Music is our passion.
If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be on this site. You wouldn’t be dancing until the early hours on a Friday night, or spending your hour commute to work with your Beats on. It’s our lifeblood. And with good reason too.
We all associate music with something.
It could be a song that reminds you of somebody. Or one that simply makes you feel happy.
But what about those which inspire? Which take performance up a notch? There are plenty out there.
Athletes, politicians, businessmen and women across the globe all have favourite songs to prepare them to walk straight into the line of fire. They could be high tempo house classics or calming classical ensembles. They could even be predictable like Queen, Survivor, or any other classic rock band from the early 1980s.
But why do these songs have influence over us? And what should we listen to for certain feelings?
Of course it goes without saying that a chess superstar wouldn’t be listening to the latest Borgeous track, nor would you get a boxer listening to Mumford & Sons before being pummelled for 12 rounds. In fact they should get pummelled for 12 rounds simply for listening to it. But there is science behind it too. And not the nerdy science which made us want to skip class.
You will often get a glimpse of the likes of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Richard Sherman entering stadiums and arenas with their earphones in, and what’s generally behind them is fast-paced, high-tempo tunes ranging from the likes of Jay Z and Lil Wayne to David Guetta pumping out his chart-topping house hits.
Lil Wayne even dedicated a song to Michael Phelps – the most decorated Olympian in history – with “Ima Go Getta,” which includes lyrics such as, “I’m goin’ for the gold, my heart is in control,” and “I’m no quita cuz I’m a go I’m a go I’m a go getta.”
Lyrics can play a major part in how we perform in any activity.
Bradley Busch at InnerDrive, a UK based mental skills training company, said “We want their script to be positive, energized and hopeful so those are the key phrases in a song that resonates to an individual, citing Jay Z’s Encore with the lyrics, “I came, I saw, I conquered” as the perfect tune for the dressing room.
Although speed also has a say in that. Further studies taken by Liverpool John Moores University have shown that the higher the tempo the faster our bodies and hearts work.
However, a person doesn’t always want to go out all guns blazing. You wouldn’t want Barack Obama to deliver a speech on childcare having just listened to The Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land,” nor would a poker player want to be listening to a heavy EDM track – they’d instantly go all-in.
But music is still a big part of how the likes of politicians and sports players who don’t have to be physically active operate. You’ll often see poker players often using music for inspiration to the point where they couldn’t really live without it, particularly during big events.
Before the EPT Vienna, PokerStars posted a blog on the power of music, interviewing a number of stars playing the tournament and whether they could give it up.
The answer was a majority no. And it’s likely you’d get that flat across most industries.
However, at the poker tables it can often be important to be in a calm state of mind. The likes of Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen have been known to use music as a relaxing method, with the former regularly listening to atmospheric music.
When listening to classical music, or anything with a slower tempo which you enjoy, lowers the stress hormone cortisol in the blood making the body a lot calmer; it’s the reason we sing lullabies to children.
That’s backed up by The Mozart Effect which even inspired Zell Miller, the former governor of Georgia, to propose a state budget of $105,000 to provide every child with a CD of classical music. We personally would have liked to see her do that with Daft Punk’s 1997 debut.
Of course it works for us too. Us Average Joe’s with regular office jobs can improve our performance – and indeed happiness – simply by plugging in and listening to our favorite tracks, particularly if in a noisy workplace.
Headphones in the office can often be frowned upon by bosses, but music is certainly less of a distraction than two coworkers behind your desk gossiping about irrelevant issues.
Dr Lesiuk, a professor at the University of Windsor, found that those who did listen to music actually completed tasks much quicker with better ideas.
And like poker, ambient sounds seem to be the best medicine. Mellow sounds are more likely to get the juices flowing than Calvin Harris or Chemical Brothers whilst classical songs from the Baroque period are said to see a notable improvement on concentration.
Through it all, it’s about finding music you like to get your creative juices flowing or pumped for a big game.
A big EDM nut who has no knowledge or passion for classical isn’t exactly going to be hard at work in the office when Beethoven is on; they’ll be desperate for it to end. The same vice versa.
But once you’ve found the right tracks, the science is there to prove music can play a big part in how we perform.
Dr Costas Karageorghis, the head of the Music in Sport Research group at Brunel University in London, claimed it’s considered by some athletes as a performance enhancing drug but legal and without the unwanted side effects.
Now if only someone would have told Lance Armstrong that.
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