A brain on music

Improve your creativity with music

It’s Monday morning. You’ve had a great weekend with friends and family, but now it’s time to crack on with what pays the bills. Except, you can’t. Your brain hasn’t yet caught on that it’s Monday. The only solution is to listen to quality music.

Does that sound familiar? It certainly is for me. But why? Do I just really enjoy music, or is there a more primal reason that music helps all of us be better at our jobs?

Bang to the beat of the drum – the primal rhythm of life

Unsurprisingly, the answer is primal and not just because I like music.

As a fetus, you heard your very first sounds at around 18 weeks as you tapped into the rhythm of your mother’s womb. A 360 degree, fully immersive sound experience with a heartbeat bass drum, kicking at up to 90 beats per minute.

When we’re born, our connection to music continues. We find it easier to learn through the mnemonic properties of music to remember key facts.

The same connections in your brain that allow you to remember song lyrics can also help with general memory. Something advertisers use to great effect.

Just hearing the opening couple of bars from the 80s Walls Cornetto ad brings the full song back to the centre of my mind.

Another good musical mnemonic example is the ABC song my son and I sing on the walk home from nursery.

Socially, music is a powerful tool that bonds groups of people together. And if a group of people make music together, they work together more productively. Maybe that’s the answer to hitting your goals at work, an office band?

It’s another manic Monday

I’m writing this piece on a Monday morning and I need my own creative injection of music.

First, I turn to YouTube, quickly choosing and rejecting three separate DJ mixes. One house, one techno and one drum and bass. None of them is right. But, I’ll try them again later in the week.

Finally, I find my groove with my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify. The playlists’ fine selection of laid back beats kicks in my creative process.

For me, content writing and music go hand in hand. Music helps me focus and produce better results. And it’s not just with content writing that this is the case.

Any task I do, be it design, coding, the monthly report, or even putting together flat pack furniture – which I detest doing – is made easier with a soundtrack.

For the jobs I enjoy, music elevates me and makes me happy. For the dull jobs, it helps me forget that I’d rather be doing something else.

Do different styles of music promote creativity more?

So, does it matter what sort of music we’re listening to? Do we have to listen to classical music to be creative? The short answer is no. Which is good, as I like Kylie a lot more than I like Tchaikovsky…

To be creative when writing, listen to music that you love. Whether your favourite music is classical, country, gangster rap or glam rock, all that matters is the fact you love it.

Different styles of music affect your brain in different ways, but high tempo techno is just as likely to help you concentrate as string-laden classical music is.

In fact, slow-paced classical music will more likely slow your brain down towards a meditative state.

This is because the frontal lobe is affected by music with a strong beat. Slower tempos chills it out. Faster tempos make it more alert.
Your brain and music

Image from kakou.org.uk

Listening to your favourite music connects areas of your brain that don’t otherwise link up. Also called neuroplasticity.

“The mechanisms of neuroplasticity are an organizing framework for understanding how emotional styles can be transformed. While they are quite stable over time in most adults, they can still be changed through systematic practice of specific mental exercises.”

– Sam Harris, neuroscientist, philosopher and author

Recent studies have also shown that an area of your brain, known as the default mode network – DMN – is most connected when listening to music.

Previously, your DMN was thought to be most active when you’re not focussed on the outside world. Such as daydreaming or letting your mind wander. It’s also an area of your brain which switches off when on psychedelics – such as psilocybin, LSD and ayahuasca – but that’s a whole other blog

When active, the DMN is lauded as an area which develops divergent thinking and creativity.

If you want to read more on this there’s a very good report, with a very long title, that I recommend – Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem.

Get your finger out and learn a musical instrument

Getting away from your desk and learning a musical instrument will help you be creative at work.

Don’t just take my word for it, take Daniel Glasers. He’s a neuroscientist who tells you why music is good for you in his podcast for the Observer – A neuroscientist explains: how music affects the brain.

Music, and learning to play it, stimulates and connects your brain in a number of wonderful areas:

  1. You use your eyes to read music and to watch other people perform
  2. Your imagination is fired as you listen to the lyrics, or you’re swept up by luscious strings
  3. Broca’s area – found just behind the frontal lobe – is stimulated when you sing
  4. A high degree of movement and control is needed to play an instrument
  5. Your parietal cortex creates a spacial representation of music. Great for your memory

All of these skills and connections of your brain further expand out into your life. Helping you put your music skills to use in areas that are not music-related. Such as writing great content.

The harsh tone of the section header is aimed squarely at myself. I’ve been talking about learning to play the keyboard for years.

I even have one in front of me now, taunting me for not being disciplined enough to learn it. Come one, Steve. Sort it out and take some lessons.

Work hard, playlist harder

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that music is a good thing. OK, you don’t need me to tell you that. But, hopefully, you see the benefit of embracing music fully in your life and will use it to propel your content into fantastic new areas.

Fine-tune your playlist for work and inspire yourself with some fabulous music.

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn.



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