The Possible Calming and Relaxing Effects of Music
By Skye Romano
Covid. Pandemic. Quarantine. All of these words probably make you nervous, anxious, stressed, or even scared. You sit in front of the TV or read a book, but none of these activities seem to make you feel any less nervous. Then you try music, switching through the different kinds until you find the right one. As you listen to the song, the anxiety and worry slowly seem to trickle out of your body, until you become calm and peaceful. You think to yourself that you should try this more often. According to scientific research, this could apply to more people than just yourself.
Music is shown to potentially have stress-relieving or calming effects on people. Depending on the type or tempo of the music, a variety of emotional or physical effects are possible. Music itself is “vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion” (Google Dictionary). This harmony or expression of emotion can possibly be used to relax or calm the body and mind. Not every type of music can have this calming effect, though. The tempo of music can affect the body dramatically. For example, faster music may be able to cause better concentration and a better feeling of alertness. Slower tempos may relax muscles and quiet the mind, which can result in a soothing feeling. Music with tempos around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat, or line up with it. During this time, alpha brain waves, which are the brain waves that are detected when someone is conscious and relaxed, are present in the brain.
So what exactly are brainwaves? Inside the brain there are lots of cells, some of which are called neurons. The electrical signals between the neurons can be recorded as waves (brain waves). When people feel certain emotions, different types of brainwaves are present. According to articles by Stanford News and UNR, it is possible that music results in alpha brainwaves, which is causing a calming, soothing feeling. However, this is not known for sure.
Additionally, Celtic music, Indian stringed instruments, Native American music, flutes, and drums can possibly help to relax the mind. Nature sounds like thunder or rain may also be relaxing, specifically when they are mixed with genres such as classical and light jazz. Despite this, if the music someone is listening to is not interesting to them, it will most likely not calm them.
Music is embedded into cultures all throughout the world, with endless variations of styles and sounds. The possibility of feeling relaxed and soothed as a result of listening to it just adds to its potential. Linked to this article is music relating to the types listed before, along with some other slower tempo music. Go ahead, try some of it out. Maybe some of it will relax you, maybe it won’t. Hopefully somewhere in the near future, scientists will be able to prove whether or not music calms and soothes the mind and body. But for now, let’s just enjoy the sound of music.
Indian stringed instrument music:
Music mixed with nature sounds:
Other music around 60 bpm (beats per minute):
*Note that these links are from YouTube, and it is suggested that you listen to them on a device other than a school-issued Chromebook.
Saarman, Emily, and Emily Saarman. “Feeling the Beat: Symposium Explores the Therapeutic Effects of Rhythmic Music.” Stanford University, 31 May 2006, news.stanford.edu/news/2006/may31/brainwave-053106.html.
“Releasing Stress Through the Power of Music: Counseling Services.” University of Nevada, Reno, www.unr.edu/counseling/virtual-relaxation-room/releasing-stress-through-the-power-of-music#:~:text=Upbeat%20music%20can%20make%20you,these%20personal%20experiences%20with%20music.
“Understanding Brain Waves.” Neurofeedback Alliance, neurofeedbackalliance.org/understanding-brain-waves/.