They say that music feeds the soul. That may very well be true, but the right tune can also strike a chord in the brain. As much as melodies move us emotionally, they also have the power to alter our psychology. Indeed, how many times have you played a certain song and it’s like a light switch has been turned on? Suddenly you feel energized, focused, or ready to run through a brick wall. The impact of music on our brains is far from a theory. Research supports the notion that a tune can trigger different mental states.
Now, it’s important to note that some studies are inconclusive. For example, the right music can improve focus in some scenarios but not others. Therefore, it’s not always possible to say, “listen to X and you’ll have laser-like focus.” However, there is at least some effect and, moreover, the effects are likely to vary from person to person. Someone that’s heavily into music is more likely to appreciate subtle changes in tone, rhythm, and timing. This, in turn, can make a song more impactful.
So, if we accept that music can change our brain state in at least some way, how can we use it to our advantage?
Focus and Decision Making
Imagine you’re in a situation that requires immense focus. A great example would be a game such as blackjack or chess. Blackjack online is a card game that requires a subtle blend of timing, logic, and mathematics. Indeed, with the right knowledge and skills, you can use the table’s dynamics to your advantage. For example, you can assess the value of the dealer’s up card to decide whether to hit or stand. It’s a similar story with chess. Looking at your opponent’s pieces and anticipating their next moves will help you make better decisions.
In both scenarios, focus is crucial. Research published in Learning and Individual Differences showed that classic music can help increase focus. Researchers at Stanford came to a similar conclusion when they found that the silence between bursts of notes causes the brain to process information at an increased rate. Thus, if you’re looking for a way to increase your focus, something from Bach or Mozart would be perfect.
Energy and Output
Studies into the effects of music on athletic performance are tricky to replicate because of individual variance. In other words, one group of participants may be naturally more skilled in a particular physical activity and, thus, respond/perform better to music. However, even accounting for individual variations, music can improve physical output. Judy Edworthy & Hannah Waring (2006) found that people actually ran faster on a treadmill and reported feeling less tired when they listened to high-tempo music.
Karageorghis, C. & Jones, L. (2014) replicated similar results and went a step further by recommending songs with a tempo of between 123 and 131 beats per minute. Of course, there will be certain songs that do it for one person that won’t do it for another. Based on the research, anything from rock or hip hop would satisfy the brief. Indeed, if you want to stick to what the science says, something by Slipknot could work well. If you want to get a little faster, a DragonForce song would certainly up the tempo.
Music Makes Everything Better
Music may or may not make you better at games such as blackjack and chess. It may or may not make you the next gym king or queen. However, there is evidence to suggest that the right songs can make a difference. And, even if they don’t, they do have an uplifting effect. When you’re positive, everything feels better. Whether it’s games, running, or something else, a positive mindset improves performance. So, based on that fact alone, it’s always worth trying to find a tune to help get the most out of what you’re doing.