If you’re feeling stressed, listening to music made using the pentatonic scale may help you relax. Studies have demonstrated that pentatonic music can decrease stress hormone levels. And these days, many of us are seriously in need of a decrease in stress hormone levels.
We’re all stressed out
In an increasingly complex world, more and more factors cause us stress. MedicineNet defines stress as “a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” When you consider the number of physical, mental, or emotional factors we encounter in a day that might cause us tension, it’s not surprising that almost all of us experience stress every day.
According to a December 2017 report by Gallup, 79 percent — or about eight in 10 — Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently during their day. Most of us are familiar with stress as a part of our daily lives. While this might seem disheartening, there is a silver lining. Which is this: As we experience more stress, we figure out more and better ways to alleviate it.
Music for stress relief
The American Psychological Association’s published a study on the 2017 results of nationwide surveys on Stress in America. In the results, 47 percent of Americans reported they managed stress by listening to music. Listening to music was the most common way Americans said they managed stress — even moreso than exercise.
Studies have linked classical music as well as music of our choice (music we like!) with stress reduction. But there is another type of music that connects us all across cultures and time. This type of music can help us all feel a physiologically natural alleviation from stress.
The pentatonic scale
A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five notes per octave. It’s notably different because we modern humans are more familiar with hearing music in the heptatonic scale. The heptatonic scale — such as the major scale or minor scale — has seven notes per octave.
Use of pentatonic scales bind us together across cultures in our shared history as humans. Many ancient civilizations developed their own pentatonic scales independently of each other. We can find the pentatonic scale in Celtic folk music, Croatian folk music, West African folk music, Native American music, and the music of Ancient Greece, to name just a few. This pentatonic musical link seems to indicate that pentatonic scales are based upon a naturally occurring phenomenon, to which we all are attuned.
To witness the power of the pentatonic scale, check out the below World Science Festival video. In it, Bobby McFerrin, American jazz vocalist and conductor and ten-time Grammy Award winner, demonstrates how we share a collective ability to predict the pentatonic scale.
At the end of the video, McFerrin addresses the panel of neuroscientists. “Regardless of where I am, anywhere, every audience gets that. It doesn’t matter … [they get] the pentatonic scale, for some reason.”
A relaxing pentatonic scale app
Increasing stress levels and advances in science mean greater innovation in stress reduction. One newly-released app signifies a whole new level of scientifically-inspired stress reduction through personalized sound.
A Berlin-based team of artists, developers, and scientists came together to design a new app called Endel. The app creates personalized, sound-based, adaptive environments to help people focus and relax. Endel works as a cross-platform audio ecosystem. It lets users choose between four modes of ambient sound: Relax, Focus, On-The-Go, and Sleep.
Circadian rhythms, pentatonic scale, and sound masking define Endel’s core algorithm. Endel uses pentatonic scale and pure intonation to create simple, pleasant sounds that are physiologically natural. The personalized, pentatonic sounds then adapt to different inputs specific to you, including time of day, weather, heart rate, and location.
The world needs stress reduction. Endel creates personalized pentatonic sound that can help: Immersion in Endel’s relaxing sounds decreased listeners’ anxiety by a factor of 3.6 times.
Download the Endel app here, or via the button below: