The Power of Baroque Music
as Help for Anxiety
Hearing the right kind of music can help alleviate anxiety. Baroque largo music is known to induce calming alpha waves in the brain. The presence of these can act simply to calm or, more ambitiously, as a background to thought changing programmes.
What is Baroque music?
The term "Baroque" refers to music composed between 1600 - 1750 during a time which was generally known as the Baroque era. This was characterised by an artistic style across the arts (painting, architecture, music, literature, etc) which created exuberance and drama. There is little subtlety in Baroque art as it is created to be clearly understood.
Examples of Baroque painters include Caravaggio, Velasquez and Rembrandt among many others. Some of the best-known composers include Vivaldi (1678-1741), Handel (1685-1759), Bach (1685-1750), Purcell (1659-1695) and Pachelbel (1653-1706). To find out more about these and other Baroque composers visit this website.
For those who are unfamiliar with this type of music, I have found two examples on YouTube by way of demonstration:
2. What is the relevance of different frequency brainwaves?
Just as our heart-rate varies depending on what we are doing or thinking, so too the frequency of our brainwaves changes although not usually quite as readily as the heart-rate.
Brainwave frequencies are usually measured using an EEG (electroencephalogram) machine. This works in a similar way to the more commonly recognised ECG (electrocardiogram) machine used to measure heart-rate. When the EEG is used electrodes are placed on the head. This is painless.
For many years the human brain was thought to vary in frequency between 0.1 Hz and upwards of 15Hz. The different wave patterns found with these changing frequencies are shown in the diagram. In recent years, however, a much faster brainwave, known as Gamma, has been identified and this is believed to start at around 40Hz. (Read more about Gamma waves on the Meditation page)
Although sources vary slightly as to where each frequency starts and ends, the most common ranges for these four brainwave types are as follows:
Beta waves range from about 15Hz upwards to around 30Hz
Alpha waves range from 8 - 14 Hz
Theta waves range from 4 - 8 Hz
Delta waves range from 0.1 - 4 Hz
Beta waves are those which we have most of the time we are awake.
When we go to bed and drift off to sleep we go first into alpha. This is the state when we're sort of aware but not fully conscious. We then continue into theta. This is where dreaming occurs in REM sleep. After a period of theta the brainwaves slow still further and we go into delta where the deepest sleep happens. After a period in delta the process reverses and we drift back up to theta and more dreaming before returning to delta.
This cycle occurs about five times during a night's sleep until on the last cycle we continue to move upwards into alpha and beta again. There is a diagram showing this here
3. Why is Baroque music good?
Baroque music is beneficial because research has shown it can help to induce alpha waves.
Apart from occurring naturally as we enter into sleep and the exit it again, if we are able to induce alpha waves at will during waking hours there are many ways in which they can benefit us.
When we lose ourselves in a book or a film so that we are unaware of what's going on around us we often also have alpha waves.
Alpha waves are powerful because in the main they open the door to the unconscious mind.
We each have a conscious and an unconscious mind. All the time we are awake and conscious, the conscious mind is in charge. It evaluates every bit of information we receive and decides whether or not it makes sense. If the conscious mind decides it makes sense then it allows it in and we can act upon it. If, on the other hand it decides the input doesn't make sense it will reject it.
Many unhelpful beliefs we have about ourselves such as , "I'm not good enough", "I won't be able to do that," etc get in the way when we try to do things.
In treating people for anxiety issues I have often pointed out to them that overcoming anxiety is easy once you understand it and apply certain techniques to reverse it whenever it arises. But for the average patient, the idea that overcoming this issue that has dominated their life for years is "easy" or can be done "without struggle" is not acceptable to the conscious mind so they dismiss it. Naturally this gets in the way of therapy because they just don't then apply themselves to doing what needs to be done because their conscious minds can't see how it can work.
If, however, we can bypass this bossy conscious mind and get the message straight into the unconscious, it will be accepted totally provided it is something we truly want for ourselves.
Therefore, getting someone into an alpha state is key to much therapy and to approaches such as hypnosis or subliminal messaging. They are also beneficial if we are trying to learn material such as when studying for exams.
Researchers in Bulgaria found that slow Baroque music entrains the brain into alpha waves. Many studies have been done whereby such music, when played in the background during lessons in junior school classrooms, has a calming effect and enables children to concentrate on their lesson far better.
It is believed that it does this because the rhythm is around 60 beats per minute which is similar to a resting heartrate. The brain 'entrains' itself to rhythm. We have all noticed the tendency of our foot to tap when we hear certain types of music. This is the brain buying into the rhythm of this too and going along with it.
4. How can I benefit from Baroque largo music?
Like the schoolchildren in the experiments, it isn't even necessary to consciously listen to this music in order to benefit from some of the effects.
I have sometimes given patients suffering from PTSD or other severe anxieties which stopped them sleeping, or gave them constant nightmares, a CD of Baroque music with the instruction to just play it quietly in the background when they go to bed. In many cases this has had a significant effect and has enabled them to sleep better, often through the night, and to reduce the occurrence of nightmares.
Just playing this music in the background as you go to sleep or when you want to concentrate on something during the day will be beneficial. There is more information about the use of this music for self improvement on the page about Subliminals (link below)
I have found some commercially available cds of this music which are available to buy should you wish. The most famous Baroque (1600-1760) composers are probably Bach, Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Handel Telemann, Purcell, Scarlatti. It is the slow, largo, movements of their works which are relevant here. There are few CDs available at present which are made up exclusively of such tracks so you may have to put together your own. Some of the tracks can be purchased individually as mp3 downloads on Amazon and similar sites.
*Sue Breton is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to anxaid.com
If you feel inclined to listen to largo music combined with the sounds of nature, then I can recommend the Solitudes series by Dan Gibson, which do just that. There are two CDs of music by Pachelbel, Forever by the Sea and In the Garden as well as Bach Forever by the Sea which combines his music with the sounds of the ocean.
Techniques for feeling generally calmer