Researchers from ANU found that dolphins are attracted to the high-pitched tones of several instruments, including the flute, piccolo and the Indian wooden recorder.
The study also found high-pitched singing attracted dolphins as well.
The experiment was conducted onboard the Imagine Eco Cruise boat in Port Stephens, NSW, in December 2021.
Flautist Sally Walker, from the ANU School of Music, said a pod of bottlenose dolphins approached the boat "within minutes" of her playing the flute.
"One dolphin glided directly underneath me at the same speed as the boat, and the rest of the pod danced around it," she said in a statement from ANU.
"High frequencies and particular intervallic distances between notes seemed to draw the dolphins in and excite them, and staff of the Imagine boat said that we had seen an unusually large number of dolphins both in the port and out to sea."
Dolphin expert Dr Olivia De Bergerac has been studying the interactions between humans and dolphins for 25 years and was part of the study.
"Dolphins live in a world of sounds; they communicate with one another by sending a sound which is a hologram of information reflected in their melon - a mass of adipose tissue found in their forehead - so I know we as humans can communicate with dolphins through music," she said.
"Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures and can sense our thoughts, feelings, state of being and send us sounds to heal us."
An underwater microphone, or hydrophone, was used to record the dolphins' sounds.
Researchers will now use the hydrophone to investigate whether it is possible to directly communicate with the dolphins and which sounds they are most receptive to.
"For example, do they respond differently to structured music like a Bach sonata?" Ms Walker says.
"Or perhaps more soothing sounds similar to what you would hear on soundtracks designed for meditation.
"Maybe they're simply attracted to the novelty of someone standing on the bow of a boat and serenading them."