BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT INTO BRAINWAVE ENTRAINMENT MUSIC:
THE NEXT WAVE OF NEW AGE MUSIC?
Steven Halpern © 2012
In addition to the growing popularity of the yoga/chant/world music genre, another genre has been attracting a large and growing audience at the other end of the musical spectrum from the more energetic and dance-oriented albums often reviewed in these pages. Generically described as brainwave 'synchronization' or brainwave 'entrainment', these soundscapes are typically intended for a less overtly physical body response, focusing more on the subtleties that are related to specific frequencies of brainwave activity.
This is a subject rarely addressed in classical, pop or new age contexts, but it offers an intriguing insight into the broader potentials of the healing powers of music.
Why Tune your Brain?
What might be the benefits of using this leading edge sound healing technology? And is it really a new discovery? And which corporations and organizations might already be using this information?
Try this for starters: If you only have five minutes and want to relax deeply, would you prefer music that only slightly relaxed you, or music that deeply relaxed you in less than a New York minute? Adding the brainwave frequencies associated with relaxation to the soundtrack can give you a 'competitive advantage'.
Taking a Look at the Record
You're brain is being entrained all the time, whether you've been aware of it or not. Every time you tap your toes to the beat of the music, you're being entrained.
Every time you've enjoyed the flickering flame of a candle or fireplace, you're being entrained. The former affects your entire body, the latter affects your brainwaves.
So the question really is, do you want to become more aware of what's up in your world, and make more conscious choices that support your physical, emotional and spiritual health? Given a choice, would you choose pain/stress or pleasure?
I believe that tuning in to the world of brainwave entrainment music can make a positive addition to you life.
I'm not suggesting that one musical genre is inherently superior to another. Plus, there is a broad spectrum of quality in every genre. Different kinds of music may have different uses.
Just as most of you wouldn't drink three cups of coffee to help you fall sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, exactly the opposite of what you need. Same with music, there's time to speed up your nervous system and heart rate, and there are times to slow down your heart rate and brainwaves.
Rhythm Entrainment vs Brainwave Entrainment
Entrainment refers to the physical phenomenon in which a stronger external rhythmic stimulus (or oscillating, pulsing system), measured in beats per minute, causes a weaker system(your heart) to synchronize to its rhythm. It's not a matter of choice; it's an automatic response, not subject to conscious control.
Don't believe me? Try telling your heartbeat not to speed up when you listen to up-tempo music.
You can't. The external rhythm overrides your internal rhythm. This can be a good thing, if you dig the beat.
But if you don't, it can really create stress and put you on edge.
With respect to brainwave entrainment, your brain responds automatically to sounds in the beats per second rage. A tone of a particular frequency is recorded on one side of a stereo recording, for instance, of 100 cycles per second. If a frequency of 112 is recorded on the other channel. the mathematical difference between the two frequencies would entrain the listener's brain to 12 cps, in the alpha range. You would simply vary the difference between the tones depending on the desired outcome.
There is a wide range of options in the field. Some programs may work for you, and some may not. Your mission is to find the ones that work best for you.
Getting in the Zone for Meditation and Healing
As a listener or a musician, yogi or meditator, individually or in any combination, quieting the chatter in my mind is a good thing. 'Getting into the flow' is one expression used to describe the feeling. The ancient tribal and shamanic use of drumming is the most well-known demonstration of the use of music to get all hearts beating in unison.
Beats Per Minute (BPM) vs Beats Per Second (BBPS)
At the other end of the rhythmic spectrum, in which we measure beats per minute and its effect on our physical body and heartbeat, we deal with electrical entrainment and its effects on our brainwaves, which are measured in beats per second (italics).
Brainwave Entrainment, Healing and Inner Peace
Many ancient and modern spiritual traditions tell us that the key to spiritual growth and well-being is to 'be still…and Know!".
Being still involves quieting the mind and slowing down the heartbeat. Alpha and theta brainwaves are associated with stress reduction, relaxation, meditation (quieting the mind) and healing. It's easy to find music with a slow beat, or no beat at all, as in some of the atmospheric, ambient compositions.
But not all ambient music is created equal. If you're like me, there's some that feels real good, and some that gets on your nerves from the first notes.
Aerobics instructors and soundtrack producers are well aware of music libraries that come with designated beats per minute as part of the information for that music track. I predict that more albums will list designated brain states and 'beats per second', as I have on my recent CD, DEEP THETA.
THE EMERGING FIELD OF BRAINWAVE ENTRAINMENT MUSIC
For over a century, scientists have measured the electrical activity of the brain, organized into four main frequency ranges. Delta 1-3 cycles per second (cps) also called Hertz (Hz) named after the 19th century scientist; theta 4-7 Hz) alpha 8-12 Hz, and beta 13-39 Hz. Recent research suggests that from 33-39 or higher) should be designated as gamma but there isn't a great deal of consensus on that yet.
When you're dealing with everyday life, talking, thinking, etc, you're typically in beta. Shifting gears into alpha brings you into levels of relaxation and wellbeing. Slowing down into the theta range is correlated with deeper meditation, healing and heightened creativity. Delta is generally related to sleep states, but again, there's not as much research or consensus.
STRESS RELIEF AT THE SPEED OF SOUND
As a card-carrying Type-A ex-New Yorker, I've always been on the lookout for effective, natural, inexpensive, legal and enjoyable resources to help me relax and tune into inner peace.
Sound healing is now a large and rapidly growing segment of both the New Age soundscapes. Adding brainwave entrainment can enhance the positive effects, when done correctly.
SUGGESTIONS For FINDING THE BEST ENTRAINMENT PROGRAMS FOR YOUR OWN USE
It's important to remember that when it comes to audio brainwave entrainment programs, not all programs are created equal. There's a wide variety, with soundtracks ranging from beautiful to boring, uplifting to irritating.
As you search for samples on various websites, you'll find some employ the entrainment technology so loud it may remind you of a pneumatic drill or jackhammer. Other companies use high-frequency tones. Some don't even offer audio samples or return options.
When you find some sound-assisted brainwave states that feel especially wonderful, make note of what specific music and brainwave frequency it is. Will it have the same effect next week? Only you can say.
Enjoy the journey.
Yours for sound health and inner peace,