very complex. But I believe that it radically changes babies’ brains from listening to it.
The funny thing is people tend to play them very simplistic music. It’s just the opposite of what are babies are able to do. Babies can learn so much.
Kelly: Right. People don’t realize the potential they have, especially the kid’s music that you hear is not, I guess, not having the same impact as the high information music.
Kelly: The Mozart effect, for example. All the research, isn’t it inconclusive that it actually makes babies smarter?
Rick: It is inconclusive. I believe that some of the studies that Patricia Kuhl has done on language learning with babies talks about this thing called the social brain. The social brain is essentially when a parent is interacting with the baby. They’re speaking to them. The babies will typically look at your mouth and see how words are formed. They get these emotional cues from the parents.
In her experiments that she did in her TED Talk that you can watch, she brought in a group of babies. She had three different groups. She had one group of babies that were exposed to a Mandarin speaker. Over the course of six weeks, I think there was I believe nine 25-minute exposures to a woman just reading for 25 minutes apiece.
The babies that interacted with her in person were able to recognize the phonemes of Mandarin to the level of a baby that had only heard Mandarin for their entire life that were 10 months old, babies that had grown up in China that only heard Mandarin. These babies that had been exposed from 9 weeks to 10 1/2 weeks just a few times were able to achieve that same level of mastery of the sounds, the phonemes of Mandarin.
There were two other control groups that watched videos and one that only listen to audio, and they had no effect on them. Only when a human being was involved because it involved what she says the social brain.
Well, what happens with playing the music with Dylan, I was interacting with him the whole time for a couple of hours a day. I danced around with him. I’d sing along with the pieces. I would tap out the rhythms on his body. I would involve his social brain.
I didn’t realize I was doing that at the time, but everything that she said, I thought to myself, “I did that. I did that. Wow, I did what she’s talking about, but I used complex music.” Then I started doing more research in it. There is a lot of literature that is related to this. We have a lot on our website if people are interested in taking a look at it.
Kelly: You were saying the parent interaction. What do you suggest? I mean it’s not just playing the music to your baby. What do you need to be doing while they listen to music?
Rick: You need to interact with them and make them realize that it’s important to you. Otherwise, it has no effect. The idea of taking a baby and just playing the music, there’s no reason to do that. I told people, “If you’re not going to interact with your babies, this will have no effect on them.” You have to actually engage them in active music listening.
Kelly: That means dancing with them or singing along? What exactly?
Rick: Tapping the rhythm to the music with them, just looking them in the eyes while you’re listening, and playing with them making them realize that it’s something that they should take statistical analysis on essentially. The theory on this is they begin to take statistics and pick up those language algorithms because of the interaction between the parent and the child.
Kelly: Your app, you say you’re zero to six but you really focus on the two, which my kids are now two and four. What goes on after two? What can you do to help sort of facilitate development? Is there anything you can do? Have you missed an opportunity once they turned two?
Rick: The first thousand days of a baby’s life are the most important. Babies are born with 100 billion neurons. They learn all these things in the first year.
There was a great article a couple of years ago in National Geographic where they talked about baby’s first year. Think about babies learn to, in their first year typically, they learn how to sit up, they learn how to crawl, they learn how to eat, they learn how to walk, sometimes they learn how to standup, and they learn the beginnings of language. They learn all these incredibly complex things that are really complex algorithms. The balance that it takes to walk, even to stand up, or even to sit up are really, really complex ideas, and there’s a lot of mathematics involved with this concerning balance and things like that.
Just like there are algorithms to learn how to swim. You have to know what it feels like to stay afloat in the water. Your brain has to learn these algorithms like riding a bike. There’s very complex math that goes on in a person’s brain when they’re learning these things. Babies are really able to learn them in the first critical window, the first thousand days of a baby’s life. I’m telling you from conception to age two are the thousand days essentially.
Now, after age two, there are things that you can do with your babies. You can get them involved in music classes. Beginning at age four or so, you can start piano lessons typically with children. I highly recommend that there’s nothing other than speaking a second language, which is comparable, there’s nothing better that a child could do than learn an instrument and how to read music because that is tremendously beneficial.
For motor skills, it involves both hemispheres of the brain because you’re dealing with motor coordination between both hands. I think every child, if they had the opportunity to take piano lessons or take an instrument–Piano is the easiest one and all children can play it beginning around four and a half or so. That’s what you can do with your kids. That’s what I tell people.
Kelly: My son, he said he wants to take violin.
Rick: Violin is the other instrument that you can take when you’re four years old.
Kelly: We’re doing Suzuki. That’s exactly what we’re doing, yes, because it’s all ear-based. My daughter, who’s two, said she wants to play the piano, so we’ll see what happens.
Rick: I was trained in Suzuki violin. My undergraduate degree is in classical music. I taught Suzuki strings. I had students that were four and a half years old that I taught when I was in college. It’s amazing what they can learn.
Kelly: It is, it is. The fact he’s interested in it too even helps him even more.
Rick: That’s great, yes.
Kelly: It’s fascinating, and I love what you’re doing. Where can people find more information about Nuryl?
Rick: You can go to our website. It’s just nuryl.com. There are a number of scientific papers that we have concerning this music immersion in babies. You can download a trial version of the app and kind of get a feel for it.
Kelly: Great. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your insight, all the information about your children, and what they’re doing as well.
Rick: You’re very welcome.
About Rick Beato
Rick Beato, co-founder of Nuryl.com, is a musician, teacher, and father of three. Rick has worked as a writer /producer with various bands in the rock and country genres. He is certified to teach grades K-12 and holds a bachelor’s in music from Ithaca College and a master’s in jazz studies from the New England Conservatory of Music. He is presently a member of the Board of Directors at The GLOBE Academy dual-language immersion charter school in Atlanta, GA
Nuryl is an education-based company that is designed to use High Information Music to stimulate your baby’s brain and boost cognition. Nuryl integrates principles of infant learning identified from decades of research in cognitive development into a music training curriculum.
High Information Music is tonally rich with highly complex harmonies that move rapidly into unexpected places by incorporating unusual melodic structures. Thus, our curriculum was designed to utilize elements of surprise to enhance learning while simultaneously engaging multiple brain regions to enrich neural circuitry.
Delivered through a mobile app for convenient listening any time. With a paid subscription, your baby will receive a brand new playlist of music every month. Half of the music in our playlists were composed and recorded only for the Nuryl app and can’t be found anywhere else in the world, making Nuryl very unique.