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Brainwave Entrainment

In which I drudge up a blogpost from 2013 to explain the different types of audio brainwave entrainment including binaural beats, monaural beats, and isochronic pulses.

Your auditory system is intricately connected to your brain. Brainwave entrainment takes advantage of this direct connection to your brain through a series of techniques that, when combined, powerfully alter your mood, behavior and your ability to focus and concentrate. As you listen to the brainwave entrainment techniques found in my recordings, your brain will automatically follow the sound patterns and then recreate the desired brainwaves in a process called the frequency following response.

The frequency following response describes the brain’s tendency to follow and then lock to certain incoming audio signals. In my recordings, I have used several techniques to trigger your frequency following response to achieve states of peak performance in areas such as sleep (Delta), introspection (Theta), relaxed focus (Alpha), active focus (Beta) and total awareness and connection (Gamma).

Why Brainwave Entrainment?

The lowest frequency that you can hear is about 20 Hz, yet some of the most powerful brainwave frequencies that you can experience are often much lower than this threshold. By using highly targeted forms of stereo phasing, amplitude modulation, and rhythmic pulsing, brainwave entrainment recordings can “trick” the human ear into hearing these otherwise inaccessible frequencies. As you listen to brainwave entrainment technologies embedded into my recordings, your brain locks onto the entrainment frequencies. Within minutes, you are enhancing and experiencing your own natural abilities.

Entrainment Methods

As I’ve already mentioned, I combine a series of techniques with the naturally entraining qualities inherent to music to form what are, in my opinion, the strongest and most effective auditory brainwave tools available.

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are the most common form of brainwave entrainment. Binaural beats work by combining two frequencies with a slight pitch offset. The offset of these two pitches slowly modulates, effectively carrying a third beat frequency which the brain understands as an unique sound. This process can be described as a byproduct of how the brain perceives the phase difference between two different, but similar, steady state pitches.

In order to experience this phenomenon, you need to put on some stereo earbuds or headphones and listen for a while. Let’s say that we play a 220 Hz carrier tone into the left ear and a 226.5 Hz carrier tone into the right ear. Your brain perceives a subtle beat frequency of 6.5 Hz, a frequency known as the frontal midline Theta associated with visual meditative journeys and the R.E.M. cycle of sleep. After a while, your brain begins to follow this frequency and you begin to experience this meditative trance state for yourself. Binaural beats are effective, but the effects are often times subtle. This subtlety allows for us to a build multiband binaural beat frequency sets that are layered, dense and complex. Binaural beats are the most nuanced form of brainwave entrainment.

Monaural Tones

A monaural tone is a form of brainwave entrainment in which the amplitude modulates to produce a beat that can actually be heard with the ears over speakers as well as headphones. A monaural tone differs somewhat from isochronic pulses in that a monaural tone is a sine wave rather than a choppy pulse that can work my nerves. A monaural tone is the most effective form of brainwave entrainment, but it is a blunt instrument: only one or two monaural tones can be used in a recording before cluttering up the mix.

Isochronic Pulses

Isochronic pulses are regular beats of a single tone used for brainwave entrainment. Similar in effectiveness to monaural tones, the interference pattern that produces the beat is outside the brain so headphones are not required, but since isochronic pulses are more pronounced than binaural beats and monaural tones, the stimuli is stronger to me. As previously mentioned, though, I find the sound can be irritating and I have only rarely used them in my work. (Off the top of my head only Namaste comes to mind.)

Music

Music is magic. Rhythm guides the heart, melodies can lead the mind, chord progressions can alter moods, dynamics can effect changes in the cardio vascular system, and so on and so forth and etcetera. And all of those brainwave entrainment technologies mentioned above? Most of those can be tuned to quietly sit in the mix without drawing too much attention to themselves.

By J.S. Epperson

Independent purveyor of meditation music, producer of guided meditations, blender of binaural beats, and erstwhile Hemi-Sync® artist. higher-music.bandcamp.com

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