I was lucky enough to spend three years of my life in a music college, right after high school, where I dedicated most of my waking hours to the study of music and classical guitar.
After graduating, I decided to do something different with my life. I felt that, although I loved the classical guitar, music wasn’t my true talent. I wanted to become involved in the natural health field instead. Even though I never took my music studies to the next level, music has been a big part of my life ever since. And lately, I’ve been interested in the use of music to boost creativity, enhance brain power, and more.
When working on the computer, half the time I blast classical music to bring me to a state of enhanced productivity and creativity. I use music to enhance my workouts, and to relax my mind before going to sleep.
Why Classical Music?
Studies have shown that baroque music has potent brain-enhancing qualities by affecting brain waves. Classical music in general has been used to:
– Improve performance
– Temporarily boost IQ score results
– Lower stress and anxiety
– Help with post-traumatic stress disorder
One study even used a Mozart Sonata (K448) to help patients suffering from epilepsy. During the test, while listening to this particular piece by Mozart, EEG data showed less epileptic activity. Other studies showed that music had beneficial long-term effects for epileptic patients.
The benefits of classical music have been since then referred to as the “Mozart Effect.”
Can Classical Music Make Kids Smarter?
You probably heard the popular idea that if children listen to Mozart’s music, or other classical music, they will grow up more intelligent. This is not actually true. In fact, the original studies were done on students, not children. They found was that the students listening to a Mozart’s piece before a test did better at certain types of tasks where they had to create shapes in their mind. But the effects only lasted about 10 to 15 minutes.
I also think that generally, parents who play classical music to their children probably also have a well-stocked bookshelf and will care a lot about the education of their children. So it may not be as easy as popping a CD and turning your child into a genius, but I’m sure that developing an interest for music early on helps the brain in some ways we don’t understand just yet.
So merely listening to classical music won’t make you or your children smarter, but it does affect your brain waves and can probably enhance your creativity and help reduce stress.
Specific Benefits to Baroque Music
When I was in music school, my favorite music to play on the guitar was Bach. Bach is considered by some as the greatest composer who ever lived, and he certainly had a huge influence over the development of music. I always found that playing Bach relaxed my mind, creating a state of inner peace. I didn’t know completely why, but I felt like Bach’s music was true music for the soul.
Now that I make my living writing, I often use Bach and other music of the Baroque genre to boost my creativity (Baroque is style of Western music composed in Europe from approximately 1600 to around 1750. The composers that are the most famously associated with this genre are Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Corelli, and Telemann.)
Baroque is my favorite genre of classical music, and I have my own theory as to why it’s so appropriate to boost your brain’s creativity. Let’s first take a look at the research.
Some researchers found that Baroque music was best for to stabilize “mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned.”
“Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state. Learning vocabulary, memorizing facts or reading to this music is highly effective.”
In one study, students found that students enjoyed the class better when baroque music was playing in the background, and found math classes less challenging.
Some say that baroque music seems to be particularly better than other genres of classical music because it generally pulses between 50 and 80 beats per minute, which is close to the human heart. I don’t think that’s necessarily the reason, because most of the movements in the works of Baroque composers are played faster than this.
So why Baroque?
Baroque music is light and lively. Yet, it can be very expressive and soulful, but never falling into the melodramatic. It doesn’t try to hook you with a ton of “hummable melodies” that stick in your head, like those composed by Mozart. It’s often a flow of delicious notes taking you on a melodic journey.
Baroque musicians improvised a lot, and at the time baroque music was considered a bit wild. After that period, starting around the death of Bach in 1750, music became more regimented, with the classical period of Mozart, Haydn, and early Beethoven works.
After the classical period comes the Romantics, with later Beethoven works, Wagner, Berlioz, Chopin, Brahms, Mahler, and many others. Music during this period became very emotional, with grand and dramatic symphonies and concertos and wild piano sonatas, often taking you through a torrent of emotions.
Why Not Other Kinds of Music?
The response to music is individual, and can vary at different times in your life.
I’ve been into rock, pop, alternative, bossa nova, and many other genres. At some point I was even into death metal! (I still listen to some occasionally…) But classical music is what has has the biggest effect on me.
You can listen to any music you’d like, but if you want to specifically enhance your creativity and “boost your brainpower,” you should give Baroque music a try.
I can’t get anything done if I listen to music with words. Songs are too distracting and the lyrics just bring a lot of nonsense that I don’t want in my brain if I want to focus on something.
I think the second best thing to baroque would be music from the classical era (from Mozart and Haydn, for example), because it’s very beautiful and structured. Maybe it’s a question of taste. But when you get to the romantics, things get a bit wild and out of control! It’s too emotional to use as a music for focus, at least for me.
Maybe you’ve found that something else works for you. But my recommendation to you is to give Baroque music a try, if you want to:
– Study for an exam
– Enhance your mood
– Boost your creativity
And who knows… maybe it will even make you smarter, at least temporarily!
If you’d like to try a few Baroque CDs here are some recommendations I think you will love, from my own collection:
– Bach: Brandenburg Concertos (English Concert): This is the pinnacle of Baroque music. I keep discovering new things every time I listen to it.
– Bach: Goldberg Variations (Pierre Hentai). Some say it’s the most beautiful keyboard music ever written. I prefer the harpsichord version, but you should also listen to the classic recording by pianist Glenn Gould.
– Marin Marais: Pieces de viole des cinq livres, by Jordi Savall. This is true meditative music, and Savall, played on an ancient instrument by a master.
– Mass in B Minor: Some say it’s the best work of music ever written, in any genre.
– Corelli Violin Sonatas: Some of favorite soothing “background” music.
– Handel: 12 Concerti Grossi. You can’t go wrong with that one.
– Handel: Water Music: For some reason I never get tired of hearing Handel’s Water Music.
– Julian Bream Plays Bach: This has been a favorite CD of mine for the past 20 years solid!
Question of the day: Have you ever found that some kinds of music help your concentration, creativity, or offer other health benefits?