Have you ever noticed how a cheerful tune can instantly lift your spirits, or how a mournful melody can send shivers down your spine? The power of music to evoke emotions is undeniable, but did you know that specific frequencies within music might play a key role in its emotional impact?

Let me elaborate a little on the well-known song “hatina musha panyika” and what it does to you instantly. Some of you may recall the Rangariro song by Noel Zembe, which goes, “Hama zvayanyarara.” Alternatively, we may discuss the Zimbabwean song that is always played after a hero dies and everyone knows what comes next. Yet, the music is what matters, not just the depressing tunes. The list is vast, and I know you have your playlists ready, but let me clarify what music is. To start, the song “Ma Ex Ese Gaffa” by Winky Dee or Chiname by Jah Prayzah will make you feel happy and joyful.the list is endless but lets jump into it.

Sound waves are vibrations that travel through the air or other mediums, reaching our ears and being interpreted by our brains. But it’s not just about hearing; it’s about feeling, too. Research shows that certain frequencies and rhythms can elicit emotional responses. For instance, a study published in the journal “Emotion” found that low-frequency sounds might be more likely to induce sadness, while high-frequency sounds can invoke happiness or excitement.

The Science of Sound and Feeling

Music is a complex tapestry of frequencies, rhythms, and harmonies. Here’s how the frequency of sound waves might influence your mood:

  • Brainwave Entrainment: Our brains naturally produce different types of brainwaves associated with various states of mind. Slower frequencies are linked to relaxation and meditation, while faster frequencies are connected with alertness and focus. Music with certain frequencies may encourage our brainwaves to sync up, influencing our emotional state.
  • Cultural Associations: Through repeated exposure, we develop associations between tempos and sounds with specific emotions. A fast tempo in a major key often equates to joy, while a slower tempo in a minor key can evoke sadness.
  • Personal Memories: Music has the profound ability to connect with our memories. Hearing a song tied to a particular experience can transport us back emotionally, making us feel nostalgic, happy, or bittersweet.

Slower music lowers heart rate, but faster music increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, according to studies. Music  does much  more than slow heart rate. It can sharpen mental abilities and is a means to relieve tension by  increasing the release  of  endorphins  by  the  body.  Music produces powerful  effects  on the  brain (one should  not  forget  the  antipodal  model  role), promotes  the  development  of  cognitive abilities,  verbal  skills  and  emotional intelligence. Musical training has a profound, positive  effect  on the  brain for  the cognitive functions,  and  IQ  results  and  specific  skills (such  as  literacy,  visual,  verbal  and mathematical  memory)  are  improved.

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 Music can  create  better  readers.  Brain  responses during  music  performing  improve  the  same communication  skills  needed  for  speaking, reading, vocabulary and pronunciation. Music is  also  a  whole  different  language  through which communication is made between it and the  brain.  It  develops  emotional intelligence. Latest studies have shown that musical training improves the child’s ability to express emotion through  sound. When  music  is taught  in the classroom, it  helps children  to acquire  useful skills for listening and concentration, provokes their  patience  and  perseverance,  which  are important for the future and coping with life’s problems.

Suvorov, a  Ukrainian  cyber specialist, shared his fears that already seem to be  a  reality,  “We  have  every  reason  to  talk about  „scissors”  between  the  emotional  and intellectual  development  of  a  person. Intellectual development  often  overtakes  the emotional one. The danger lies not in the fact that machines will begin to think like people, but  that  people  will  begin  to  think  like machines.  If  the  child  is  not  brought  up emotionally,  it  will  become  a  robot.  It  will cease  to  dream,  love  and  empathise.”

The renowned  educator  Suhomlinski  noticed  that juvenile delinquents living in detention centres did  not like  serious music. “We  think this  is not  accidental”,  Anatoly  Zak,  a  child psychologist,  and  Lev  Madorskiy,  a  music school  teacher,  wrote  in  their  article  “Music education and health”, “Classical music affects positively the spiritual and emotional nature of man.  At  the  same  time,  the  lost  interest  of young people  to serious music and  increased juvenile  delinquency  worldwide  are  parts  of one and the same chain.”

Therefore, music saves literally – not only at an emotional level for spiritual elevation and other virtues, but it has  an  exceptionally  strong  anti-criminal effect.  Neurologists  (Neuroscience  2013  conference of scientists and neurologists in San Diego)  found  that  musical  training  increased brain volume and strengthened communication between  brain  areas!  The  knowledge  of  a musical instrument changes the way the brain interprets  and  integrates  a  wide  range  of sensory  information. 

Frequencies and Their Potential Emotional Effects

While research is ongoing, the following musical elements are often associated with these effects:

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  • High Frequencies: These can create a sense of alertness, focus, and even mild agitation.
  • Low Frequencies: These promote relaxation, calmness, and sometimes even introspection or melancholy.
  • Minor Keys: Often evoke feelings of sadness, longing, or introspection.
  • Major Keys: Typically associated with happiness, optimism, and energy.

Harnessing Music’s Power

Understanding the potential connection between frequencies and mood lets you turn music into a tool for emotional wellbeing:

  • Energy Boost: Start your day with upbeat, fast-paced music to increase alertness.
  • Stress Relief: Unwind with slow, calming melodies in the evenings.
  • Focus and Concentration: Explore instrumental music with steady rhythms to aid concentration.

Cultural influences on sound perception

It’s fascinating to consider how cultural background influences our emotional response to sounds. Research published in “Palgrave Communications” explores how different cultures interpret the emotional content of music, suggesting that our upbringing and cultural exposure can shape how we emotionally react to sounds.

A person’s auditory ecology is determined, in part, by the noise levels experienced and how this noise affects their ability to extract behaviorally relevant auditory information from their immediate environment. 

Cultural diversity is recognized across nations with regional distinctions in values and virtues, which makes it difficult for people to truly empathize with another’s culture, therein being an obstacle in gaining accurate understanding of the other. Noting this undeniable barrier, music is of great significance in that it is an artistic channel for us to put ourselves into others’ shoes. (Hallam 2015) Listening to music about others’ stories and feelings bridges through differences and misunderstanding among people, communities and nations.

Through listening to others’ musical creations, we can gain better insights into the values, rationales and concerns of other cultures. It is a remarkable experience when music bonds people with a resonance in which similarity and empathy maintains trusting and sincere relationships. The power of music is infinite as it further connects the world and brings depth and quality to world cultural diversification, preservation and exploration.

Music influences our life greatly by acting as an archive of world cultural evolution. Since music could be a presentation of personal feelings and interpretations about social, economic and cultural issues of the times, a collection of it illustrates the society where we live in the past and present. Lady Gaga, a well-known American singer, has published her song “til it happens to you” which reflects her personal concern about sexual harassment towards woman.

The healing potential of sound

The therapeutic use of sound waves, known as sound therapy, has gained attention for its potential to heal and soothe. Techniques like guided meditation with soundscapes or music therapy sessions have shown promising results in improving mental health outcomes, as evidenced by research in the “International Journal of Nursing Studies.”

However,  certain  music  can  have  a counterproductive  effect.  “Avoid  music  that has  harmful  effects”,  Pythagoras  advised. Music  invades  our  lives  forcefully  from  TV screens  and  at  public  places  in  shops  and buses.  Some  types  of  music  have  a  harmful effect on our body comparable with the use of drugs,  alcohol,  cigarettes.  But  if  a  man  can give up drugs, alcohol, cigarettes by one’s free will,  music is  imposed  in  a compulsory  way and has  a lasting effect. As there are bans  on certain words, similarly there should be a ban on  certain  sounds.  And  particularly,  those which,  according  to  Pythagoras,  have  a “harmful effect”  on man.

It is no  coincidence that  around concert  halls where  hard rock  is played  are  present  law  enforcement  officers. And it is no coincidence that after Nova Rock music  festival  patients  with  mental  disorders increase drastically. After  such “concerts” the teenager  audience  whose  mentality  is  easily vulnerable,  becomes  highly  aggressive.  The music  that  can  be  described  as  harmful  is characterized by its frequent dissonance, lack of form and irregular rhythm.

Any loud music leads to nervous breakdown. The arteries begin to shrink and obstruct blood flow to the heart at sound level of 70 decibels. In recent years, more  and  more  widely  spread  are  musical subgenres  in  which  the  number  of  beats  per minute reaches 240, or 4 GHz!!! Such music lowers the frequency of vibration of the body which  leads  to  a  reduction  of  awareness  or perception  of  reality.  In  other  words,  people who listen to such music lose control of their thoughts, emotions  and  behaviour. According to Professor B.  Rauch, listening to  hard rock leads  to  the  release  of  the  so-called  stress hormones  that  erase  a  significant  part  of information  from  the  brain.

The Takeaway

While individual responses to music will always vary, there’s compelling evidence that the frequencies woven into musical pieces have the ability to shape our emotional state. The next time you put on your favorite playlist, pay attention to not just the melody and lyrics, but the underlying frequencies and how they make you feel.

Conclusion

The relationship between sound waves and emotions is a testament to the complexity of human perception and experience. As we’ve explored, sound can evoke a wide range of emotional responses influenced by factors like frequency, rhythm, cultural background, and personal associations. The power of sound to affect our emotions offers a fascinating glimpse into the human psyche, as well as potential pathways for therapeutic interventions. As research continues to unravel the mysteries of this connection, it reminds us of the profound impact that sound can have on our emotional well-being.

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