THE ALPHA STATE THROUGH MUSIC
A story of near trance-like states through music...
We are all learning to take better care of ourselves, read books and blogs on nutrition to learn about ways to hack our bodies and direct our minds for optimum health. Using all we know, one of our six senses is getting more attention these days, and this is the area of sound and music. How sound affects our brains continues to be researched through neuroscience and philosophical questions about consciousness. Experiencing how our bodies respond to specific musical pieces, including exposure to certain combinations of frequencies, brings about a whole range of new tools to improve our health.
In a nutshell, the more we can improve our minds and bodies, the more we can heighten awareness and empathy, the more we can work together to improve the state of the world. Best of all, music is something we can access anytime, anywhere, with all our devices and connections. And the knowledge of music and trance is universal. But many have expressed not knowing where they can find quality music to listen to or what they should be listening for. This is where musician’s knowledge comes in handy, where we can become creators, curators, and teachers. This is useful information that needs to be shared.
As a professional musician, I’ve had what might be called mystical experiences around music, and my musician friends have reported surprisingly similar, sometimes profound, and enlightening stories. I want to share these with you in the hope that you can use the power of music and sound in your life to improve your corner of the world.
It is tricky writing about music, something one has to hear for context. Therefore, I offer a few musician suggestions at the end, ones you can try, to see if you feel make a difference in your state of mind. There are trance states, alpha states that can be achieved through experiencing sound.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the medical definition of the alpha state as follows:
ALPHA Def: a state of wakeful relaxation associated with increased alpha wave activity. When electroencephalograms show a brain wave pattern of 9 to 12 cycles per second, the subject is said to be in an alpha state, usually described as relaxed, peaceful, or floating.
In the alpha state, which falls in the middle of the brain wave spectrum, you are not focused on anything in particular and are not feeling any mental strain. You are feeling relaxed and calm. Many have reported this state during meditation and after exercise. As defined by an EEG, the measurable brain wave frequencies from low to high are:
DELTA (0.1 to 3.5 Hz) The lowest frequencies
THETA (4-8 Hz)
ALPHA (8-12 Hz)
BETA (above 12 Hz)
GAMMA (above 30 Hz)
An incredible story told to me by a world-class flutist makes an interesting case for the power of being an alpha state to overcome fear and anxiety while tapping the mind for superior performance.
Rene confessed that she gets too nervous when auditioning, especially for coveted positions in major orchestras, and that she does not do well when under that kind of pressure. It was well known that she was incredibly gifted. Yet, her peers always did much better in auditions. However, one summer day, when she had arrived for an audition for a name orchestra, which she described as including all the heavy hitters, even though prepared, she felt her usual queasiness and went outside for air. As she sat under a tree just outside the venue, she heard all the various flutists warming up on challenging and well-known pieces for flute. She closed her eyes and listed as all the sounds melded together, reverberating from multiple locations, into one big, beautiful cacophony of flute sounds. She felt herself slip into a trance-like state. So, she let go and let it happen, feeling herself float up above her body. When she was called into an audition, where musicians perform behind a screen, she was still in that relaxed state. She said she missed one-note and asked to do it again, for which they agreed. This time she nailed it effortlessly as if watching herself from above.
When the time came to report the results, the judges said that, although everyone did well, one outstanding performance took their collective breath away. Rene’s audition was the one that thrilled the judges above all others. Rene told me that she has been trying to trigger the alpha state before auditions ever since. Needless to say, she has gone on to thrill audiences with her playing and believes that sound can profoundly affect the mind, having experienced it in her own life.
The alpha state has contributed to superior performances reported by students, professional athletes, and even Navy Seals by reducing harmful stress and anxiety. It’s also said to increase creativity and act as a natural anti-depressant by increasing endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, described as the ‘happiness neurochemicals.’ All this leads to lasting feelings of peace, well-being, and oneness with the world.
Listening to certain types relaxing music and specific sounds can help put you in that relaxed alpha state. Whether you use exercise, meditation, music, or all combined, adding music to your mind-body health will give you beautiful results.
Liquid Mind - CD: Relax - A Liquid Mind Experience
Brian Eno & Harold Budd - CD: The Pearl
Deuter - CD: Kayasan - Reiki Sound Healing
Yellow Brick Cinema - CD: Study Focus
Birds Of Norway - CD: As Still As Now (piano music)
Arcello - CD: Magia Natralis