Music has the restorative ability to influence one’s mood, triggering and eliciting a range of emotional responses including hope, despair, and everything in-between. Everyone can remember a time when they were touched by a song, whether it was in the final climactic moments of a film or when they saw they favourite artist live for the first time. Such feelings are a natural response to stimuli we have been exposed to over the years – our brains have hardwired a deep connection to music and the cultures that surround it.
Perhaps one of the reasons music can relieve stress, pain and anxiety, is in its ability to occupy our minds for a period, distracting us from dwelling on deep thoughts. Certainly, the existence of relaxing radio stations, featured on both on analogue and digital channels, shows music being categorised and implemented based on the mood it evokes in people, rather than simply the novelty of individual songs or artists.
Music has also been known to boost and enhance memory, with it being widely reported that dementia patients can more easily remember things from their past when associated with a certain song or even just the sound of a certain instrument. We tend to remember things better when we associate. Even the most popular and mainstream music festivals can evoke emotions, like the ‘those feels’ expressed at Splendour in the Grass in 2019.
Truthfully, each of us have a unique set of musical songs that are undoubtedly special to us. For this reason too, music helps is clearing the brain. A much-needed rejuvenation in-between the routine and mundane reality of our everyday lives.
In a similar fashion, whenever we experience difficulty sleeping, music can help calm us down preparing ourselves for bed. Even when we have no issues with sleep, certain types of music can enhance the quality of our sleep, so we have a deeper, more effective rest at night. Whenever we feel restless, music helps to pass the time away. It provides a great outset for escape and naturally helps us to produce dopamine.
In this way, ambient music, synchronised with the soundscapes of outdoor environments, has become one of the most popular ways people choose to wind down before sleep. Tonal melodies echo throughout virtual forests, jungles and cave systems, brining us back to nature and helping us escape the seemingly constant noise of modernity.
Music helps to pump us up for workouts, especially when we are listening to something up-tempo. Gym enthusiasts will tell you that mental preparation is an important step before any exercise routine. And even during the process, music helps time our rhythmic movements to a beat. Just thinking about how dancing works! Music helps to get blood pumping as we warm up and prepare ourselves. It’s no wonder that we can observe the connection between the beats-per0m
So which genres of music make you feel a particular way? Individuals can respond to stimuli in different ways, so we should be careful about drawing blanket conclusions for all people. Regardless, the tone, beat and tempo of songs will be the tell-tale clues. Musical tone refers to its richness and colour. Several components such as pitch, rhythm and volume comprise the tone of any given song. Generally speaking, muddier tones, in other words, songs played in a minor key, will make us feel sadder than songs played in a major key. Musical dissonance, or the harsher clashing of notes stirs uneasy feelings. Different music can light up different parts in our brain.
Differences in pitch can actually differ between genders, each characteristic of where there natural speaking register sits. Women prefer higher notes with men preferring lower octaves. It is most unlikely for your average joe to find people who are within either of the two extreme ends of this scale. Normally an even distribution between the two preferences is prevalent.
When you take into consideration all the emotional wellness benefits listening to music has, it’s no surprise why it’s been a beloved art form practically since the dawn of human civilisation. While created as artistic expression and catalyst for recreation, music is now an integral part of the world economy and the daily lives of most people – even if they don’t fully realise it yet.