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Music & Emotions: Can Music Really Make You a Happier Person?
How many times have you turned to music to uplift you even further in happy times, or sought the comfort of music when melancholy strikes?
Music affects us all. But only in recent times have scientists sought to explain and quantify the way music impacts us at an emotional level. Researching the links between melody and the mind indicates that listening to and playing music actually can alter how our brains, and therefore our bodies, function.
It seems that the healing power of music, over body and spirit, is only just starting to be understood, even though music therapy is not new. For many years therapists have been advocating the use of music - both listening and study - for the reduction of anxiety and stress, the relief of pain. And music has also been recommended as an aid for positive change in mood and emotional states.
Michael DeBakey, who in 1966 became the first surgeon to successfully implant an artificial heart, is on record saying: "Creating and performing music promotes self-expression and provides self-gratification while giving pleasure to others. In medicine, increasing published reports demonstrate that music has a healing effect on patients."
Doctors now believe using music therapy in hospitals and nursing homes not only makes people feel better, but also makes them heal faster. And across the nation, medical experts are beginning to apply the new revelations about music's impact on the brain to treating patients.
In one study, researcher Michael Thaut and his team detailed how victims of stroke, cerebral palsy and Parkinson's disease who worked to music took bigger, more balanced strides than those whose therapy had no accompaniment.
Other researchers have found the sound of drums may influence how bodies work. Quoted in a 2001 article in USA Today, Suzanne Hasner, chairwoman of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, says even those with dementia or head injuries retain musical ability.
The article reported results of an experiment in which researchers from the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pa., tracked 111 cancer patients who played drums for 30 minutes a day. They found strengthened immune systems and increased levels of cancer-fighting cells in many of the patients.
"Deep in our long-term memory is this rehearsed music," Hasner says. "It is processed in the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala. Here's where you remember the music played at your wedding, the music of your first love, that first dance. Such things can still be remembered even in people with progressive diseases. It can be a window, a way to reach them?"
The American Music Therapy Organization claims music therapy may allow for "emotional intimacy with families and caregivers, relaxation for the entire family, and meaningful time spent together in a positive, creative way".
Scientists have been making progress in its exploration into why music should have this effect. In 2001 Dr. Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre of McGill University in Montreal, used positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to find out if particular brain structures were stimulated by music.
In their study, Blood and Zatorre asked 10 musicians, five men and five women, to choose stirring music. The subjects were then given PET scans as they listened to four types of audio stimuli - the selected music, other music, general noise or silence. Each sequence was repeated three times in random order.
Blood said when the subjects heard the music that gave them "chills," the PET scans detected activity in the portions of the brain that are also stimulated by food and sex.
Just why humans developed such a biologically based appreciation of music is still not clear. The appreciation of food and the drive for sex evolved to help the survival of the species, but "music did not develop strictly for survival purposes," Blood told Associated Press at the time.
She also believes that because music activates the parts of the brain that make us happy, this suggests it can benefit our physical and mental well being.
This is good news for patients undergoing surgical operations who experience anxiety in anticipation of those procedures.
Polish researcher, Zbigniew Kucharski, at the Medical Academy of Warsaw, studied the effect of acoustic therapy for fear management in dental patients. During the period from October 2001 to May 2002, 38 dental patients aged between 16 and 60 years were observed. The patients received variations of acoustic therapy, a practice where music is received via headphones and also vibrators.
Dr Kucharski discovered the negative feelings decreased five-fold for patients who received 30 minutes of acoustic therapy both before and after their dental procedure. For the group that heard and felt music only prior to the operation, the fearful feelings reduced by a factor of 1.6 only.
For the last group (the control), which received acoustic therapy only during the operation, there was no change in the degree of fear felt.
A 1992 study identified music listening and relaxation instruction as an effective way to reduce pain and anxiety in women undergoing painful gynecological procedures. And other studies have proved music can reduce other 'negative' human emotions like fear, distress and depression.
Sheri Robb and a team of researchers published a report in the Journal of Music Therapy in 1992, outlining their findings that music assisted relaxation procedures (music listening, deep breathing and other exercises) effectively reduced anxiety in pediatric surgical patients on a burn unit.
"Music," says Esther Mok in the AORN Journal in February 2003, "is an easily administered, non-threatening, non-invasive, and inexpensive tool to calm preoperative anxiety."
So far, according to the same report, researchers cannot be certain why music has a calming affect on many medical patients. One school of thought believes music may reduce stress because it can help patients to relax and also lower blood pressure. Another researcher claims music allows the body's vibrations to synchronize with the rhythms of those around it. For instance, if an anxious patient with a racing heartbeat listens to slow music, his heart rate will slow down and synchronize with the music's rhythm.
Such results are still something of a mystery. The incredible ability that music has to affect and manipulate emotions and the brain is undeniable, and yet still largely inexplicable.
Aside from brain activity, the affect of music on hormone levels in the human body can also be quantified, and there is definite evidence that music can lower levels of cortisol in the body (associated with arousal and stress), and raise levels of melatonin (which can induce sleep). It can also precipitate the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkiller.
But how does music succeed in prompting emotions within us? And why are these emotions often so powerful? The simple answer is that no one knows? yet. So far we can quantify some of the emotional responses caused by music, but we cannot yet explain them. But that's OK. I don't have to understand electricity to benefit from light when I switch on a lamp when I come into a room, and I don't have to understand why music can make me feel better emotionally. It just does - our Creator made us that way.
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and products such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. He holds an advanced degree from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. Previous to that he worked as an assistant music therapist at DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn, California. He can be reached at http://www.pianolessonsbyvideo.com He is the author of the popular free 101-week e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" with over 55,000 current subscribers. Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to http://www.playpiano.com/
How to Buy an Electric Guitar
For most of us, making any major purchase, such as a new refrigerator, or a new car, is a cacophony of options and confusion; do we want the silver one or the black one? How much can we afford to spend? Will it last over time? If nothing else, we at least know what we need these appliances to do: the microwave needs to make the food hot quickly, the car needs to get us from one place to the other without breaking down. When confronted with the purchase of a new guitar, even experienced guitarists can have trouble deciding what exactly they want and need. However, if you follow a few simple suggestions, you can make your guitar-buying experience a whole lot easier. 1. Determine your price range: you can spend anywhere from $99 to $20,000+ on a guitar, so make sure to work out your budget before you go into the store or start shopping online. Quality guitars are available at all different price ranges, so don't feel that you have to break the bank to get what you need.
MP3 Music Subscription Services. A Good Deal?
There's a reason Apple Computer dominates the legal 99-cents-a-download digital music scene: It does it right. Apple's iPods set the style and ease-of-use standards that other portable music players must try (so far unsuccessfully) to match. Its iTunes Music Store and iTunes software are equally unparalleled.
Piano Lessons and Perfectionism
Are you a perfectionist? Does every note have to sound right before it comes out of your piano? If so, you might be cheating yourself out of the joy of music making. Most of us learned how to be perfectionists as children, trying to please Mommy or Daddy. We wanted their approval so we tried to get it right.
How to Create Backing Tracks If You Dont Play All the Instruments... or Any
Congratulations! Your singing has become amazing, and it's time the world knew. You've also written some songs that are just kick you-know-what. They need to be recorded, MP3ed and put on the net ASAP. But you've got two problems. First, you can't afford a studio, let alone a band for all this stuff. Second, you don't play all, or any, of the instruments.
?Who Else Wants to Get Screwed When Signing a Recording or Songwriting Deal?!?!?
You've got your recording (or songwriting) contract in hand and everything's coming up roses, right? You get your check, finally, but it's not quite what you expected. If you sign not knowing what's owed you then you might be shorted some well-deserved income. So make sure that anything you sign contains a statement to the following areas (preferably in your favor):
Guitar Performance - Make The Most of It!
Getting ready for any type of guitar performance can be a little scary at first, but if you are well prepared, you will find the experience much easier to handle. Whether you're playing with a band, or by yourself; are a seasoned performer, or a rookie; there are several things you can do to make the most of your performance. First and foremost, realize that you are not the first one on the block to ever feel jittery about playing your guitar in public. It's a common experience among musicians, and being a little nervous can even work in your favor.
The Top 10 Reasons Why You Suck At Playing Guitar
You don't 'need' to play guitar enough.
Health Insurance for Creative Artists -- A Multi-Talented Health Investment
For the Creative Artist -- Good Health Insurance is Trulya Lifetime Investment
Turn It Up: Plugging Into The Perfect Guitar And Amp Settings
Yowza! Did you hear that hideous noise? It sounded like a combination of nails on a chalkboard, a cat in a dryer, and a baby wailing at the top of his lungs. Do you have any idea of what made that awful sound? As a long-time musician, I think I may have the answer for you. It's a guitarist fiddling for the first time with his new amp.
How I Learned How To Play The Guitar After Giving Up In Disgust
I was 17 at the time (the Beatles era), and it was considered cool to play the guitar. I had a little training in music in elementary school where I had learned how to play the trumpet. I remember that the only reason I started the trumpet was because my daddy had run across an old beat up horn that a woman was selling for $10.
Top 7 Donts for Successful Improvisation
1. Don't try and make something happen. Trying blocks the creative flow and will result in blocks.
Guitar Practicing or Guitar Playing?
Just because you're holding your guitar doesn't mean that you're playing it, and just because you're playing your guitar doesn't mean that you're practicing. There is a real difference and it needs to be acknowledged if you want to improve your level of playing skill. Some people say they have spent the entire day practicing their guitar when in reality, all they've done was sit in front of the TV all day eating cheesy poofs. The sad thing is that they really do believe it was practicing since they had their guitar on their lap next to their cheesy poofs all day. Most of us know someone who does this and we may even be guilty ourselves.
You Cant Force Play
A student once asked me; "How come sometimes the music comes freely while other times, I feel blocked and can't play?"
The Case Against Traditional Piano Lessons
How would you like to spend 4 years in a University learning how to play other peoples music? If you think this is ridiculous, you're right! Because that's what thousands of piano music students do each day.
Arranging for New Age Piano
A while back, I wrote an article that compared flower arranging to music arranging. While this may seem a world apart, it really isn't.
Review: Audioslave - Out of Exile
Every once in a while a band comes along that really changes the way you perceive music, for me one of these bands was Rage Against the Machine. I'll be the first to admit that I, like most angsty teenagers was lured into Rage's music by their anti-authoritarian songs, and honestly dude, they said "fuck" a whole lot. Not only did the vulgar language lure me in but instead of writing about girls and cars, they took the time to write music about something that actually mattered, politics. Gimmick or not, the music was compelling. Soon after I first heard Bulls on Parade on the radio I started to really question why I was listening to a lot of the other music that interested me at the time. Slowly I began to drift away from happy songs about love and sunshine, and turned to songs that really had a purpose. That being said, I was very excited when I first heard that one of my favorite bands of all time was going to reform, and motherfucking Chris Cornell is going to be their singer. It was like some sort of early-90s rock wet dream. Soundgarden and Rage against the Machine coming together to form a band that would revolutionize rock! Or so they all said.
The Post-rock Revolution (Explosions in the sky)
A lot has been said about the 'post-rock' revolution as of late. The rise of instrumental bands such as Explosions in the sky, Godspeed you! black emperor, Maserati, and The Mercury Program has raised questions about the direction that music is traveling. More and more people are looking for something different, something fresh. We are sick of the same pop songs being shoveled down our throats, we are sick of mindless rap, we are sick of mindless rock. We are sick of mindless music. So what happens when you remove the vocal aspect of music? It becomes exceedingly difficult to fall into the 'mindless' category; the instrumental soundscapes allow your mind to apply its own story to the music. It's remarkable what happens when you let the listener dictate the theme of the music.
The Downfall Of The #1 Southern Gospel Station
Back in the 90's we had a local Southern Gospel station (I can't remember the name. You'll see why if you keep reading). They were known for their motto, "If it doesn't say it, we won't play it." They were determined not to play watered-down Gospel music-even if it was Southern Gospel. And they did a good job.
Ibanez SR400 Bass Guitar
The Ibanez SR400 bass guitar is very comfortableto play. The neck is thin up at the headstock, youcan move your hand along it well because of thenecks finish. The SR400's neck at the back hasa matte finish making it very easy to slide your hands up and down the neck. Its easier to playthe higher frets because the neck is a bolt-onwith a curve where the neck bolts.
The Future for Independent Record Labels
Small independent record labels are facing a different fight today to obtain a share of the music industry. The best possible means in which small labels were able to get their CD's sold vanished in 2003 when Southwest Wholesale Records and Tapes closed the doors. The ability to have their music placed in a position to be sold along the same shelves as the major record labels is becoming increasingly more difficult. The absence of competition on the shelves has generated an increase in profits for the major labels. What can smaller more nimble labels do to compete with the major labels?
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