„All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.” - Jean Cocteau
Plato once said that music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and everything. Obviously we as a culture agree with this statement. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in love with what used to be our Walkmen, our CD Players and that are now our iPods and smartphones.
We carry music with us everywhere. We have songs we listen to when we’re happy and songs we listen to when we’re sad. We have songs for pretty much every state of mind in between those too. We have songs for when we want to get stuff done. We have music we listen to when we’re working.
Music can make any task seem fun, just because it’s playing in the background. That’s why ads use music. But you already knew all that. Still, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Music has an impact on how creative we are, how well we focus, how we remember things and how productive we are overall. Let’s see why that is.
Music and Your Brain
Our brains are made up of four lobes. Each lobe is specialized in certain tasks. We process sound in the temporal lobes. There is no other area that deals with sound in the human brain. And yet, despite that, when listening to music, all but one of the areas of the brain are active. Since all lobes are active at once, that facilitates creativity – the ability to make links between various elements that your brain processes in various lobes. Basically, when listening to music, we think faster, clearer, we’re able to focus and design better.
3 Tips for Choosing Music to Stimulate Your Creativity
#1 Don’t choose music you’ve associated with tasks you find boring or don’t particularly care about. Since being creative is all about being passionate, especially as a designer, you should choose music you’re passionate about and that you associate with things you’re passionate about!
#2 Choose music that has a repetitive element. The repetition makes sure your brain can tune it out and properly focus on the task at hand.
#3 Think about the tone of project you’re working on. Build yourself a playlist that’s suited to what you’re working on. Try not to listen to anything else. Using specific music ensures that your work has the same tone from one end to the other.
Did you know the music you listen to can cause a shift in your brain waves? As it turns out, it totally can. Certain types of music can create theta waves that are characteristic of periods of high creativity and that are also associated with meditation and sleep states.
Higher or Lower BPM?
Various types of music have various effects on the brain. That much we’ve already covered. Later on, we’ll continue with a breakdown of what several types of music (ranging from classical to jazz and rock music) do to your brain when listening to them and how you can use that to your advantage. For now, let’s ask ourselves how lively the music we listen to should be.
The answer, as you may not be surprised to find out, is that each has its upside and downside. The distinction between lively and slow is at around 60 BPM (beats per minute). Everything over this value will be hereafter called ‘lively’ and everything under ‘slow’.
Lively music has a whole suite of effects on your body. It’s energizing, it increases your heart rate and your breathing and it increases blood pressure. Slow music, on the other hand, is calming, it slows your heart rate and increases concentration as well as decreasing your blood pressure.
Remember earlier on when we were discussing repetition and how it helps your mind focus? Well, as it turns out, not all repetition does that. Multiple repetitions in one song do nothing else but break your concentration. Simple repetition is what you need to look for when choosing music to help you focus.
Ideally, the music you listen to in order to boost your creativity should be around 50-70 BPM and have simple repetition.
Music Genres and Your Brain
What follows is the breakdown of various musical genres and their effect on your brain and your concentration. Some of the following genres have been grouped in unlikely ways due to having the same effect on your mind. The following list is based on the book The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit by Don Campbell.
• Classical Music (like Hayden and Mozart): This music is clear, transparent and elegant. Listening to it improves your power of concentration, memory and your social perception.
• Impressionist Music (like Debussy and Ravel): This type of music is based on impressions and musical moods that flow into one another, thus evoking dreamlike images. This kind of music can put you in touch with your unconscious or, rather, subconscious mind and boost your creativity.
• Slow Baroque Music (like Bach, Handel or Vivaldi): This kind of music instills a sense of stability, order, predictability and safety in the listener, thus creating a mental attitude appropriate for study or work.
• Romantic Music (like Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Chopin or Liszt): This music puts emphasis on expression and feeling, thus being most appropriate for enhancing sympathy, compassion and love.
• Religious Music (including, but not limited to shamanic drumming, church hymns and gospel music): This type of music gives the listener a feeling of deep peace and spiritual awareness. It’s very good for getting the listener to overlook their own pain.
• Gregorian Chant: This type of music has rhythms based on those of natural breathing and induces relaxation in the listener. It’s a good soundtrack for quiet study and meditation.
• Ambient or New Age Music: This type of music has no dominant rhythm, thus elongating the listeners’ sense of time and space and inducing a state of relaxed alertness.
• Salsa, Rhumba, Maranga (and other types of South American Music): These kinds of music can set the heart racing, increase respiration and get the whole body moving. An exception to this rule is Samba. It has the ability to both soothe and awaken simultaneously.
• Jazz, Blues, Dixieland, Soul, Calypso, Reggae (as well as other types of music and dance forms of African heritage): These many types of music can be uplifting, inspirational, release deep feelings of either joy or sadness and convey wit and irony.
• Rock Music (from Elvis Presley to U2 and everything in between): This music can stir the passions, stimulate activity and movement, release tension and reduce the effect of loud and unpleasant sounds in the environment. Be wary, though! It can also create stress and tension and even pain in the body when it’s not really in the mood to be energetically entertained.
• Metal, Rap, Hip-Hop, Punk, Grunge (and other related forms of musical expression): These kinds of music can excite the nervous system and thus lead to dynamic behaviour and self-expression.
That concludes our look into how music influences your creativity and your brain and how you can harness it to become a better and happier individual. What’s your experience with music, moods and creativity? Let us know in the comments section below!