Ambient Noise Increases Creativity

Finding the right space to do creative work can be difficult. Inside the office, there are constant interruptions, last-minute meetings, and an often unbearable amount of noise. On the other hand, locking yourself away in quiet isolation can sometimes be just as counterproductive (not to mention boring). For most creatives there is a “Goldilocks” zone of just the right amount of noise, but not too much.

Perhaps this is why so many creatives often retreat to public spaces like coffee shops. They’ve become a virtual second office to so many. Specifically, settings like coffee shops contain the right level of ambient noise that just happens to trigger our minds to think more creatively. A paper published late last year in the Journal of Consumer Research, argues that the ideal work environment for creative projects should contain a little bit of background noise. A team of researchers, led by Ravi Mehta at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign tested the effects of varying levels of noise on participants’ creative thinking skills.

Specifically, they separated the participants into four groups and asked all four groups to complete a Remote Associates Test, a commonly used test of creative thinking that asks test-takers to find the relationship between a series of words that appear unrelated. Each of the groups was subjected to a different level of background noise (50 decibels, 70 decibels, 85 decibels, and total silence). When they scored each person’s test, the researchers found that those in the 70 decibel group, exposed to a moderate level of ambient noise, significantly out-performed those in the other three groups. The background noise boosted their creative thinking.

Researchers found that those exposed to a moderate level of ambient noise significantly out-performed those in the other groups.

Background noise creates a distraction, but balance is key. A moderate level of background noise creates just enough distraction to break people out of their patterns of thinking and nudge them to let their imagination wander, while still keeping them from losing their focus on the project all together. This distracted focus helps enhance your creativity. The study’s authors explain that “getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas.”

But what if you aren’t free to roam to coffee shops and hotel lobbies in search of distracted focus? What if you need to re-create the coffee shop environment inside your cubicle or office? Luckily there are several virtual options available:

Coffitivity — Inspired by the research, Justin Kaulzer created a free online app that plays a continuous loop of coffee shop noise. The program includes noises from conversations, as well as the sounds of brewing and serving coffee. It even includes a function to mimic headphones in a coffee shop by letting you adjust the volume levels of your computer’s music player and the coffee shop sounds separately.

Ambient Mixer — A white noise machine on steroids, Ambient Mixer features a host of traditional loops heard on white noise machines and iPhone apps. However, it takes those a step further and allows you to combine sounds, adjust noise levels, mix your background noise tracks, and share your creations with others.

99U Music Mixes — If you’re too used to your iTunes tracks or Pandora stations to let them be background noise, try these playlists: Each one is curated around a different theme for easy selection based on where you are and what you need to get done.

Focus@Will — Based on the idea that background music should be interesting, but not too interesting, Focus@Will plays ambient music in phases sequenced to follow your natural attention span. The app includes a timer so you can set scheduled blocks of time to work.

Brian Eno’s Music for Airports [Spotify] [iTunes] — Released in 1978, this album is still considered one of the best ambient music recordings ever. Originally conceived of during a long layover in a European airport as a way to tolerate that level of boredom, Eno’s recording was actually played inside New York’s LaGuardia Airport for a brief time. Thankfully, it made the jump to mp3 and can now be used everywhere, even inside a coffee shop.

Raining.fm — Keep it simple with the original ambient noise: rain. Raining.fm does just what it says on the tin and even allows you to increase the amount of thunder.

Reference: Ambient noise increases creativity

How to Record Music at Home

Making and recording music is a fun and rewarding experience. The only prerequisites to this tutorial are having a computer and and the willingness to learn. You don’t even have to know how to read or play an instrument, most hit producers and film composers don’t even know music theory.

1. Write a plan of what you want to do. Do you want to build a recording studio? Is it a singing booth? Is it an engineering booth? Is it for computer based music production? Knowing what you want before you start can help you decide which equipment you will need. Doing extensive research will help at this stage. Try to find a specialist at PC World, or your local Apple shop, take notes and then find more information on the Internet.

2. Acquire the appropriate equipment. This will include such items as: amplifiers, microphones, mixers, electric instruments, cables for connecting it all together. A modern computer built or purchased within the past three years should be sufficient.

  • If possible, acquire a working high-quality soundcard, such as an M-Audio Fast Track Pro or DigiDesign Mbox 2 Mini. Creative Labs does have a Pro Music line called EMU. A 1212M PCI system is ideal if you were going to go that route.
  • Monitor speakers are helpful if you are looking to stick with this for more than a hobby. The M-Audio Studiophile BX8a’s, KRK RP-8 Rokit work well, and if you’ve got money to burn, the Mackie HR824 Studio Monitors.
  • If you’re into hip hop, techno, or dance music, a set of turntables will be needed to record your sets or scratches on the fly.
  • A midi keyboard will be useful if you want to use midi software (which you can use to write bass lines, piano parts and drum beats). Nothing fancy is needed, but each person will have their own preference.

3. Buy or download music-editing software for your PC. The following are recommended: Reason, Cakewalk Sonar, Pro Tools (comes with Mbox 2 Mini), Cubase, Nuendo, FL Studio, Adobe Audition, LMMS or Audacity. If you have a fairly new Mac, it will already have GarageBand preinstalled. This will work well, although if you want to be more professional you can also buy Logic. Play with it, learn the keyboard shortcuts.

4. Connect everything up. This is where most of the genius (and perspiration!) comes in. In general, keep it as simple as possible. For best playback quality run from the sound card into a mixer or amplifier and then to your monitor speakers. For best recording quality, run instruments/mics into a mixer(make sure you are getting a perfect signal) then run from the mixer into the sound card.

5. Learn how to record a sound from an input line and how to arrange pre-recorded sounds. Also learn how to turn an arrangement into a .wav or .mp3 file. (After all, eventually we want to make a CD with all this awesome music!)

6. Select a room in your house. Sound-proof it if possible. If not, try to use special carpet or insulation that can at least reduce external noise.

7. Start writing simple tracks. Start off with a drumbeat. Add a bassline or piano or vocal track. Start mixing. Explore! It’s all about experimentation. At the beginning, you don’t have to write a masterpiece – just focus on having fun!

8. If you have trouble with any of the above, pick up a Mixing / Studio Book. It will help you understand the underlying concepts needed to keep you going for a lifetime.

9. Once you’ve learned the basics, start breaking it down. Lay a bunch of tracks together. Experiment with processed effects. Experiment with plugins, loops, new hardware and anything else you can get your hands onto.

Reference: Build a Home Studio

How Music Affects Teens

Teenager listening to musicMusic is something that every person has his or her own specific opinion about. Different people have different taste, and various types of music have many ways of leaving an impact on someone. It can be relaxing, angering, soothing, energizing, and many more.

There are so many types of music out there today. Rap, pop, rock, country, indie, alternative, hardcore are some of the abundant types in the world. Music sends out either good or bad messages that have big impacts on how people act. People usually become friends with others who have a same taste in music as the rest of the people they hangout with, or it can be vice versa. People may not want to associate with people who have different tastes in music because they’ll argue about what they think is better but its just their own opinions.

Rap and Rock music are two very important types of music in the world. They both send out different messages and help kids. The lyrics sung or rapped by the artists can be things going on in their own personal lives, and people with the same types of problems can listen to them so they know theirs hope and theirs people like this out there in the world. Music can also serve as a catalyst for new ideas. When people listen to the new things out there, they learn different things going on in the world and they become more open-minded because they’re exposed to different people like the artists.

A lot of people come to the conclusion that rap music has a very big impact on the world. Listening to the lyrics, they usually revolve around sex and drugs and those are topics many parents don’t want their kids being involved in. Many of the music videos made by rap artists in the world show these topics in them. Studies show that people who are more into rap music do drugs one time in their lives.

People can use music to express themselves, in ways it can’t be expressed through behavior, or art. You can usually tell how someone’s feeling by the type of music he or she is listening to at the time. It’s a tool used by many. Groups of people around the world can come together and gather at concerts, shows, and venues to show what their interests and likes are and you see how many people have similar taste as you.

I can personally relate to the effects that music has on its listeners and users because it’s a big part of my life. Every day I listen to the words and sounds of different singers/bands with contrasting ideas and opinions. The music I listen makes me who I am.

Reference: How Music Affects Teens