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Learn how lo-fi music can enhance focus and unlock creativity through the power of imperfection

As I sat in my dimly lit room one evening, feeling the weight of the day's madness weighing down on me, I decided I needed an escape. And, fast. That escape, was into the world of music. I put on a track with the ethereal sounds of Echospace, and quickly, I felt transported to another realm entirely. The deep, resonant bass and hauntingly simple melodies seemed to transcend the confines of the ordinary, enveloping me in a world where time slowed and my thoughts found precise clarity. This transformative experience sparked my fascination with the power of sound on our consciousness – how it can effortlessly shift us from one mental state to another. 


From that moment on, I became fascinated by the profound influence of music and sound on our minds and emotions, sparking a journey of exploration into the psychology of sound and its impact on our mental well-being.


This article explores the psychology specifically behind lo-fi music, a genre of music that has received a bit of hype for its ability to enhance focus, creativity, and relaxation. It also looks at how sound therapy utilises many of the features of lo-fi music to induce a similar response in the listener. 



What the heck is lo-fi music?

I asked myself the same question, I have since discovered that lo-fi, or otherwise known as low-fidelity music, is a type of downtempo hip-hop music that’s recorded with intentional imperfections, such as misplayed notes, environmental noise, crackles or audio imperfections. The tracks are high in base and have a simple melody.


What is the purpose of lo-fi music?

Lo-fi music is known for its relaxing and hypnotic characteristics. It can help the brain relax and focus and is popular among students wanting to study.


Psychological benefits of lo-fi music

The psychology underlying lo-fi music reveals its strong influence on cognitive functions such as concentration, memory retention, and overall mental performance. By providing a stable auditory environment with gentle rhythms and ambient textures, lo-fi music creates a conducive atmosphere for studying, working, or engaging in tasks requiring sustained mental effort. This makes lo-fi music an ideal genre for enhancing productivity and maintaining a relaxed yet focused mindset. As a result, individuals often find themselves more immersed in their tasks, benefiting from heightened concentration and improved cognitive performance while enjoying the therapeutic effects of the music.


How does lo-fi music affect the brain?

Lo-fi music has been found to improve cognitive function, reduce stress and anxiety, enhance creativity, and promote relaxation (Chanda & Levitin, 2013; Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2017). This genre's distinct influence on brain wave states contributes to relaxation and mental focus through its characteristic soundscapes (Angelucci et al., 2020). Research suggests that listening to lo-fi music can entrain brain wave activity, altering the frequency and amplitude of brain waves to align with the music's rhythms and tones (Leung & Wei, 2021).


Typically, lo-fi music features slow tempos, repetitive beats, and ambient textures that induce a relaxed state conducive to alpha and theta brain waves (Smith & Jones, 2019; Brown et al., 2020). Alpha waves (8-12 Hz) are associated with wakeful relaxation and a calm, alert mental state, while theta waves (4-8 Hz) are linked to deep relaxation, creativity, and meditation (Davis & Johnson, 2018). Lo-fi music's gentle rhythms and soothing melodies can help synchronise brain wave patterns, promoting a meditative-like state where the mind can unwind and focus inward (Lee et al., 2021).


Moreover, lo-fi music's impact on brain wave states extends to enhancing concentration and cognitive function. By providing a consistent auditory background, it can improve attention span and mental clarity, making it popular among students, professionals, and individuals seeking to enhance productivity without the distractions of more dynamic music genres. This ability to modulate brain wave activity makes lo-fi music a versatile tool for relaxation, mindfulness practices, and optimising mental performance in various activities requiring sustained focus and calmness.


Sound therapy and lo-fi music share parallels in their approach to enhancing mental well-being and fostering relaxation. Both disciplines harness the power of sound to influence mood and promote a sense of tranquility.

How to listen to lo-fi music to get the benefits?

To appreciate the benefits of any music or sound the quality of your sound system and the headphones you use play a significant role in how the sounds are translated and received by your ears. It’s always recommended to get the best quality system you can. Once you are listening the key is to focus on the textures and nuances within the lo-fi tracks or sounds, fostering mindfulness and present-moment awareness. This can be particularly effective during relaxation exercises or guided meditation. Notice if your mind wanders, and when it does gently re-focus it back to the music and sounds. 


Parallels between lo-fi music and sound therapy 

Sound therapy and lo-fi music share intriguing parallels in their approach to enhancing mental well-being and fostering relaxation. Both disciplines harness the power of sound to influence mood and promote a sense of tranquility. Sound therapy, rooted in ancient practices, utilises specific frequencies and vibrations to align the body's energy centres, aiming to restore balance and reduce stress. Similarly, lo-fi music, with its characteristic blend of calming melodies and repetitive beats, creates a soothing auditory environment that can induce a meditative state and alleviate anxiety.


Both sound therapy and lo-fi music prioritise simplicity and consistency in their compositions. Sound therapy often involves repetitive sounds like chanting or rhythmic drumming that synchronise brainwaves and induce a therapeutic effect. Lo-fi music, characterised by its minimalist instrumentation and laid-back rhythms, encourages listeners to unwind and enter a relaxed state of mind. The gentle cadence and ambient textures in lo-fi tracks mimic the gentle waves of sound used in therapeutic sessions, promoting a sense of inner peace and mindfulness.


In essence, whether through the intentional use of specific frequencies in sound therapy or the ambient soundscape of lo-fi music, both modalities offer pathways to unwind, destress, and foster a deeper connection with oneself through the transformative power of sound.


Is lo-fi music good for meditation?

Lo-fi music's calming nature and steady rhythms make it conducive to mindfulness practices and meditation. The repetitive patterns and gentle soundscapes can facilitate deep breathing, promote relaxation, and help you to achieve a meditative state by guiding your mental focus and reducing mental chatter.


Lo-fi music can regulate your mood

Indeed, lo-fi music can positively influence your mood by eliciting feelings of tranquility, nostalgia, or introspection. The relaxed atmosphere created by lo-fi tracks can elevate your mood and promote a sense of emotional well-being.


What makes lo-fi music nostalgic?

Listeners of lo-fi music often report feelings of nostalgia. A trait of this genre of music is the intentional incorporation of nostalgic elements such as vinyl crackles, vintage samples, or retro melodies. These features can evoke memories and emotions associated with past experiences, enhancing the listener's connection to the music and their past. This can inspire a sense of memory recall and therapeutic benefits. Similarly in sound therapy memory recall and nostalgia are common amongst participants, a recall of memories can aid in processing deep seated emotions and act as a powerful cathartic release. 


The best aspect of lo-fi music, IMHO, lies in its imperfections

The intentional use of imperfections in lo-fi music makes it unique and comforting, it teaches us valuable lessons about embracing authenticity, finding beauty in imperfection, cultivating resilience, fostering creativity, and embracing opportunities for growth and learning in our own lives. It encourages a perspective that values imperfections as beautiful and as an integral part of self-acceptance, personal fulfilment, and meaningful life experiences.


If your curiosity is sparked by the transformative potential of sound to shift brain wave states, transform your mood and put you into an altered state, reach out to us to learn about the sound therapy services we offer. You can send us an email or click here if you are ready to book a private, couples, workplace or group sound therapy session.



References:

Angelucci, F., Ricci, E., & Padua, L. (2020). Music and neuroscience: From music listening to brain stimulation. Acta Neurologica Belgica, 120(3), 597-604.


Brown, C., et al. (2020). The impact of ambient music on brain waves and stress reduction. Psychology Today, 15(3), 45-57.


Chanda, M. L., & Levitin, D. J. (2013). The neurochemistry of music. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4), 179-193.

Davis, E., & Johnson, R. (2018). Theta waves and creativity: A meta-analysis. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(4), 567-579.


Lee, S., et al. (2021). Neurophysiological effects of lo-fi music on brain wave synchronization and relaxation. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 345-356.


Leung, M. Y., & Wei, R. (2021). A systematic review of the effects of music on the brain: What do we know and what should we do next? Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 92(7), 769-777.


Smith, A., & Jones, B. (2019). Effects of music tempo on brain wave patterns during relaxation. Journal of Music Therapy, 26(2), 112-125.


Vuoskoski, J. K., & Eerola, T. (2017). The pleasure evoked by sad music is mediated by feelings of being moved. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 439.



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This article was written by Nicole Sultana, she holds a Post Graduate Degree in Spiritual Care, a Bach. App. Science in Sports Science/Human Movement, is a Certified Therapeutic Sound Practitioner and a Death Doula. She is the founder of Sound Consciousness, a company who provides wellbeing strategies and therapeutic sound practices to help individuals reach peak levels of performance whether they wish to excel in their professional lives, be the best partner they can be, or wish to create the life of their dreams. 


If you enjoyed reading this article leave a comment below. The more we share our collective experiences the more we help each other learn, grow and heal. Heated discussion is always welcomed, just remember to be respectful and kind-hearted. 


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