Music Therapy – Tranquil Thursday #3

A black and white photo of a solitary boat on a lake

Do you ever stumble on a concept or idea and find yourself tumbling down the research rabbit hole? Curiosity piqued, I tend to cling to a subject until I either exhaust myself or reach the point of being satisfied with what I have learned.

This week I stumbled on a less than familiar word – entrainment, but more specifically neural entrainment. Sounds all sciencey (new word alert) doesn’t it? It is, but on a more human level, it is something perhaps we all experience on a very basic level. So what is the biology definition of entrainment?

Entrainment means synchronization of the beats of music with natural body function or processes.

And what is neural entrainment? Good question with a difficult answer. It has to do with the synchronization of auditory and motor functions. (This is my very simplified definition as I understand it.) Is this the reason we tap our feet or snap our fingers to a rhythm we hear?

“Wow, Maggie. This does not feel like a very tranquil discussion!”

Okay. I give you that, but this subject is fascinating. It is used to help stroke victims recover motor functions using music to retrain the brain. But enough science for now. Let’s talk music and how it affects you.

  1. Do you choose to play music that matches your mood?
  2. Do you ever use music to change your mood?
  3. Do you use music to relax or to fall asleep?
  4. When do you like music with lyrics versus instrumental music?
  5. Does music distract you if you are trying to concentrate?
  6. Do you like percussion arrangements with no other instrumentation?
  7. Do you listen to classical music?
  8. Do upbeat rhythms make you want to get up and dance?
  9. What music grates on your nerves?
  10. Neuroscientists from the UK deemed this song the most relaxing song tested to date. It is said to reduce anxiety by 65%. What do you think?

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My responses follow.

I love most genres of music, but not every genre of music fits every mood or occasion. There have been times of my life in which I experienced periods of sadness and I confess I played a lot of sad songs. Sometimes I did it to make myself cry as a release.

I do select music to change my mood. If I am feeling sluggish, I find upbeat music gets my body moving. If I am down in the dumps, I find inspiring upbeat music helps improve my outlook.

If I struggle to fall asleep, I will sometimes play my favorite YouTube music video. There are no distracting words or odd instrument changes. Check it out.

If I need to relax, I usually play instrumental or classical music. I find lyrics engage a different part of the brain which keeps me from relaxing.

I generally like quiet if I am focusing on some creative task. I cannot listen to podcasts or music with lyrics – especially if I know the words. I often listened to Hayley Westenr’s Odyssey CD. She has an angelic voice.

No strictly percussion instruments for me. I find consistent drumming agitating. I would never go see STOMP. While I appreciate how talented they are and enjoy how they compose their work, my saturation point would be about 10 minutes.

I enjoy classical music, especially piano and violin. I find my heart entrains to match the tempo of classical music.

I love music that makes me want to get up and dance. Cue the Pointer Sisters. I saw them in concert eons ago and no one stayed in their seat.

I am not a huge fan of  heavy metal or really hard rock music. Everything else has it’s time and place in my mental jukebox.

I donned my headphones and listened to Weightless. After 4 minutes I turned it off. I felt like I was in a planetarium with the lights out floating through space. I can’t say I found it overly relaxing because of the rise and fall of the music. It was tranquil, though.