Thursday, December 3, 2009

Music And The Brain

What is the connection between music and the brain? Is it possible that music can help you think better? The research says yes, and after telling you about some of it, I'll let you in on an even faster way to boost your brain power with music.

Music And The Brain - The Research

The research shows that music actually trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. Listening to, and participating in music also creates new neural pathways in your brain that stimulate creativity. An article in a Newsweek (2/19/96) reported on a study from the University of California.

In the study, researchers followed the progress of three-year-olds, split into two groups. The first group had no particular training in, or exposure to music. The second group studied piano and sang daily in chorus. After eight months the musical three-year-olds were much better at solving puzzles, and when tested, scored 80% higher in spatial intelligence than the non-musical group.

Brain Music

A study on music and the brain, done at UC Irvine's Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory involved 36 students. They were given three spatial reasoning tests on a standard IQ test.

Just before the first test, they listened to Mozart's sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448 for ten minutes.

Before the second test, they listened to a relaxation tape.

Before the third, they sat in silence.

The average scores for all 36 students: 1st test: 119. 2nd test: 111. 3rd test: 110.

That's an average increase of 9 iq points from listening to Mozart. It's assumed that their intelligence didn't increase, but that the music put them in a state that gave them better access to the resources of their brains. However, other studies do show that repeated exposure to slow music can permanently increas you IQ, so play that Mozart!

Brain Wave Entrainment

Your brain wave frequencies vary according to the state you are in. For example, daydreaming and meditation usually take place in the "Alpha" range of frequencies. Alert concentration is in the "Beta" range. "Brain wave entrainment" products have beats, usually embedded in music, that your brain starts to follow.

If you listen to music containing beats at a frequency of 10 Hz (in the Alpha range) it will feel very relaxing. This is because your brain will begin to follow this frequency and reproduce the rhythm in the music. You'll generate more brain waves at a 10 Hz frequency and enter a relaxed Alpha mental state. This is the idea behind brain wave entrainment.

This may be why some types of music have certain effects, but not all brain wave entrainment Cds use music. Some use the raw "binaural beats" as they are sometimes called, embedded in white noise, or in sounds of nature. (I have used these products and find them to be pretty powerful , especially the ones for relaxation.)

Whether you use "binaural beats," or just pop a Mozart CD into the player, you can increase your brain power easily. Try it today. It is doubtful that Mozart will harm you, so why wait for more research to be done on music and the brain?

Monday, November 30, 2009

History Of The Electric Guitar

In The Beginning
The guitar’s soft melodic tone made it difficult for people to hear it when being played alongside other instruments. So during the 1930’s an inventive individual decided to change that and invented the first electric guitar. Little did he know, or have imagined way back then how the invention of the electric guitar would significantly affect the course of 20th century music.

Like most new things, the electric guitar had its critics but it quickly won people over because of its ability to allow musicians to play much more creatively and express their own individual styles.

The First Pickup
In 1924 an inventive engineer working for the Gibson guitar company named Lloyd Loar, designed the first magnetic pickup. Using a magnet, he converted guitar string vibrations into electrical signals, which then were amplified through a speaker system. This first pickup was crude, but it was a great beginning.

The First Electric Guitar
In 1931 the Electro String Company was founded by Paul Barth, George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker, and developed the first electric guitars marketed to the general public. They made their guitars from cast aluminum and were played on a person’s lap using a steel slide much like today's steel guitar. Because of their unusual material, they were affectionately called “Frying Pans.”

The early success of the frying pans prompted the Gibson guitar company to build their first electric guitar, the ES-150 which is a legend today.

The First Solid-Body Electric Guitar
Electric guitars were quickly becoming popular, even though there was a major problem with their construction. Their bodies would vibrate due to the amplified sounds coming through the speakers they were played into, causing what we know as feed-back. The obvious remedy was to build a guitar made with a solid body which wouldn’t vibrate so easily.

As with most innovations, there is controversy over who invented the first solid –body electric guitar. Guitar legend Les Paul in the 1940’s developed his affectionately called “The Log” solid-body guitar by attaching a Gibson neck to a solid piece of wood…a railroad tie, hence the name “Log.”

Around this same time, guitarist Merle Travis and engineer Paul Bigsby developed a solid-body electric guitar that resembled the solid-body guitars that we’re so familiar with today.

The First Mass Produced Electric Guitar
Leo Fender in 1950 was the first to mass produce an electric guitar which was originally called the Fender Broadcaster. This guitar was quickly re-named to the infamous Telecaster because the name “Broadcaster” was already being used by another company. Leo followed this up in 1954 with the most renowned guitar of all time…the Stratocaster.

Leo’s success led other guitar manufacturers into developing their own mass-produced electric guitars. Most notable was the teaming-up of the Gibson guitar company with Les Paul to create the famous Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.

More Affordable Electric Guitars
During the 1960’s and 1970’s famous brand name electric guitars were too expensive for the average person to buy. Less pricey imitations quickly came to market but they were sub-standard in sound and playability. The Japanese, in the 1980’s started manufacturing electric guitars of similar quality to the more expensive American made models, but with much more affordable pricing. This prompted Fender and other leading guitar manufacturers into producing less expensive versions of their classic models. This resulted in electric guitars now being more affordable and accessible to more people.

Today, the Gibson and Fender guitar companies are still producing some of the most well-known and best made electric guitars on the market. But it’s getting crowded with other high quality brands such as BC Rich, ESP and Peavey. Innovative designs, shapes and materials are being incorporated with new technologies to produce better sounding electric guitars.

Modern guitars have built-in software allowing them to sound like other types of guitars. Some are even fitted with pickups that synthesize the sound of different instruments or record the notes in musical notation.

The electric guitar has come a long way with an interesting and inventive past and many in the industry say it has an even brighter future.