Feel The Creative Flow — Using Beats To Boost Your Brain And Body

If you’re like me (and the rest of the crew at Uproxx, for that matter) music is a constant throughout your day. Not only do I enjoy sitting down to listen to a new album, or seeing my favorite artists live, but music is constantly playing in the background, no matter what I’m doing. Even when I’m on the move, I’ll have it pumping through my headphones, in my car, in the kitchen… always and everywhere.

Speaking personally, there are two scenarios where having music is less of a “nice-to-have” and more of a necessity. When I’m working or when I’m working out. Maybe you’ve seen those viral memes about forgetting to charge your AirPods before heading the gym. Those hit far too close to home for me.

I’m not alone in this, of course. Studies show that well over 50 percent of workers put on music at work. The same is true for in the gym. In fact, most Americans lack motivation to complete their workouts if they don’t have music. That’s not a bad thing — there are scientifically-backed reasons that listening to tunes while working or working out comes with real benefits. Music has positive effects on productivity, cognitive function, and your emotional state — all factors that make for better time spent at your desk or at the dumbbell rack. Experts even say that listening to your favorite tracks can improve your performance in your work by more than 80 percent.

On top of the benefits that come with listening to music while you’re on task, big headphones and some tunes are also an effective way to block auditory distractions. Are you trying to get some project done while at a cafe, and someone is having a conversation at the table next to you? Are you trying to get your focus on your benchpress and someone is hitting the heavy bag like it owes them money?

Music is often the fix.

Does this mean that all music will help with all kinds of work? No. Here are a few science-backed suggestions for what genres and kinds of compositions you should look for in each scenario, as well as a few Spotify playlist suggestions from our personal collection.

PART I — FOR WORK

Things To Consider:

  • No New Tunes: Remember that Drake and DJ Khaled song “No New Friends?” The workplace is not the place to try checking out new music or artists. For starters you don’t know what to expect out of each song, meaning there could be instrumentation or lyrics that are distracting. Even if there isn’t, you are likely to use up brainpower trying to process the new information. Brainpower that would be better used for your work!
  • Leave Out The Lead Singer: If you have a track with vocals that you are very familiar and in sync with this might not be an issue. But many jobs at a computer involve writing emails, decks, or other kinds of creative thinking, and when a song has lyrics it can confuse the brain. Imagine trying to get out a clear, concise thought and another person is singing, or screaming, a whole different sentence in your ear.
  • Respect The Environment: This is for people who work in an office, co-working space, or other kind of situation where you are in public. If you are allowed to have headphones in nobody can police what you listen to, but perhaps it’s not appropriate to listen to something that’s going to make you head bang in full view of the conference room. It’s also important to understand the effect that music can have on your mindset. So think about the mood of the music as well. Do you want to listen to something super aggressive and then have to interact with a client? Probably not.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: CLASSICAL

Playlist: “Classical For Productivity” by Bach

Why:

This genre is probably the best baseline when it comes to music to work while listening to. There was a study done in 2007 that showed that individuals that listened to classical specifically experienced benefits to their cognition (The Mozart Effect!). There are rarely any vocals, and even if you don’t listen to classical music regularly there are themes and melodies that of course have spawned much of the contemporary composition structure today.

The more “known” the better, so opt for composers like Bach, Haydn, Beethoveen and Mozart. I personally love the playlist above, which includes some classics done by new artists.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: SOUNDTRACKS (VIDEO GAME and MOVIE)

Track: “Demacia Rising” by League of Legends

Why:

Data shows that more than 70 percent of Americans play some sort of video game, which is a pretty big stat. And we’re also some of the biggest movie lovers out there. Soundtracks are great for working because we are familiar with them, they usually lack lyrics and they usually convey a pretty epic feeling. The research identified this music is designed to be “motivating without distracting.”

On top of that, when we are speaking about video games, there is usually an element of problem solving present, which makes it the perfect backdrop for figuring out your latest project. League of Legends is one of the most popular video games around, and it isn’t hurt by the fact they have the most epic compositions in the space. Or go for the soundtrack to a movie you know well — maybe the Gladiator soundtrack if you want to get hyped.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: AMBIENT MUSIC WITH FIELD RECORDINGS

Playlist: “Reflections Under The Sky” by SiJ & Textere Oris

Why:

This genre is all about building an atmosphere, and all the other elements come second. If you are looking for music that won’t steer the way, but instead allows you to take control of the mental journey, then ambient is the way. There is a sub-genre of ambient that includes “field recordings” — the term for taking high definition audio equipment outside to record the sounds of nature.

There are scientific studies around the positive effects that listen to the sounds of nature can have on your emotional state. The better mood you’re in, the better work you are going to produce. I love getting into the zone with the track above.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: AMBIENT MUSIC AT 432 HZ

Playlist: Deep Focus – 432 hz

Why:

There have been a lot of recent studies dedicated to the affect that listening to music tuned to 432 hertz can have on your mental state. Thus far, the results have been positive, with it not only improving your level of focus but also lowering anxiety and stress. Because of these new findings, a number of playlists and videos have popped up with music tuned to 432 hertz. Not just ambient music either, depending on your listening habits you can also find classical and even pop music options. But ambient seems to be the best delivery system for 432 hertz.

PART II — FOR WORKOUTS

Things To Consider:

  • Find Your Tempo: Any music that motivates you may help you in the gym, but if you are really trying to amplify the benefits of listening to tunes while you train, finding the right tempo is key. There has been a lot of research done on what tempo or beats per minute, BPM, is best for what exercise. It should come at no surprise that different tempos are better for different kinds of workouts. For example your “zone two” exercises like jogging can be around 120 BPM, powerlifting can be around 150 BPM, and your elite level running can go up to 180 BPM.
  • Keep Up The Beat: There is nothing more distracting mid-lifting set or a run than losing pace. Lots of workouts and sprinting routines have the beat in mind, so that’s a huge thing to consider when listening to music while working out. Once you find your ideal tempo, it’s good to create a playlist that maintains that pace, or an album that keeps that pace throughout. There are a lot of playlists on music apps like Spotify that are dedicated to certain BPMs.
  • Keep Mood In Mind: Everyone has their own goals when it comes to the gym. And that’s not just referring to any kind of weight they may want to lose or muscle they may want to gain. The gym can also be a place to escape, a place to meditate through movement, a place to purge negativity, and a place to socialize. I personally go to the gym for all of the above. So you are going to want to select music that fits that mood, and have a playlist ready for every occasion.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: ROCK

Playlist: Born To Run (at 150 BPM)

Why:

Studies out there classify rock and alternative music as being the leading genre for Americans. The intensity that is projected with the distortion makes it the perfect fit for individuals looking to get some aggression out through their training. These albums usually have BPMs that fit with what is desired in workout music.

Even better when the songs have a powerful anthemic chorus to sing along with.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: POP

Playlist: Pop Hits (at 130 BPM)

Why:

There’s a reason that popular music is popular, one of the reasons being no matter who the artist is, usually there is a team of people helping them make each track as catchy as possible. The goal is to get you hooked, and keep you coming back for more. That means if you find a tune you like, you may just be able to keep it on repeat the whole session.

These songs are also usually right in that sweet spot for BPM, perfect for getting that head bouncing and the energy up.

GENRE TO EXPLORE: HIP-HOP

Playlist: Hip Hop (at 160 BPM)

Why:

Hip hop is one of the most versatile genres around, and if you disagree get a friend whose a hip-hop lover to school you up. So whether you are looking to release with some big weights or just looking to move and vibe, hip-hop has got you.

For me, I’m a big on lyrics, and I’m looking for some phrases that I can connect with when I’m working out. Even if it’s not every single verse, I want the lyrics to hit me, which often leaves me playing big beats paired with thoughtful lyrics like you’ll find on the playlist above.

×