Meditation is not exclusive to gurus and their fans. Today, many people use meditation to clear their minds, stay mentally fit, and relieve stress.
Music lovers and musicians can agree that just playing music can be a form of meditation by heightening your senses through increased awareness. Meditation music aims to achieve or enhance the meditative effects of sound and music.
What is meditation music?
There is no actual monolithic form of meditation music. Instead, it falls into two categories: music specifically designed to support meditation or any form of melody in the background during the process.
That said, while, in theory, someone could listen to the likes of Metallica or Dua Lipa to achieve a meditative state of calm, most people would find that too distracting. This is why the most suitable music for quiet mindfulness typically shares several essential traits: it is soft, slow, soothing, and has no lyrics. It relies on minimalist sustained sounds, notes, or tones, like you can hear in the gentle track “Cosmic Wave” from Italian contributor SplashStudio or “Sunburst” from SourceAndSignal.
What are the therapeutic effects of music?
Some people use sounds during meditation because of the general therapeutic effect of all music. Anyone who loves Christmas and feels an inner glow when they hear “Let It Snow” for the first time in December knows the effect music can have. So too does anyone who has found that one song they replay dozens of times that helps them get through heartbreak.
There is a reason music therapy exists and has since the United States War Department used it during World War II to aid soldiers recovering in hospitals. Science shows that music can lower blood pressure and breathing rate, reduce muscle tension, and slow your heart rate. It also can release dopamine, a chemical in our brain associated with pleasure and motivation. In the process, stress and anxiety can be pushed away.
Specific forms of music have a greater notable impact as well. For example, binaural beats (when different rhythms are sent to each ear) can lower anxiety, and nature sounds have been shown to release endorphins in a listener. In short, music doesn’t just make us feel good. It can do our body good too.
What are the benefits of listening to music during meditation?
The goal of meditation is to enter a state where you relax your mind and body. Because the therapeutic effects of music can produce similar results in a person, the moment you hit “Play” on a track before a meditation session, you’re already giving yourself a head start toward success. The climb up the hill towards tranquility becomes a little shorter as the physiological effects – tension, blood pressure, heart rate – come along quicker.
That’s also because our brain recognizes, even craves, patterns. In the process, it can create helpful shortcuts for us. If you use the same music every time you meditate, your brain will start to form that association. Therefore, once your favorite melody starts, your brain will pick that up as a recognizable symbol to start booting down. This is made easier, too, by the sustained rhythms and notes of meditation music like “Underwater” by Czech composer Avifauna.
At the same time, it also gives your mind something of a target. It’s not uncommon for someone’s breath to seek out and eventually achieve synchronization with the rhythm of the music. And many find that because music cancels out other sounds and provides something meditators can focus on – in addition to their breathing – it can take them to a deeper place of tranquility. There’s also the simple benefit of meditation music being, in its nature, calming, and even without the act of meditation, it can make someone feel relaxed.
What is the best music to enhance your meditation?
In theory, the “best” sounds for meditative practices are any that someone feels helps them hit their Zen sweet spot. In practice, several styles work best: nature sounds, binaural beats, classical, and ambient. Some even use Gregorian chant. They all have in common their slow, rhythmic, calming musical DNA, which provides a soothing backdrop for meditation that never threatens to dominate it. A good example is the “Ethereal Drone Ambient” track by Russian composer AndreyLebedinstev. Sounds like this can facilitate physical and mental relaxation, allowing someone to settle into keeping their mind free and squarely focused on their breath.
Three tips for using meditation music
- Meditation music is unique because it usually serves a very practical and specific purpose. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t use it in other ways. But it does mean the first thing to ask yourself should be, “Do I really want or need to use this style?”
- Because meditation music so readily induces a state of relaxation and tranquility, be mindful (no pun intended) of that when you use it. If your creative project wants to spark enthusiasm, even adrenaline, in a viewer, you don’t want music that lulls them into a state of Zen. In other words, maybe don’t use this music style for a car commercial, but you could use it for advertising your boutique spa.
- When editing videos or images to meditative sounds, remember that they are drone-like, rhythmic, and sustained. That could simplify editing by providing more melodic room for whatever imagery you want to connect to the sounds. Or, it could make it more difficult since editors often prefer sounds with a faster pace that can synch with the number of cuts they are using.
If you’re interested in meditation music for your next project, a Pond5 music subscription gives you access to original meditation tracks, including music from the artists we’ve highlighted here and more of the world’s top musicians.
Visit the Pond5 Playlist to explore more niche and unexpected music. Each month will feature a different genre, and a new free track is available for your next project!