One of the questions I’m asked most often when I’m out doing presentations or workshops is, “Can you tell me what relaxation music CD to buy to use at home?” On the surface this sounds like an easy question– but it isn’t. That’s like asking 10 people on the street to name the best rock ‘n roll band of all time. They’ll most likely name 10 different bands because each person will have a different idea of what makes up a great rock band based on their likes, dislikes, biases, memories, life experience, culture, etc. The same is true for relaxation music. However, there are some general guidelines that can help point you in the right direction.
Based on recent research, here are some tips for choosing music that’s relaxing for you–
1)The tempo of the music should be moderate- not too fast, too slow, or have too many changes (slow in one part but speeds up later)
2) The dynamics should also stay fairly even throughout the music– no big changes from quiet to LOUD or vice versa
3) The fewer instruments, the better– think solo instruments with a little background music.
There is some debate on whether or not music with lyrics is relaxing. Some believe it is, while others think it’s distracting. I usually recommend lyrics in a foreign language– that way your brain can’t latch onto the words and go romping down the road of distraction when you’re trying to relax. Another element to consider is environmental sounds such as ocean waves or chirping birds. Some people find that relaxing– others not so much.
The bottom line is to find music you like, that relaxes you and helps you meditate or feel calmer. Consider these tips when you go browsing through the iTunes or Amazon store. Listen to clips of songs and see what feels right to your ears.
If you find that you’re still unsure about what music to buy, you can always contact your friendly music therapist. We’re experts on this! Happy relaxing!
Elliott, Polman, & McGregor. “Relaxing Music for Anxiety Control,” Journal of Music Therapy, 48(3), 2011, 264-288.