This Type of Music Can Help Reduce Stress
Let’s face it: The airwaves of today are polluted. You can’t turn your radio dial without being assaulted by some toxic message disguised as “music”. From blatant disrespect toward women to uninspired drivel about “achey breaky hearts,” modern music is not designed to encourage. Classical music, however, is an infinite exploration into the mystery of sound.
Classical music is the next best thing to silence, and its benefits extend to the body and mind as well. Classical music has been proven to reduce stress and tension, and it also boosts IQ. Students who listen to classical music before tests perform better than those who don’t. Even athletes are using it to enhance their focus and performance.
Clearly, the benefits of classical music justify its use. But unlike the pollutants of modern airwaves, classical isn’t a low-hanging fruit; it requires active listening. Because of the effort required to listen to it, many people are turned off and cannot break through to the benefits and the mystery.
There are two main follies that prevent people from getting the most out of classical music:
- They expect to passively listen and give up when they realize effort is required
- They start off with the wrong types of music and become overwhelmed. CM is oftentimes extraordinarily complex, and so the untrained listener will perceive much of the best work as inaccessible and not worth the listen.
If you want to adopt a healthy, relaxing and challenging habit, here is a beginners guide to classical music.
The minds of the most famous classical composers were so advanced that they could squeeze 3 minutes of a song into a few meters and have it make sense to them. For the average musical mind, the intricacy and complexity of the best classical music can go over our heads and appear as a garbled mess. So, start off simple.
Pick one instrument that really sings to you and explore it in depth. Most people love the piano because it has the resonance of a stringed instrument with the punch of percussion, but harp and guitar music are also perfect to start. If you don’t have a favorite instrument, solo piano music is the best road into the classical world. This way you can become familiar with different techniques and scales and styles that make music make sense. As you advance in your listening, branch out into more complex and inaccessible compositions. If you aren’t familiar with the basics of harmony and rhythm first, you may get lost while listening to more complex arrangements.
Chilly Gonzales is the perfect classical-type artist to begin your classical journey with. His arrangements are simple enough for anyone to follow, but beautiful even for the most seasoned listener to cherish. Chilly is also one of the most hilarious people to have lived, and he offers pieces of “musical broccoli” to help the audience understand more about music.
Chilly is fond of emphasizing particular elements in every piece he writes, so each song will be a lesson in one theory of music or another. Here is one of Chilly’s best songs from his second album, Solo Piano II. Even if you know nothing about musical terminology, you will subconsciously begin to understand the theories, though you may not be able to name them. And once that understanding occurs, you will be able to recognize the beauty in more complex songs. Listening to music is a form of meditation, so try not to muddle it by crunching it into other activities that don’t leave room for focus. Since classical listening is active, passive listening attempts will leave you unimpressed and wishing for Kesha or some other garbage.
After you’ve gotten into the habit of active listening and are familiar with the structure of classical music, it’s time to branch out. Romantic music is among the most expressive and easily accessible types, so composers like Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel are great for those new to the scene. At this point a listener is not only amazed by the technical virtuosity of what they hear, but by the beauty they wouldn’t have noticed before. As your musical mind advances, you will begin to decode the 20 key strokes in one second and see the meaning and beauty.
Chopin’s nocturnes are among the subtler and richer romantic selections from history, and range from simple and elegant to profoundly dynamic, but they all bear a haunting reminiscence. Ravel works magic with four string quartets and solo piano, where he reveals new worlds and feelings that cannot be expressed by words. Liszt, known as the best pianist of all times and one of the greatest composers, has a ridiculous set of compositions known as “The Transcendental Etudes,” which were originally composed so that students of piano could master all forms of the art. Liszt used to gather insane crowds of people with his virtuosity and exuberant style in an age where twitter and social media did not exist. After you become familiar with the basics of classical, Liszt will capture your attention and leave you begging for more.
Bruckner, Bach, and beyond
Once you’ve become familiar with different arrangements of instruments and some of the finest composers of the romantic era, your musical brain will be hungry to digest some of the biggest and the best.
Johan Sebastian Bach is widely considered the greatest composer of all time. His symphonies are so complex and stunning that it’s common to see people twitch and jerk as they progress; one becomes so absorbed in his expert compositions that one actually becomes a part of the music. Attempt the six concertos of Brandenburg, if you want to exercise your brain and take your listenership to a new level.
Anton Bruckner is an Austrian composer from the mid to late 19th century who is especially famous for his symphonies. Click here for a sample of his work, and view his entire collection on Amazon. Some of these pieces will stretch for 20 minutes at a time, so it is beyond the range of the average neophyte lister. But once you’ve ingrained the fundamentals, a symphony will reveal color and emotion that will make watching a movie or TV seem tortuously boring. The best way to absorb Bruckner, and all symphonies, for that matter, is with a quality set of headphones and in the most comfortable position you can imagine. Symphonies, to the music lover, are what murals are to the art lover. You could listen to the same piece a thousand times and hear different gems with each go.
After you can profit from symphonies of the greatest music masters of all time, like Bach and Bruckner, you will be open to the richness of every piece of classical music available. So take it slow, don’t be afraid to get a little Chilly and warm up to the frenzied-finger work of the brightest minds in history. I hear it can make you smarter.