Clearly it would take a long time to discuss the history of humans and music . We don’t have nearly enough room in this article to fill in every blank. However since the dawn of time we have used music for a variety of reasons, and these same reasons still exist today. The first and most common reason we play music is for entertainment and social aspects. Face it we all love to get together and dance to our respective culture’s favorite music. Another, perhaps more important way we are drawn to music is its internal healing powers.
It’s true. Music has an ability to bring out almost any emotion and feeling in our brains. The music we like the most can have an extraordinary effect on our bodies. Go to any retirement home or hospital and you will see music therapy used all the time. We honestly don’t have all the facts in yet as to why this is how music works. Science has not caught up with the sounds we love, but we all know the power they have. In this article we will discuss some of the healing aspects of certain music and specific relaxing tones to help the mind and body rejuvenate and heal.
Modern Genres Dedicated to Health
While music has quite the amazing history there is no denying that it was quite suppressed in the past. With some religions and cultures banning much of it out of fear, it wasn’t always as open as today. In the 20th century though cultural melting pots and new technology made way for so many new genres. And not all were about dancing and rocking, during the 60s and 70s whole new genres appeared dedicated to affecting our moods and boosting our health.
These genres came in a variety of forms. Some were originally drug inspired, ironically often attempting to recreate the drug experience with music alone! Other genres used the newly discovered electronic music to make relaxing beats that had no usual structure. Another popular genre to come out of the 60’s was Native American relaxation music. This music wasn’t necessarily original to them, it was simply meant to embody a peaceful spirit and celebrate a more nature oriented life with flutes, light drumming, and natural sounds.
These days we know this best music for relaxation is called New-Age, it’s the umbrella term for almost all the healing and hippy-centric music out there. What started as basic ambient sounds recorded for fun turned into something a lot bigger. Tape recorders became available for the average person allowing almost anyone to record and use whatever relaxing tone they just happened to find. Now this process has continued throughout the years, branching into even new genres and forms of music. The technology is even better and most of us have little computers in our hands that allow us to find or make any kind of music we want.
In the 90’s meditation music became very popular, often accompanied by rain, ocean and relaxing wave sounds, and other sounds of mother nature. Synthesizers in electronic music also became more available and affordable so more musicians could use lush pads to create ambient soundscapes and magical worlds of sound. These were all aimed at putting a person in a relaxed and concentrating state of meditation. Despite all being in the same genre meditation is incredibly varied. What one person considers meditative another may not, so be sure to check lots of styles out.
Obviously, this genre has never gone away and is bigger than ever. There is so much meditation music out there these days it is almost overwhelming. You can find relaxing sleep music, relaxing music for work, and likely any other situation you need to relax, rest, or recuperate in! The next steps are to give more than just an auditory experience, these days companies try and create the whole virtual reality package. Meditation music now is arriving with visuals and even tactile sensations in an effort to give us more than a relaxing tone, but an overall body experience. Next you may think they will find a way to create brain relaxing music… well actually they already have!
Brain relaxing music can also go by the name binaural beats, a name you have likely heard before. In our brains we have neural oscillations which are also called brain waves. The more active the wave the more alert we are. The most active brainwaves are the gamma and beta, the least active are the alpha, theta, and delta. These waves range between 1 and 40 Hz. When we are in a deep sleep, we are in delta waves. The point of binaural beats is to attempt to imitate these brainwaves. This is not a new idea, for decades now we have been trying to influence our inner minds workings with sound and light oscillations. In some cases we’ve had luck, in others the jury is still out on the matter.
As far as binaural beats go, they have an unusual way of working. If you play two very similar frequencies, each in a different ear and headphone your brain will perceive a third frequency. For example a 520 Hz sound played in one ear and 515 Hz in the other, will make you think you hear a 5 Hz frequency. Now you are not really hearing this third frequency, it is an illusion. We purposely make these auditory hallucinations the same frequency as our brainwaves. The hope being that the binaural beats will influence our alertness, usually to help us meditate or sleep. We essentially want to trick our brains into what we want them to do!
Binaural beats are not sound science as we still are unsure how or if they work. However many users will swear by binaural beats relaxation. It is not a pronounced and massive effect, but still a great many stressed out and tired folks get help from relaxing beats that are of the binaural nature. This is a field that is actively being researched so expect to hear more about binaural beats in the future! One issue to keep in mind is researchers suggest that binaural beats may not be safe for those with epilepsy or safe for children. Otherwise most people will experience no negative effects at all.
440 Hz or 432 Hz
Now not all music that is sold as a relaxing tone really is, and we included this one as an example. There are a number of Internet denizens who think that the frequency of our standard pitch matters to our health. The current standard pitch is 440 Hz for the A note above middle C. Without having a music education what this means is that most of the world agrees to tune their instruments this way, so they sound good together.
A couple hundred years ago we had no standard pitch and different orchestras used a variety of pitches. Some went so high that it became a problem for singers. It’s definitely not a relaxing tone when it damages your vocal cords! The pitches were all over and at one point 432 Hz was used. Somehow in the social media world someone picked up on this fact and started claiming that 432 Hz was the better standard pitch and that it has healing powers! Well, it doesn’t have that and there is a good reason why.
We respond to the intervals of music, regardless of the starting pitch. Human ears love the root note and the fifth, it is common in almost every genre. This interval is the same despite pitch. Your brain doesn’t care if A is 432 Hz, or 440 Hz, or 450 Hz, or whatever! It only cares about the next note played. That sound between notes is what makes us happy or sad. If you have ever heard of the “devils’ interval” it is a musical interval that sounds dissonant and unpleasant. You will often find it in metal music but never in relaxing music! The point being we like the spaces between notes the most.
We mention this 432 Hz vs 440 Hz to show a clear difference between genuine relaxing tones and ones that are sold as relaxing. It is totally true that we don’t know the exact science of why meditation music or binaural beats have a predominantly positive effect on our bodies and minds. We do know that this is the general consensus. Could some of it be the placebo effect? That is very possible. But a large portion of anecdotal evidence points to binaural beats and meditation music being beneficial while the tuning of middle A on your piano being a matter of preference!
Putting It All Together
All these advancements in music for health have been pretty amazing, we would be crazy not to use any relaxing tones or music to our advantage. In a way we will be like creators of the past, trying new ideas and seeing how they work. Considering the track record that music has with health we probably have a good chance of succeeding. As long as we are realistic about it. Music can give us an optimistic outlook, release healthy brain chemicals, or give us a different perspective, but it’s not going to cure cancer. Keep your expectations grounded. Depending on your needs you can use all of these above or pick and choose. Again the key is not to expect the absurd or magical.
If you need relaxing sleep music than you may get by with very light ambient soundscapes, or you can just drop the music altogether. Try using a delta wave binaural beat and a little white noise. If you are taking a break during the workday, then you would be more suited to try good old fashioned meditation music. Something that keeps you alert enough to meditate or stay awake. In that situation calming nature sounds are a great idea. There are a ton of combinations all out there just waiting for you to try. Keep track of what works the best, which natural sounds you like, and which binaural beats are the most helpful (usually people get the most use from theta and delta waves).
Remember you can also always create your own New Age music and binaural beats. Most computers and smartphones have very affordable apps and software for making easy listening music and binaural relaxing beats. Basically with a few simple apps you can build healing tracks from the ground up. If you have the interest and ability to customize your own healing music than go for it!
We’ve always known that hearing our favorite songs can put us in an amazing mood, now we know just simply listening to specific styles of relaxing tones can also do the same thing. Do some ways work better than others? Absolutely. In some cases they can work about the same. Delta wave binaural beats and rain or relaxing wave music can both lull an individual to sleep. In some cases you may find sometimes the relaxing music works, other times not so much. One day a perfect music meditation puts you right in the zone the next it interferes with your meditating to the point of annoyance. It’s all one big experiment on your part to see what helps and what doesn’t!
Don’t forget in your quest to use the relaxing and healing powers of music to work on every angle, not just the music. For example when you exercise you often do it in conjunction with eating right. When it comes to healing music and relaxing tones the same idea applies. Make every attempt to improve your health through a variety of means. By making changes all around you will have much better chances of a positive outcome. So go now and search for any binaural beat, piece of healing music, or relaxing tone that will help you repair that piece of mind, body, or soul you are missing!