There is a direct and very strong relationship between your brain and the type of music you listen to. Your preference of beats per minute indicates your intelligence level, while the lyrics you listen to have a hypnotic effect as they influence your thinking and behavior at an unconscious level.
Different styles of music have different tempos, the speed the song is played at, which is measured in beats per minute. If you venture out to the nightclubs in my hometown of Las Vegas, you will find that the majority play hip-hop/rap, while the remainder play house/trance.
Hip-hop/rap tends to have a tempo of around 100 BPM. You can find some exceptions to this, but the vast majority is close to this average. Some popular hip-hop/rap songs are listed below along with their BPM.
2Pac – California Love – 92 BPM
Dr. Dre – Dre Day – 94 BPM
Kanye West – Mercy – 70 BPM
House music is faster at 120-130 BPM, while trance music ranges from 125 to 150 BPM. Anyone who has ever been to both types of nightclubs knows that these different types of music attract a very different type of clientele. As for me, I don’t go to the hip-hop/rap clubs. I don’t like the music. I’m happiest at a club playing fast trance at more than 140 BPM. It’s also no coincidence that my friends also like this type of music, and that the people I meet at these clubs seem to have the most in common with me.
How does BPM indicate intelligence? People who think faster tend to like faster music, while people who think slower tend to like slower music. Here’s the research that backs this up…
Amit Agarwal holds an engineering degree in computer science from IIT and has previously worked at ADP Inc. for clients such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. One of Amit’s more interesting projects was using Facebook data on the musical tastes of college students, and mapping that data to SAT scores. He found that fans of Lil Wayne‘s music got the lowest SAT scores, while listeners of Beethoven‘s work were among the highest scorers, with trance fans in a very close second place.
From Amit’s work, we can look at the average BPM by music type and see a correlation between intelligence and BPM. While Lil Wayne has a handful of songs at a higher BPM, his music is hip-hop/rap, which has a slower average BPM than trance. So what about Beethoven?
The type of music Beethoven’s work falls into has a relatively fast average BPM. Beethoven’s symphony No. 9, for example, changes throughout the piece as it ranges between 120 and 160 BPM. We can also look at some of Mozart’s work. His Sonata K. 331 has a tempo of 120 BPM.
Beethoven and Mozart were the “fast music for intelligent people” of years past. The largest group of “modern fast thinkers” is computer hackers. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use the term computer hacker in the broadest sense, to include people who are highly skilled at the programming and use of computers for things such as engineering, bio-tech, mathematics, etc. It’s no coincidence that the people who make today’s high-BPM trance music rely almost 100 percent on computers to make their music. While hip-hop/rap makes use of computers during production, its roots are in vocals and human-created sounds. This is why trance music falls under the broader musical group of “electronic music” while hip-hop/rap does not.
You may be wondering why listeners of Beethoven get higher SAT scores than listeners of trance music. The answer for this one can be found by looking into the social culture of the different groups. You’re more likely to find listeners of Beethoven at a yacht club or wine tasting event, while you’ll find trance fans at a rave while on multiple illegal recreational drugs. Computer hackers, with their more rebellious nature, love this environment. While they’re hyper-intelligent, they usually could not care less about SAT scores. They don’t take school seriously, usually drop out, and still become millionaires at a ridiculous rate. Coincidentally, if you’ve ever been to a rave, you know that no one gets down like young Asian women, who are also among the highest scorers on the SAT. Listeners of Beethoven tend to be more sober, less rebellious, and take things like SAT scores very seriously.
That covers the correlation between music speed and intelligence. It’s not that faster music makes you smarter, but rather that smarter people tend to like faster music. Next, we’re going to jump into how the music you choose can affect you.
One of the biggest reasons that I can’t listen to most music is because I don’t want to hear what they’re singing about. The words of most popular songs drive me crazy. When I’m at the gym, I can’t avoid it and get subjected to “popular” music like “Without You.” Here are the lyrics that song starts with:
I can’t win, I can’t reign
I will never win this game
Without you, without you
I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you
Exactly what type of sad, hopeless bastard would speak these words? I am amazed that when I listen to the lyrics of most popular songs, the people are usually singing something to the effect of meeting the perfect person, whom they are hopelessly in love with, but that person doesn’t want anything to do with them. It’s either that, or they’re singing about how angry they are that they got dumped and/or cheated on by this person. Song lyrics work as hypnotic suggestions to your unconscious mind. You don’t want to listen to people singing about feeling worthless and unloved because you will begin to associate with it personally.
If you don’t believe me on that last point, or think it’s irrelevant, let me ask you the following question: When you listen to these hopeless and pitiful love songs, who’s singing? If you are like most people, you sing along with them in first person, as in singing the song in relation to an experience you had. When I hear these songs, I hear them as someone else singing them to me, about what’s going on with them. It sounds pitiful to me and I don’t want to listen to it. If it’s a guy, my answer is, “Shut up and grow a pair of balls. There are billions of other women on this planet.” If it’s a girl singing, it’s even more painful for me to listen to. I hear this woman singing to me as though I’m the man she loves, but who doesn’t care about her.
In any case, I don’t want my unconscious brain to be programmed with “that girl got away and she was my only chance at true love” type thinking. Most of the music I listen to has no words.
Think of it like this: If you were trying to read a book, work on a project, or focus on problem-solving-type thinking, how annoying would it be having a teenaged girl in the room who wouldn’t shut up about her boyfriend who just cheated on her? That is exactly how I feel when I listen to the words of most songs. It’s annoying and hinders my ability to focus. So I choose songs with no, or very few, words. When words occasionally pop up in the trance I listen to, they aren’t bitching about lost love. The lyrics are few and far between, and usually something along the lines of “Hell yeah!” They are about someone having a good time on a positive note, never anything negative.
Now, for your third and final lesson about music: Choosing the music you work out to.
You can use this chart to make a good guess as to what your target heart rate should be while working out, depending on your age and workout goal.
Here’s the connection most people don’t make about the music they should be listening to while working out. You want to listen to music that has the same BPM as your target heart rate (also measured in beats per minute). Depending on your age, you’ll notice that trance music is perfect for aerobic training. The trick is to use the speed of the music to pace your heart.
I’ve included some songs below, if you’re curious what I’m listening to. Just click on the URL under the song name to listen to it at soundcloud.com. To do these songs justice, I’m hoping you have a subwoofer and some understanding neighbors.
Tiesto – Driving To Heaven (Mat Zo Remix)
Pulser – Cloudwalking (Trance Renaissance Mix)
Lange feat. Emma Hewitt – Live Forever (Mat Zo Remix)
Storm – Time To Burn (Club Mix)
I’m also a huge fan of Christopher Lawrence. You can hear full DJ sets by him at:
If you like what you hear and want more, a great place to start is www.di.fm, where you’ll find a trance channel that plays some of the same songs I listen to.
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