How To Write Brainwave Entrainment Music

About four years ago, I was in a rather curious phase in my journey as a composer. I was involved in writing and producing music that had what’s called “brainwave entrainment”. The works that I wrote for such a purpose pretty much sounded like this:

Take note that it’s best to listen to this music with your eyes closed and with headphones on:

This particular piece that I entitled “Night Sky” was released under a record label that was called a7records and is now known as Roundwaves. Now, what the heck is the purpose of all this? Music written with brainwave entrainment techniques (a.k.a. binaural beats) is part of what we can call “functional” or “applied” music i.e. music that is not solely written for simple listening pleasure or entertainment. Such music includes those used in film, video games, animation, etc. If music for movies enhances the viewing experience to a whole new level (try watching films without music, they suck!), brainwave entrainment music is designed to put you in a particular state of brain activity. Why? The theory is that setting your brain’s electrical activity into a particular phase will help facilitate various functions such as eliciting sleep, improving concentration, helping you to relax, excite you, etc. As it is universally known, music is a very powerful agent for altering your state of mind. You feel pumped up when listening to speed metal as you go across the freeway. You kind of feel very cheesy when you hear David Pack sing “You’re the Biggest Part of Me”. You kind of what to bob your head up and down when you hear some kind of four-on-the-floor drum and bass hit. Music with brainwave entrainment built into it is kind of like that too.

Now, the question is how do we actually go about writing music that is theorized to have the effect of relaxation, sleep, and other effects? Here goes:

  1. Know what kind of effect you want to elicit first before you go write your track. Do you want your listener to just relax and chill? You need your music to elicit an Alpha wave response. You want them to go to sleep? Go Delta wave. Go ahead and read up on what these brain waves are and what they’re associated with. Start by reading this Mental Health Daily piece.
  2. We need to generate the basic backing track for it, and that basic backing track is something that has a binaural beat that is equivalent to the brain wave activity you are trying to produce. To do this, you need two sine waves, tuned to a barely audible bass or contrabass frequency, one panned hard left and the other panned hard right. Now, it is VERY IMPORTANT that the two sine waves are tuned in such a manner that the difference between them will create an oscillating beat equal to that of the frequency of the brainwave you’re trying to elicit. For example, the sine wave to the left is tuned at 50 Hz and the sine wave to the right is tuned to 38 Hz. The difference between the two is 12 Hz, the upper limit of Alpha waves. The easiest way to do this is to use Audacity to generate these sine waves that are tuned to the exact frequencies you need. The length of this binaural beat track (or tracks) depend on how long you want your music to be. Usually 8 to 10 minutes is enough.
  3. Make sure that the sine waves you use for your binaural beat is in key to the music you are going to write. This is plain musical common sense. Why? First of, you want to make the music as pleasant sounding as you want. Tune your sine wave to a root or a fifth. Second, anything atonal or dissonant will only irritate your listener. For instance, if my music is in the key of G and I want Alpha waves, my left sine wave is in 24.5 Hz (G0 if A4 is 440 Hz) and my right sine wave is 36.5 Hz (about a microtone below D1 if A4 = 440 Hz). 37 minus 24.5 is 12 so I expect my binaural beat to match Alpha waves. In some instances, you may have to adjust the pitch of your sine waves accordingly if your music changes to distant keys. The point is that your sine waves (more or less) have to be in tune to the music.
  4. As for the amplitude of your binaural beats, it should be kept to a minimum as possible. You bury it in the music and it should be more felt than heard. This is the reason why we usually tune our sine waves to bass frequencies.
  5. When your binaural beats are set, write your music over the binaural beats. Notating it first on paper (or your scorewriter) or improvising over it doesn’t matter as long as you get to have appropriate music over it.
  6. Make sure that the music is LONG. We are not writing a radio hit here folks! Not everybody can fall asleep, concentrate, relax in just under a minute or two.
  7. You can write in any genre as long as it is appropriate for the effect that you want. You surely won’t want screaming metal guitars on your sleep music, right? It’s just common sense.

I suppose these steps should be enough to get you started in writing your first brainwave entrainment piece. If you all think I missed out on something, please leave your comments below.

Advertisements

Kidoteca’s Magical Music Box: iPads and Android Tablets as Instant Mega-Music Boxes

Have you received a music box as a gift during your childhood years? Now you can go back to those sweet childhood memories filled with wonder and excitement through Kidoteca’s Magical Music Box. I would be quick to admit my bias when m writing this review (I worked on its music after all), but I just can’t contain my excitement over it. Truth of the matter is that I really love it, and I think most of you will too.

I just received a complimentary copy of the software from Stanislas Hauptmann of Kidoteca. As soon as I had it installed in my iPad, I couldn’t help but be filled with awe and excitement as all of the 16 piece of music that I arranged for this instrument came to life.

The present version of the Magical Music Box gives you a total of 6 different music box styles. Instead of a single diorama you might find in an actual music box, you can actually “dress up” your music box depending on your mood or whatnot. However, (again, here’s my bias going off), the most important thing about the Magical Music Box is the music itself.

I arranged a total of 16 pieces for this instrument. These piece range from the most serious of classical music pieces like “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5”, children’s classics like “Old MacDonald” and others. Of all the selections in the Magical Music Box, “Swan Lake”, “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Invention No. 8” are my favorites.

One more great thing about the Magical Music Box is the interactive interface. Upon opening the music box, you can start cranking it up to produce sounds from it just like the real thing. If your iPad has a folder-style case, you’ll see that if you cover up the screen, the music box is going to stop playing. Again, this is the same as real music boxes where closing the lid would stop the mechanism from playing. If you’re not in the mood to crank up the music box, you could just press the gramophone icon so that it would play as if it was a player piano. Another cool thing about it is that you can access tiny bits of history regarding each piece of music in the Magical Music Box.

At the present time, there are two versions of the Magical Music Box. You can try out the Lite version for free before you decide to purchase a copy. I think you can get way more for your money if you purchase the full version, which is only $0.99 on the App Store at the present time.

You can get a copy of Kidoteca’s Magical Music Box through the following links:


iOS Users

Android Users

New Music on a7records – “Taal Lake” and “Tranquility II”

The record label, a7records, has just released two of my latest compositions on YouTube. One of these is under the “Relax My Dog” brand and is perfectly suited for a relaxing time with your pooch. It’s entitled “Taal Lake” and you can listen to it below:

 

 

The next piece is under the Easy Sleep Music brand and is just perfect to listen to when you’re going to bed. It’s a piece influenced by music from the Baroque Era (Bach, Handel, Telemann, etc.). I call this “Tranquility II”, a sequel to the more minimalistic “Tranquility I”.

 

I hope that all of you will have a peaceful and relaxing day.

Easy Sleep Music Release of the Day: “Saving Grace”

The good people at a7records have made another easy sleep music piece of mine available for public listening on the Easy Sleep Music YouTube channel. This piece is called “Saving Grace”.

“Saving Grace” is mostly a piano piece with the requisite background synth pad and binaural beat per Easy Sleep Music specifications. Other instruments that play the main theme on various sections of the piece include my new Greg Bennett Concord 3 electric guitar and a virtual instrument that imitates a veena (an Indian stringed instrument similar to a sitar).

There are many reasons one can think of why this piece is called “Saving Grace”. It actually is a reflection of my faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and how much I find comfort in the fact that the Lord had decided to offer up his life to save me and the rest of us from God’s wrath. Now, I know that there are some who read this that may become uncomfortable about my expression of faith. Let me clarify that I am in no way imposing my faith but I’m requesting that you keep an open mind as you read along while I explain the inspiration behind this piece. I leave it up to you whether or not you would decide to believe what I believe. God never forced anybody to believe in him anyway; otherwise we’d all be robots without differences in opinion.

According to Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” There is nothing that man can do to merit salvation. No amount of prayers, devotionals, offerings, money, indulgence, service or good works could make us justifiable before God. Romans 6:23 even goes on to state, “For the wages of sin is death….” As we are tainted by our sinful nature, God sense of justice demands exact payment, and death is what we we deserve.

Romans 6:23 doesn’t end there. It continues as, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The fact is that though we deserve to be separated eternally from God,  he provided a way back to him through his son Jesus Christ, God who became man, the perfect sacrifice. I’m sure many people would argue otherwise but here we find the beauty in believing in Jesus Christ. Unlike all other religions of the world where  people have to continuously work their way towards salvation/deification/etc. without any form of assurance, Yeshua Hamaschiah proves he is a just and loving God through his sacrifice for you and me.

My personal faith has a lot to do with this piece called  “Saving Grace”. Many people want to sleep at night feeling secure and loved. That is how I want to feel exactly when I go to bed each night. “Saving Grace” as sleep music would remind me how much God loves all of us that he willingly became human, sacrificed his own human life and then conquer death in order to cleanse us free of our debts. If you truly believe in your heart and trust that Jesus alone has done so, then He will bestow upon you that saving grace (John 3:16,  John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Ephesians 2:8). You no longer have to go through all the steps and rituals to buy your way into heaven as Jesus has already done that for you. If you think about it this way, it would be easy for you to do good and become at peace and relaxed at night or any time of the day. I hope to share such an experience with all of you and I pray that you get that well deserved rest and feel that assurance you would find only in Jesus Christ as you listen to my music.

A New Easy Sleep Music Release via a7records: “Tranquility I”

I have here a new easy sleep music freshly released by the good people at a7records. Listen to it and watch the video below:

If you would ask what exactly is going on in the music, then I’ll gladly talk about it so here it goes.

“Tranquility I” is basically what some people would describe as a minimalist piece. The entire piece is based on the motif played by a vibraphone in the first two bars. Supporting the “Tranquility I” motif is a synth pad in the background. Little by little, more instruments join the vibraphone for a buildup of sound. The marimba harmonizes with the vibraphone and the sound gently grows as the flute and clarinet introduce themselves.

A soon as the flute and clarinet finish their phrases, the sleep music journey continues in the second section as an otherworldly synth pad provides another dimension of sound. The clarinet then plays a variation of the main motif and the flute then enters after a few bars of the clarinet solo. The marimba then enters as a third wheel in harmony with the clarinet and flute.

Soon as the flute and clarinet quiet down, we proceed to the third and final section which begins with the marimba playing a gentle solo (still based on the motif) accompanied by a droning bass pad in F. The vibraphone then enters a few bars later. At this point, it would be easy to imagine the marimba and vibraphone as gentle drops of water. Soon after, as the piece modulates from F to G, we once again encounter the atmospheric synth pad followed by the clarinet and flute as all instruments play the final closing bars, hoping to send you all off to dreamland.

That wraps up my notes for “Tranquility I”, one of my new easy sleep music pieces released under the a7records label. If you’re still reading this, I guess you should listen to “Tranquility I” again and start drifting off to a more peaceful state of mind.

The Challenges of Writing Sleep Music

Sleep deprivation is a problem in contemporary society. The demands of today often call for long work hours that would stretch the strength and patience of anybody. What’s worse is that instead of being able to rest, some people couldn’t even sleep at all. This is where a variety of interventions come into play. You have the allopathic medical solution (drugs) and alternatives that include sleep music. As a musician, nothing can be more fulfilling than one person finding your music to be helpful. However, the ironic twist to that is making sleep music can be very challenging and tiring.

In my experience, composing sleep music gives me that dose of irony. I write music with the intent of inducing deep sleep yet sometimes I myself get sleep deprived working on it. This has to do with the fact that an 8-minute sleep music track can take around 16 hours to write, perform and record, mix and master. If you are a musician like me who does all of the music production processes, you know what I mean.

Melody is an important aspect of my music, and that’s why I try my best to introduce it in sleep music. However, composing a melody for sleep music is one heck of a challenge. It should be interesting enough to be appreciated yet it should be serene and calming to induce sleep. Put in the fact that prior to recording, I have to practice playing some of the instruments live myself. It can take up to an entire day to do just this.

When I get the chance to record the music, it’s all a mix of playing pre-composed written ideas and improvisation. Another challenge at this stage is to make an arrangement (or in many cases, improvise an arrangement) that would be serene and calming yet remain to be musically interesting.

As much as I love shredding on a guitar or playing runs like Chopin on the piano, you can’t do that in sleep music. At one point, I even tried to pull something out of Debussy’s book, a fast run that sounds smooth. My artist manager didn’t think that would fit in a sleep music context. What I learned here is another challenge to writing sleep music: restraint and control. While it may seem to be natural for players to insert fast runs into a seemingly slow piece of music, it takes a good amount of impulse control to prevent showing off while writing sleep music.

The last challenging thing I can think of at the top of my head when it comes to sleep music is mixing and mastering. These production processes also consume a lot of time. Imagine yourself having to listen to your track for 10 times or more, one segment at a time, in order to mix it. This is the equivalent of reading an embarrassing section of your diary over and over again. Mastering your own tracks is like that too except that you would be listening to two or more complete tracks over and over again to see if all of them fit well in an album. The repeating drone of a binaural beat, which is designed to make your brain shut down for sleep, doesn’t help much either in keeping your concentration up.

Writing sleep music shouldn’t be taken for granted. Just like playing prog, jazz fusion or modern classical music, sleep music has it’s own heavy set of challenges as well. It is good to know that one would easily reap the rewards of doing so.

Anyway, if you’re off to go to bed, check this latest easy sleep music track of mine from a7records: