The Effects Music Has On The Body And Mind (Pt.2)

Here’s the following article (if you missed the first part, click here):

In the first article, we reviewed how music affects us in a physiological, chemical, emotional, and psychosocial manner. Being that it was a general overview with a few cited examples, I thought it would be beneficial to break it down into specified areas and topics of discussion. What’s most interesting, is the fact that studying the musical impacts on brain chemistry is still in the early stages. There was a fascinating article that originated from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The department of psychology provided a feature review of: The Neurochemistry of Music. “…The neurochemical effects of music is still in its infancy…” (Chanda ML, 2013) With that statement, one may think about the future possibilities of how music can help us or even harm us. When I mention the word “help” I’m talking about the emotional and mental benefits that music has on our lives. Does music calm your chaotic day? Does music help you forget about your worries for a short time? Does music enhance your performance with any physical activity? Does music get you pumped for an event? Does music improve your focus? Things of that nature. Yes, I understand many of you may be thinking “Well, yeah, of course it does!” Good, because you recognize music is a benefit far beyond simply listening to the song, lyrics, beats, harmony, dynamics, etc.

All those attributes are fine and dandy, until one asks: “Does music have any negative effect(s) on me?”

Hey, make fun of that statement all you want, but the fact remains that music can potentially have negative effects on an individual’s well-being if they are already in a compromised emotional state. Additionally, music has the power to put someone in a negative state of mind depending on their choice of music. [Disclaimer: I am not talking about the people that say “….my sons/daughters music turned them into a Satanist…” That is not necessarily an effect, but a choice by the listener if they choose to take their music of choice in a literal sense.] Now that I’ve cleared up any assumptions or judgments regarding how music can be negative, let’s trudge forward.

From personal experience, music has easily put me into a somber, sad mood because of the key of the song (such as D minor or A minor, for myself) and the first song that comes to mind is “Waiting on a Friend” by the Rolling Stones. The reason I mention the significance of that song is due to the opening chords of: Cadd9 and F. When one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 18- the first song I heard was (ironically) “Waiting on a Friend.” I had a classic rock station on, and after I hung up the phone with that news, those were the first chords that came out of my stereo. That was October of 1996. Whenever I hear that song, those chords, or any combination of those notes- it briefly brings me to that point in my life. That is a true story and now, that song has more meaning to it (for me) than I ever thought it would. Funny, we love music “so” much, that we forget it can hurt us “so” much. We could open this can of worms up by talking about angry music, fast music, slow music, dark-themed music, horror-based music, soft rock, classic rock, metal, shred-based guitar, low (C#, B, or A) djent-type/detuned chugging, etc.

The list is endless when it comes to specific types of music correlating to specific feelings. Each of you can have that argument or conversation amongst yourselves in the comment section or via email, text, in-person, or what have you. Most of it is opinion based on your own experience. I’m sure you all remember “Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” performed on Nirvana’s “Unplugged” album. Can you really say that song makes you feel happy? Or how about the song “Like a Stone” by Audioslave? Now that Mr. Cornell is deceased, his voice and those lyrics truly put me in a somber mood. Add the Am, G, Em7, F progression… yes, now I’m feeling the sadness. You see where I’m going with all this? We don’t need to overanalyze the original statement of “Does music have any negative effects on me.” It could also be re-worded to say: “Does music have the power to drastically change my mood?” Feel free to suggest better titles, if you wish.

I don’t know about you, but when I listen to Slipknot, Slayer, Lamb of God, Meshuggah, or any other of those heavy-hitters (and in my opinion, spectacular music) I get pumped up, charged up, and feel at the top of my game. However, turn that around and throw in some sad tunes and prepare to be thrown into a completely different mindset. Some say that listening to sad music makes them feel better. There was a terrific article posted in Science Alert regarding a study done by Durham University in the UK and the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, that concluded the following: ‘…three key responses stood out in particular: pleasure, comfort, and pain…” (Nield, 2016)

As the reader, what are your thoughts on that? When you listen to sad music, does it provide: Pleasure? Comfort? Pain? Something else altogether? For myself, I am not comforted by sad music. Instead, it becomes a soundtrack of sorts, to my internal emotions at that moment. I don’t seek out sad tunes and I often skip them on playlists when I’m in a positive mood. What about you? Do you opt-in for sad songs when you don’t feel the best?

Last, but certainly not least…

How often do we talk about the effects of music on mental health?

There are plenty of scholarly articles and peer-reviewed journals with excellent studies on this. Earlier in this article I had mentioned how music can potentially change brain chemistry, right? Being that its in the early stages of study, what are your subjective thoughts based on personal experience? Has music or playing an instrument ever changed your depression, anxiety, hopelessness, fear, worry and ruminations? Has any type of genre, theme, or production altogether completely changed your mindset and pulled you out of the pit when nothing else could? Those are some things to think about. Those are some questions I’d venture to say are open to discussion with many musicians and audiophiles around the globe. In my mind, music has the power to change nearly EVERYTHING. What say you?

Stay tuned for more in-depth conversations about all types of music, playing an instrument, and all the amazing correlations it has with our neurological makeup, our anatomical structures, and how it impacts parts of our lives you may have not thought of…yet.

My intention is to start healthy, real-life conversations amongst everyone about music’s effects, mental health, and how we can improve our lives based on what we listen to, what instrument we play, and most importantly- how we can discuss the ways music changed our lives and continues to be a major focus every day.

Feel free to call me cheesy, sentimental, or a sap. I get it. However, some people that read this article may have tremendous stories about how music either pulled them from a pit of despair or even saved their lives. These are very true and very real stories we that often go unsung, undetected, and undiscovered. As I close, I will say this: if it wasn’t for music and playing the guitar, my own recovery from alcoholism wouldn’t have been possible. Also, when I battled cancer a few years ago, my only escape from the sickness was listening to music when I was too tired and weak to even think about picking up one of my guitars to simply “play.”