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  • When I really need to focus at work, I turn on this YouTube channel: The ChilledCow Lofi hip-hop radio live stream.

  • I love the tactile nostalgic feel of this music, the intricate jazz chords, the washed-out boom-bap drum loops, and this warm vinyl noise that fills everything out.

  • For me, it's the perfect mixture of sounds to fade into the background.

  • But, when it comes to focusing, different types of music seemed to work for different types of people.

  • Some prefer pure white noise or epic movie scores.

  • Nowadays, streaming services are curating playlists made for focus.

  • We all know music affects our brains, but is there something that makes particular songs better than others for concentration?

  • Usually, we choose songs based on personal preferences.

  • But it might not just be about taste, it might actually be something inside our music that helps us focus.

  • Something almost imperceptible because it's happening dozens of times per second.

  • Music has always been used as a tool to influence behavior.

  • For the better part of the 20th century, Muzak was piped into stores and factories.

  • You might know it better as elevator music.

  • Peddlers of Muzak claimed it could improve customers' moods and increase employees productivity.

  • Muzak supposedly worked by arranging 15-minute blocks of songs that gradually increased in tempo and energy.

  • Going from something like this.

  • To something like this.

  • The goal was what scientists refer to as brain entrainment.

  • It's when our brainwaves align with stimuli in the outside world, like music.

  • It's what gets you dancing and how your jogging pace seems to magically align with your music when you go for a run.

  • But can we use brain entrainment to help us focus?

  • That's exactly what Kevin Woods is trying to do.

  • My name's Kevin Woods, I'm director of science at

  • What I do is data-driven sound design, to design music that I'll help you to focus, relax, and sleep.

  • The majority of music is made to distract you, and so that can definitely be a negative when you're working.

  • Main culprits would be things like vocals, lyrics, human voice is an enormous disruptor. Strong melody.

  • Expectation and surprise are key in a strong melody, but those things are distracting.

  • You really want to minimize what we call salient events, things like snare hits.

  • These musical elements are great for dancing or jogging, but not so much for focus because they demand your attention.

  • Good focused music tends to blend everything together to minimize their effects.

  • Audio processing techniques like applying a low-pass filter to minimize salient events and adding reverb make sounds fade into the background.

  • Those things can help us pay less attention to our music, but the thing that helps us focus might be something called Amplitude Modulation.

  • The amplitude of a sound wave determines how loud it is.

  • When the amplitude is modulated or changed, we hear this as a change in volume.

  • Talking like this through a fan is modulating the sound of my voice.

  • It's getting louder and softer at the same rate as the speed of bandwidth.

  • This rate is measured in Hertz or oscillations per second.

  • Sounds in our music modulated all types of different rates, from super fast to super slow.

  • And a lot of these modulations can be distracting because they sound like...

  • Buzzy, fuzzy, farty sounds.

  • Your alarm clock and telephone use these sounds to grab your attention.

  • But Kevin believes there is a specific range of modulation rates that act like the secret sauce of getting our brains to focus.

  • This modulation spectrum acts like a heat map that shows modulation rates in a piece of music.

  • The hotter the area is the more frequencies that are modulating at that rate.

  • Hear that sound that sounds like a wobbly helicopter taking off?

  • Modulation in this range of frequencies from about 12 to 30 hertz are called Beta Rhythms.

  • Our brainwaves modulate at this rate when we're awake and alert.

  • Beta rhythm brainwaves are linked to problem solving, decision making, and focus.

  • When the sounds in our music modulate at this rate, brain entrainment takes over and our brainwaves modulate at this rate too, making it easier to concentrate on our work.

  • A good example of what prominent beta rhythms can sound like in a piece of music is this track: Intriguing Possibilities from the movie The Social Network.

  • It's not just beta rhythms, there's modulation rates that can help with sleep and relaxation as well.

  • These secret sauce beta rhythms can hide in all different types of places in our music, but where could they be hiding in Lofi hip-hop?

  • One of the characteristics of this lo-fi music are these really dense chords.

  • When you have notes that are very close together, the result is amplitude modulation.

  • You see that those dense chords are producing modulation that's very similar to brain amplitude secret sauce.

  • You can hear it too. When you hear those dense jazz chords, you hear that wibbly-wobbly in the interaction between the notes.

  • So, maybe cue up some strong beta rhythms next time you sit down to study because music isn't just about what's happening in your headphones, it's also about what's happening in between them.

  • Wow!

  • Modulation.

  • What's your go-to focus music?

  • Let us know in the comments below and like and subscribe for more Cheddar deep dives and breakdowns.

  • Make sure you click that little bell so you can turn on notifications.

  • And we can align our brainwaves so you'll know exactly when we're dropping new videos.

When I really need to focus at work, I turn on this YouTube channel: The ChilledCow Lofi hip-hop radio live stream.

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How Focus Music Hacks Your Brain - Cheddar Explains

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    Jessieeee posted on 2019/03/28
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