sound wave

Music plays an important role in creating a stimulating learning environment and increasing learner engagement in a training session. As any trainer or facilitator knows, there’s a surprising amount of thought that goes in to the room set up of any workshop. Your goal is to create an optimal learning experience. You want everyone to arrive engaged and stay engaged to the very end. And every little detail- including the music you play- must be carefully considered.

Why is that?

Music can have a very strong influence on our minds, bodies and emotions. We humans are very sensitive to the vibrations produced through sound, so much to the point that they can move us to buy something, perceive something differently, or even trigger a certain memory. Think about when a song comes on the radio and you quickly turn it off because it puts you in a bad mental space. Or that one special beat that plays to your mood and makes your morning just that much better.

Recent research has shown that humans are a musical species that are very sensitive to specific rhythms. Listening to music can have synchronized and healing effects on our minds, bodies, and emotions. Music has been found to trigger more areas of our brain than languages can. Given this data- it’s easy to see the impact that music can have on the learning environment!

It’s more than just having music playing in the room. The human body sensitive to rhythms, so much to the point that it subconsciously listens and physically reacts. So, paying attention to the type of music that you play and when you play it will encourage your brain and body to act and feel a certain way. Think of it like a good cheese and wine pairing!

In thinking about what music to please and to create the best learning environment, let’s first look at what music actually is. Music is a grouping of organized sounds and vibrations that are created through a sequence of frequencies built up of beats and rhythms. In other words, it is a form of energy that moves through a cycle, just like many basic functions of our world like heartbeats, breathing cycles, day turning to night as well as the seasonal cycle. This energy can activate or encourage various brain waves in us that allow us to fuel our brains in a certain way.

Here are four types of brain waves that human beings cycle through:

  • Beta: Alert, Engaging. Your brain is ready to take part in a stimulating activity.
  • Alpha: Relaxed, Self-Introspective. Your brain is in a studying/reflective mode.
  • Theta: Deep meditation. Your brain is between being awake and asleep.
  • Delta: Unconscious. Your brain is in a very deep sleep.

Each brain wave can be stimulated by the vibrations and energy created through sound. So, when that one exciting song does play on the radio, you are actually physically and mentally reacting to the energy created by rhythms and that speak to your specific brain activity or mood.

This article has some great ideas for incorporating music into your training session. But, the learning environment is more than just a workshop venue. Incorporating music into your daily life and workflow can also be something you do to ramp up your personal productivity, alter your energy levels and motivate your sense of focus. Try bringing your headphones to work, or playing music during meetings – you may notice that you and your team working more in sync with one another.

For those of you (like me) who do not speak the language of music, here are a couple of suggestions to get you started on activating certain brain waves, and triggering your desired mindset through your daily routine:

Begin your day with Beta music, or, something 72 beats per minute/more upbeat and energetic. Play it when you are getting ready, or driving to work, and if you feel like it, sing along! This is one of the best ways to get your body in sync with the upbeat energy. Song suggestions: Kiss – Prince, Dog Days are Over – Florence and the Machine, My Little Demon – Fleetwood Mac, Royals – Lorde, Strong Enough – Sheryl Crow.

When you are at work: You can play Beta music for an active mindset, or Alpha music to stimulate imagery production, creativity or a learning mindset. You can use music that has movement in melody, harmony and rhythm, but without abrupt tempo changes. To stimulate your brain while studying or focusing, try playing music that is ordered with rhythmic, or melodic music from a flute, violin or piano. With a variation in dynamic and tempo between 60-72 beats per minute is recommended. (Song Suggestions: Knocking on Heavens Door – Bob Dylan, Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley, Someone like you – Adele, Seaside – The Kooks)

After Work/When you are at home: try relaxing your mind by listening to something resembling Theta music. This might be a good playlist to have on in the background while you reflect on your day or fall asleep to.

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