Tis the Season for Music

Historically, music has been mostly entertainment, but over time, it has acquired different roles- medicinal, facilitative, and mood-altering. Humans generally have these responses to various aspects of music:

  • The higher the pitch, the more positive the effect generated
  • Faster, major keys cool the brain, which fosters better moods
  • Classical music tends to offend the fewest listeners
  • Regular attendance at a drumming circle leaves people feeling more energetic and less depressed and angry
  • Repetitive rhythms, such as Ravel’s Bolero¬†and the minimalist music of Phillip Glass, induce a trancelike state that occasionally borders on ecstasy
  • Musical rhythms liberate the mind from ordinary states, hence the popularity of music in religious and military settings
  • Music that slows gradually has a gradual relaxing effect
  • Lullabies in many cultures imitate the breathing rhythms of sleep
  • The body’s rhythms adapt to the rhythms of live, close-up music


People with different personalities respond differently to various aspects of music. For example:

  • People who score ‘conservative’ on personality tests tend to prefer music that is simpler and familiar
  • People who score ‘liberal’ on personality tests tend to find greater pleasure in more complex and unfamiliar music
  • People who score high on ‘sensation seeking’ tend to prefer more complex and unfamiliar music


A survey conducted in 1984 showed interesting associations between singers’ voices and their personalities:

  • The higher the voice, the greater the singer’s emotionality
  • The higher the voice, the more stage fright and variability the singer has from performance to performance
  • Basses have higher testosterone, and along with it, more affairs and greater ambition
  • Tenors miss the most cues, sopranos the fewest
  • Compared to singers, non-singers are less extraverted, less conceited, more intelligent, more faithful, and more considerate


Instrumental musicians have been the subject of several studies:

  • Instrumentalists are more introverted and more anxious than non-musicians
  • Brass players are more emotionally stable, more extraverted, less accommodating, and less focused than other instrumentalists
  • String players are more emotionally reactive than other instrumentalists
  • Jazz musicians are more emotionally reactive, higher in originality, less accommodating and less disciplined than other instrumentalists


Is there evidence that music can soothe the savage beast? Evidence shows that music can cure in a variety of ways, some more short term and others longer lasting:

  • Music provides a nonverbal means of communication for people who have lost the ability to communicate verbally
  • Among the elderly, music, whether a live concert or electronic means, has the capacity to promote positive reminiscences. The results include positive mood, improved communication, pain relief, improved rate of healing, and generally better health and disposition
  • Among a variety of patients, music can unleash verbal communication that for various reasons was previously suppressed
  • Music appropriate to the patient can calm individuals with schizophrenia or depression
  • Vibroacoustic therapy, which surrounds patients with speakers, has shown success in alleviating symptoms in patients with arthritis, cerebral palsy, asthma, back pain, and circulatory disorders
  • When in doubt what to play for people, select Mozart or Vivaldi

I encourage you to listen to music that is different than what you normally listen to, it is good for your brain and there is so much great music to choose from. Even this small change in your routine will help you to shift from autopilot to being more present and mind-full.

Schedule an appointment with me to get a jumpstart on the new year by improving your mental performance!

Howard, P. (2014). The owner’s Manual for the Brain: The Ultimate Guide to Peak Mental Performance¬†at all ages: 4th ed. William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


Love yourself, you deserve it!
Tina Gray-Siebers, MS, LPC, CCATP