is it good to meditate with music

Why Is Orchestral Meditation Music Better Than Digital?

Why OM?

We are living in an age when the sound of a human playing an instrument competes with computerised beats and synthesised melodies. While there is an undeniable rise in digital music production and consumption, music played by humans still holds significant value and benefits over digital music. But why Is Orchestral Meditation Music Better Than Digital?

Our brain has a definitive preference for one over the other. Hence, this article ventures into the fascinating world of neuroscience and psychology to provide solid scientific reasons, backed by statistics and citations, that shed light on the astounding impact of human-produced music on our brain. 

Join us as we unravel the mysteries of music’s undeniable power to captivate, soothe, and nurture our neural pathways – a journey worth a read for anyone seeking an authentic and immersive experience.

Which music is better for meditation?

Key Takeaways

  • A study has found that listening to classical music played by live musicians leads to greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with stress reduction, compared to listening to the same music played by a computer
  • Another study discovered that listening to live music played by an orchestra leads to greater activation of the brain’s reward centres than listening to the same music played by a computer
  • Human-played music has a unique impact on the brain, evoking stronger emotions and cognitive engagement
  • Studies show that live-performed recorded music has distinct advantages in therapeutic settings over computerised digital music
  • The emotional connection between listener and performer plays a crucial role in the effects of music on the human brain
Why Is Orchestral Meditation Music Better Than Digital?
best classical music for meditation

The Human Brain's Preference for
Organic over Computerised Music

Comparative studies on human-played and digital music highlight the differences in their effects on the brain. 

For instance, music to decrease agitated behaviour in dementia patients showed that live, human-performed music had a more significant impact than pre-recorded music on reducing agitation.  And while it has revolutionised how music is consumed, digital music loses some human emotional connection in its creation and distribution.

1 Cognitive Connection

Live music performances uniquely evoke emotions and create an immediate connection between performers and listeners. The energy and passion conveyed by human musicians can be deeply moving and inspiring, even through recorded music.

3 Communication and Interaction

Musicians playing together in real-time can engage in nonverbal communication and respond to each other's cues, fostering collaboration, unity, and shared experience that is difficult to replicate with digital sounds. This is demonstrated in the performance, even on recorded music.

5 Complexity and Variability

Human-played music offers a level of complexity and variability that cannot be easily replicated by computer-generated music. The spontaneous, improvisational nature of human performances can lead to unique musical moments that capture the imagination of listeners. In contrast, digital music can sometimes sound sterile and repetitive, lacking the organic feel that human musicians bring to their craft.

2 Expressiveness and Interpretation

Human musicians have the capacity to infuse their performances with personal interpretations, nuances, and improvisations, creating a more dynamic and personalised musical experience.

4 Skill and Craftsmanship

Music played by skilled human musicians showcases the years of practice, dedication, and craftsmanship they have invested in honing their musical abilities, creating a sense of admiration and appreciation for their talent.

6 Emotional Connection

Human musicians convey emotions through their performances, making the music more expressive and engaging. It allows listeners to connect with the music on a deeper level, evoking feelings and memories that a computer-generated track might not elicit.

Digital Meditation Music

Effects of Digital Music on the Brain

limitations in emotions

Consistency and Predictability

People generally find comfort in consistency, but when it comes to music, having a bit of unpredictability can enhance our emotional response. Live music performances usually come with variations in tempo, dynamics, and expression, which can create a sense of connection and make the music feel more alive. 

On the contrary, computerised digital music is often more consistent and predictable, which may cause our brains to become less engaged and lose interest more quickly.

Limitations in Emotional Expression

One of the most powerful aspects of music is its ability to evoke emotions. Studies have shown that the emotional power of music primarily comes from the subtle nuances and expressivity that live musicians bring to a performance. 

Unfortunately, digital music can sometimes fall short of capturing the emotional depth and richness that a human musician can offer. While advances in technology have certainly improved the expressiveness of digital music, there are still certain limitations that may prevent it from engaging our brains in the same way as live music.

Studies on how music affects the brain

Comparative Studies
and Research

measure digital vs acoustic music

Neurological Responses

A fascinating aspect of music lies in its ability to evoke emotional responses and engage the human brain. Studies show that the experience of listening to music performed by humans can positively affect the brain compared to computerised digital music. 

For instance, a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found that listening to music could positively influence neural mechanisms after stroke. The study highlights the potential power of live-performed human music in enhancing neurological responses.

Psychological Effects

Moreover, when it comes to the psychological effects of music, the human touch becomes crucial. Live music played by humans often carries an inherent emotional depth and authenticity, which can trigger a greater emotional response from listeners. 

While useful in some situations, computerised digital music may lack this emotional connection. This may lead to a different psychological impact on the listener.

Here are some scientific reasons why music played by humans can offer unique qualities and benefits:

1 Emotional Contagion:

Human performances can elicit emotional contagion, where the emotions expressed by musicians can be transferred to the listeners. This is due to the mirror neuron system in our brains, which allows us to understand and empathise with the emotions of others.

2 Intention and Interpretation:

Musicians bring their intentions, interpretations, and artistic choices to their performances, making them unique. This personal touch adds depth and authenticity to the music, connecting listeners with the artist’s vision and creativity.

3 Expressiveness and Dynamic Variations:

Human musicians have the ability to express a wide range of emotions and dynamics through their performances. They can add subtle variations, nuances, and improvisations, enhancing the music’s expressiveness and emotional impact.

4 Timing and Tempo Flexibility:

Human musicians have a natural ability to adjust the timing, tempo, and rhythm during a performance based on the atmosphere, audience response, or personal artistic expression. This flexibility allows for spontaneity and adaptability, making the music feel more organic and alive.

acoustic music is better than digital
measuing acoustic vs digital music

Conclusion - Is Music Played By Humans Better For Meditation Than Digitally Produced Music?

In this fascinating journey, we’ve uncovered how the human brain interacts with music, comparing live human performances and computerised digital tunes. The compelling evidence of studies highlights the unique manner in which our brains process and perceive music played by fellow humans.

One might wonder about the reasons behind this intriguing difference. Delving into neuroscience, we’ve discovered that live-human recordings offer emotional cues and intricate subtleties that engage our brains on a deeper level, fostering a richer and more visceral experience.

Digital music, while convenient and ubiquitous, often lacks the spontaneity and responsiveness intrinsic to live human performances. These artistic flourishes resonate with our minds, stirring an emotional connection transcending mere auditory perception. 

Human music’s organic and perfectly imperfect nature entrances us, provoking an invigorating experience that digitised pieces find hard to match.

This is exactly why Orchestral Meditations exist. Having 120 world-class musicians in a studio, creating music together, and playing as one, has a much higher benefit to the practice of meditation than pure digital music alone.

As our ever-evolving world continues to merge technology with artistic expression, it becomes important to appreciate the irreplaceable magic of the human touch in music. 

But don’t just take our word for it.  Here are the professionals and their opinions:

1 Classical Music

A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that listening to classical music played by live musicians led to greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding and stress reduction, compared to listening to the same music played by a computer.  A second study published in the journal Neuroscience Letters found that listening to live music played by a string quartet led to greater activation of the reward centres in the brain compared to listening to the same music played by a computer.

2 Emotional Processing and Connectivity:

A study by Alluri et al. (2012) found that live music performances increased emotional and social cognition-related brain activity in listeners, enhancing emotional processing and connectivity in the brain.  Large-scale brain networks emerge from dynamic musical timbre, key, and rhythm processing. NeuroImage, 59(4), 3677-3689. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.019

3 Mirror Neuron Activation:

Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that fire when we perform an action and observe someone else performing the same activity. Live performances by human musicians can activate mirror neurons, enhancing empathy and emotional resonance with the music.  Music and mirror neurons: From motion to ’emotion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 1(3), 235-241. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsl029

4 Psychological Function:

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that listening to live recorded music had a greater positive effect on mood and stress reduction than digital recorded music. The study also found that live music had a greater impact on the autonomic nervous system, which regulates bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing.

5 Emotional Processing:

Live performances by human musicians have been shown to engage emotional processing regions in the brain. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Koelsch et al., 2008) used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found that live music performances activated brain areas associated with emotional processing, such as the amygdala and hippocampus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Not at all.  We are not saying digital music isn’t useful and important.  It is.  But having the human emotion and frequencies being played by a symphony orchestra, combined with digital music, creates the best of both worlds. Read this article here for more info.

Human-played music has been proven to positively impact our brains, eliciting emotions and boosting cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that human-played music can stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward (source).

Music can affect our moods, evoke memories, and help us process emotions. It’s also been shown to enhance cognitive functions, such as learning and memory, by engaging various parts of the brain. When we actively engage with music, like playing an instrument, our brains forge new connections and strengthen existing ones, enhancing overall cognition (source).

Yes, different genres and styles of music can have varying effects on the brain. Some music genres are soothing and calming, decreasing stress levels, while others may excite and energise the listener. The specific results depend on the tempo, rhythm, and other musical elements and individual preferences (source).

Listening to music can help improve focus and concentration. Certain types of music, such as classical or ambient, can create a more conducive environment for concentration and study. By drowning out background noise and creating a calming atmosphere, music can help listeners stay focused and productive (source).

While music has numerous positive effects on the brain, it’s also important to be aware of potential drawbacks. For instance, listening to loud, aggressive music can increase feelings of stress or agitation. Moreover, continually exposing yourself to high volume levels may damage your hearing over time. It’s best to enjoy music mindfully and choose genres that positively affect your mental state (source).