Music is a fascinating thing. It’s older than language and we’ve created it and been drawn to it for hundreds of thousands of years. Our minds are adept at recognizing rhythms, tunes and pitches, which makes music capable of significantly impacting our emotional state.
Pre-History of Music
Music might be the oldest form of communication. Humans have played the drums and flutes long before we had constructed spoken language.
We used music for many things, from informing about potential danger to celebrating festivities. Such a long history of music makes it no wonder that today it has a huge effect on our brains. We evolved together with music. Our brains are adapted to listen, create and differentiate a plethora of different styles, rhythms and genres.
How Our Brain Reacts to Music
To begin with, it should be explained how music and brains interact in general. The first thing that happens when we hear music is our auditory cortex and cerebellum are activated to differentiate the foundation of music, like pitches, volumes and rhythms. Then, the amygdala induces the emotion we feel when listening to music. Finally, the cerebellum joins the fundamental parts of music to the amygdala and it produces a release of dopamine, which is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter.
Now that we know a little bit about how our brains react to music, we can go a little more specific about the effects that different genres can have on our psychological state.
Heavy Metal and Hard Rock
This head-banging genre of music is associated with angry, wild and dangerous people. In reality, metal has the opposite effect on listeners. University of Queensland researchers found evidence to indicate that metal helps people to cope with negative emotions, such as sadness, depression, stress and anger.
One theory states that the calming effects are caused by metal music because of the listener’s behavior while listening. The fans of metal are known to scream along with their favorite artists and to involve their whole bodies into listening to the music. Such behavior might be the reason why metal can cause the alleviation of stress, anger, depression and other negative emotions.
Suggestions: ACDC, Wolfmother, Metallica
Known for being a genre enjoyed by smart people, classical music usually features soothing, calm and masterfully crafted tunes. The stereotype about the listeners of this genre might be correct, as indicated by one study from 1993 named after a famous composer. The Mozart Effect proposes that music of the classical genre might make young children smarter.
It needs some more research to know whether you will not waste your time by listening to this genre only with hopes to get smarter. But that is not all that this genre of music potentially offers. Another benefit of classical music was found in a study which indicated that classical music increased the visual attention of stroke patients. Such an effect is not universal to only classical music, as silence resulted in the lowest scores of the testing, and other genres of music also helped the patients.
Suggestions: Mozart, Beethoven
Country and Folk
While there are no scientific studies to back this up, fans of country and folk music appreciate the story-telling nature of these styles. The simple, familiar sounds, clear vocals and references to things such as home and country place listeners in solid, tangible surroundings.
The genres offer a centering effect. If you have feel a little lost and confused, putting on a country, folk or Christian song can take you back to where you feel you belong.
Suggestions: Johnny Cash, Kirk Franklin
Jazz is often soothing and, whether you like this genre or not, you may agree with that. Some research indicated that slow tempo music of below or around 60 beats per minute makes your mind produce alpha waves. These are usually found in people in relaxed and calm states. It means that grooving to jazz is inclined to make you relaxed and calm.
Suggestions: Dizzie Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald