It’s a term you’ve probably heard of before today.
But how much do you know about it?
The genre of calming ambient music has a rich and immersive history. It’s a way to fill the atmosphere with relaxing noise, without the distraction of repetitive chords or lyrics. Ambient music is all about creating a feeling in a room or space, rather than designing the next Top 10 hit.
While ambiance exists in a wide variety of flavours, all ambient music radio stations typically adhere to the same rules. There’s no drumbeat, no high-pitched guitars or thumping bass, and absolutely no singing.
For some people, the very idea of ambient music is enough to get them yawning.
They’re not for dancing or motivation. Instead, ambient compositions are relaxing. They give your brain the freedom it needs to either concentrate on the task at hand or drift into unconsciousness.
Let’s explore the dulcet tones of ambient music.
What is ambient music?
Let’s start with the basics.
What is ambient music?
Human beings have a deep relationship with sound. We use it for many different reasons, including communication, entertainment, inspiration, and even motivation. Ambient music radio stations are where you’ll find a unique sub-class of music – created specifically to be background noise.
Calm ambient music is a genre of sound that emphasizes tonal atmosphere, rather than rhythm. The idea is to provide a soft and gentle noise in the background, rather than giving people something to focus on. Usually, ambient musicians use a lot of progressive modulation and “pad sounds” to create a consistent mood with their creations.
The ambient music definition that we have today began in the 1970s. Artists experimented with synthesizers and other new instruments in the UK, creating a sound, unlike anything we’d heard before. In 1978, a man called Brian Eno popularized the relaxing ambient music genre with the album “Ambient.” As time passed by, artists from other types started to look at how they could bring ambient sounds into their creations, which led to the emergence of genres like ambient “house” music.
The origins of musical ambiance go back much further than you might think, however. In the early 20th century, a composer in France named Erik Satie created something he called “furniture music.” The sound was inspired by Dadaist explorations, and it was designed to be played in the background of dinner parties, to reduce the distracting clatter of plates and cutlery.
The gentle and rhythmless nature of relaxing ambient music means that you’ll probably never hear one of these songs when you’re listening to the BBC’s top 40, or tuning into Virgin Radio online. However, that doesn’t mean that ambient music isn’t popular.
Particularly in today’s fast-paced age, where we’re constantly struggling to find new ways to improve our health and wellbeing, ambient sounds offer a reprieve from the rush and panic of modern life. Today, there are countless practitioners delivering everything from ambient sleep radio, to ambient albums for the average consumer.
The benefits of ambient music for sleep
There are many potential benefits to listening to ambient music radio.
However, the most common way to use the sound is for better, healthier sleep.
Various studies have proven that people who have insomnia, or its symptoms can benefit significantly from listening to music when they go to bed. However, it’s essential to find the right kind of music as part of an approach to your sleeping issues. Sounds that include too many shocking changes in rhythm or loud noises are more likely to keep you awake.
Because of their lack of bass and lyrics, ambient songs are some of the best choices for sleep therapy. They help to regulate the heart rate and soothe the mind as you slide under the covers. Here’s how ambient sleep radio works:
It reduces your heart rate: Research proves that calm, slow-paced music can have a direct impact on the physical state. The right ambient sounds reduce your heart rate through slow vibrations emitted at a rate of approximately 60 to 80 beats per minute. These vibrations sync with the movement of your heart, reducing its pace and paving the way for a more restful state. Listening to ambient music radio stations is like meditating before bed. You reduce the activity in your nervous system and lower your blood pressure.
Ambient music changes your chemical balance: You’d be surprised how many different ways music can affect your physical state. When you listen to music, your brain releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine. These substances reduce your sensations of anxiety and stress, overwhelming other chemicals like noradrenalin. As you start to feel happier and more at peace, relaxing ambient music gives you the mood you need to fall asleep. Often, many issues with insomnia start in an emotional place. If you always feel stressed and anxious before bed, ambient music radio could be the answer to your problems.
Music is a distraction: Calming ambient music also gives the brain something to focus on when you’re trying to sleep. If you’ve ever tried to count sheep, you’ll know that sometimes, concentrating on something simple can be crucial. This is often the case when you find yourself over-thinking and focus on problems with your life, career, or relationship before bed. Ambient music radio stations give you a crucial distraction, without wiring your brain for activity.
Other advantages of ambient music radio
By altering the way that you think and feel, ambient music for sleep can reduce issues with insomnia and other sleeping problems. However, researchers are beginning to discover that rest isn’t the only thing you can get from the right tunes.
Studies into the link between music and productivity indicate that ambient music radio stations and albums played in offices or schools could make people more productive. Scientists have been actively trying to understand the relationship we have with music for decades. For centuries, human beings have been using music to communicate both feelings and thoughts to each other on a deeper level.
The research suggests that the success of using music for productivity often depends on the level of immersion required for a task, how repetitive that job is, and the kind of music being played. However, one report from 2006 found that continuous noise, like the kind provided by ambient music, is the least annoying or overwhelming for background noise. On the other hand, distinguishable speech in music can be the “most disturbing” to those trying to focus.
In 2012, a study from the Journal of Consumer Research also found that creative processes improved for participants when they listened to ambient music at a moderate volume of 70 decibels. That’s the same as having an ambient music radio station playing at the same level as your vacuum cleaner. The same study also revealed that creativity suffered the louder the music got.
Slightly more recently, in 2015, the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America discovered that using ambient sound combined with natural noises like a flowing stream was a great way to boost productivity and performance in the workplace.
The results of countless research into the impact that music has on the way that we behave each day shows just how deep our relationship with sound can be. Way back in 1911, a researcher in America found that cyclists were more likely to pedal faster if they were listening to music than if they were in silence. Today, we still use music every time we go to the gym to get pumped up and keep our muscles moving. It only makes sense that a different style of music would also be able to help with things like sleep, relaxation, and meditation.
How relaxing ambient music can change your life
At first, when you read the ambient music definition above, you’re likely to assume that these sounds are dull – something you don’t want on your Spotify playlist.
However, ambient music can be a crucial addition to your life and schedule in some cases. Research suggests that music of all kinds can help to reduce negative emotions like depression, stress, and anxiety. The right tunes even help to eliminate instances of delirium and confusion in elderly patients. Our deep relationship with music has launched a new area of research known as neuromusicology, where scientists learn all about how vibrations from music affect the way we feel.
Importantly, before you rush off and start tracking down ambient music internet radio stations and streaming services, remember that the parts of your brain that respond to music can vary from one person to the next. Despite this, ambient music could have a universal ability to reduce stress, anxiety, and even pain in most people.
One study by the American Society of Hypertension discovered that listening to just 30 minutes of calming ambient music a day, or “rhythmically homogeneous” sounds, reduced high blood pressure. Not only that but in recent years, we’ve also learned that ambient music therapy could be the best way to help patients recovering from a serious injury or surgery. According to research from Scientific American, ambient music radio stations helped post-operative patients to improve their pain management.
According to the study, patients had undergone surgery to remove cancerous tumors were given standard nursing care, and half of them received a preprogrammed MP3 filled with ambient music. All of the tunes had no words or lyrics and played at a rhythm of fewer than 60 decibels. The patients before treatment all had similar levels of anxiety and pain. However, after receiving ambient music therapy, one-half of the respondents were less annoyed by the sounds of the hospital, less stressed, and better able to manage their pain.
The more we learn about relaxing ambient music from studies like this one, the easier it is to see that the right tunes don’t just help with sleep. Listening to music at the right rhythm ensures that you can adjust your heart-rate, improve your focus levels, and even eliminate negative emotional experiences. It’s no wonder that so many people depend on their radio to keep them going through the day. Whether you’re at work, at home, or just going to sleep, the right station gives you the soundtrack you need to manage even the most difficult parts of your life.
The rise of ambient music radio stations
Research into the potential of ambient music for sleep, concentration, and other purposes has prompted an increase in new radio stations around the world. Countless groups are beginning to experiment with what calm ambient music can do for their listeners.
Some stations have an “ambient music” hour that they run late at night for their listeners, accompanied by regular programming throughout the rest of the day. Other ambient music radio online stations play 24/7 ambient sounds – perfect for nurses and other shift workers that need help getting to sleep during the day.
One ambient radio station in New Zealand has achieved worldwide fame over the last couple of years, thanks to its ability to potentially heal people with insomnia. Created by John Watson, Sleep Radio is a station that runs in the Te Aroha farming district of New Zealand. Watson started his ambient sleep radio station after he was inspired to help people discover the healing power of music following his issues with mental health.
In 2012, Watson was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. He revealed that one of the worst symptoms he had was insomnia – an issue that left him trudging through every day like a zombie, unable to focus. Although John had tried to tune into other sleep radio stations in the past, he never seemed to get any real results – until he discovered the power of ambient music radio.
Today, Watson plays non-stop ambient music for listeners all across the globe, who praise him for the extra sleep they’re able to get. The program has no drums or guitars, no repetitive rhythms, and no lyrics whatsoever.
It’s not just people that are discovering calming ambient music in recent years either. Recently, the Whiskas team teamed up with BBDO and Radio.Co to create their unique radio stations specifically for cats. The station is filled with ambient music designed by a man called David Teie. David studied the emotional states of cats and came up with a series of sounds that helps cats to lead happier and healthier lives.
Even the animal world is starting to discover the benefits of ambient music.
A list of calming ambient music everyone should know about
Ambient music radio stations are never going to be known for snappy pop songs and memorable lyrics. There’s ambient music for sleep, tunes designed to make you more productive, and even rhythms to help with tackling depression and pain. However, ambient music is never going to be the thing that you turn to when you want to cut loose with some good old fashioned dancing.
However, for health and wellness, there are few things better than having a calming ambient music playlist on your mp3 player or smartphone.
The question is, what kind of compositions do you need to track down?
If you’re exploring ambient music for the first time, you may have a hard time figuring out where to get your fix. After all, there are no charts when it comes to this kind of audio art. However, there is one very popular ambient song that you may have heard of. The song “Weightless” by Marconi Union is the most famous ambient title in the world. The flowing harmonies of the song replicate the sound of a human heartbeat and calm the mind like nothing else.
The power of “Weightless” as an aid for relaxation is so significant that many experts say people shouldn’t listen to this song when they’re working or driving, as it can completely knock you out within minutes.
Of course, there are other ambient music options to consider out there too. For instance, Brian Eno was the man who popularised the term “ambient music” to begin with. His album, “Always Returning” is one of the most popular in the market right now. There are also options like the “Ambient” album and Airport Music to consider.
A few other ambient composers to listen to include:
Steve Reich: The hour-long piece “Music for 18 musicians” is a testament to the ambient music style. It’s a stunning celebration of relaxation and emotion, which many mothers use when giving birth.
Novisad: The Sommersonnenschein album combines sounds from the past and future into a rather sad but relaxing melody – ideal for people trying to overcome periods of depression, anxiety, and grieving.
Ulf Lohmann: The Java album is one of the best out there when it comes to ambient music for sleep. You might find that you never hear the end of the music on this disc – if you’re lucky. However, that just means that it’s served its purpose.
William Orbit: The album “Water from a Vine leaf” epitomizes tranquility and relaxation. It seems to be specifically designed for meditation – well suited to anyone just getting started with ambient music.
Terre Thaemlitz: A more modern approach to ambient music, Soil is an album that captures feelings of beauty and dread – which makes it very different to many of the songs in the genre. This is the kind of record you’d listen to if you were interested in the background and art of ambient music, rather than if you were looking for a quick way to get to sleep.
Can anyone benefit from calming ambient music?
It’s difficult to overestimate the impact that music has on humanity.
In times of pain and uncertainty, music is what fuels our emotions, encouraging feelings of optimism, inspiration, and motivation. The right sounds can push us into action just as easily as they can calm our heart rates and send us off to sleep.
The idea of using ambient music for sleep isn’t new. People have been using music for therapeutic reasons for decades, even centuries. Many older cultures believed that music had a healing power that we couldn’t replicate with traditional medicine.
These days, we know that there’s more to the power of music than spirituality and new-age thinking. Research reveals that music really can reduce our feelings of pain, make it easier for us to deal with depression, and more.
Ambient music, in particular, is one of the easiest ways to get started with music therapy. Intended as a way to influence emotion, these sounds can calm the internal storm of feelings that we deal with every day. If you’re looking for something to give you a better night’s sleep, check out ambient music – and let us know how it works for you.
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