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Music & Creativity: Here’s Why I Listen To Music When Drawing…

What are effects of music on the brain? Should every creative listen to music?

Today music is everywhere.

It keeps us company on the way to work, just as it motivates us to give the extra rep during our workout. In fact, really look at the way we live, & without music, the world would be a VERY different place. So different that if all music were to suddenly vanish tomorrow, I’m not even sure we’d know how to cope.

Films would loose a LOT of depth; without sound they’d lack any sense of mood & drama! Elevators would become incredibly awkward (God praise elevator music) & dancing – well, that’d most likely fizzle out until moving in such a way became branded as ‘weird’ or something reserved for us ‘crazy old people’. The only real advantage I can see is that without music or dancing, young ones would be forced to interact at nightclubs using actual words (shock-horror). Bar that though, I’m really struggling for positives.

And that’s mainly because if it wasn’t for music, I probably wouldn’t even be here today, chatting to you via this blog & drawing portraits. See, music not only played a HUGE part in encouraging my creative process, but it’s also what motivated my son to build me this magnificent website! Must run in the family, because you’ll rarely find me at my drawing board without my iPod.

Hence why I thought I’d take 5 to share with you what I’ve discovered about the impacts of music on the brain + reveal what types of music I listen to when drawing portraits. Who knows – perhaps this blog may inspire you to integrate more music into your everyday routine!

After something specific about how music effects creativity? Or just curious what tracks are inside my drawing playlist? Use the menu below to track down all the answers you need quickly…

I’m no music artist, but I can capture your likeness in pencil…

How does music influence creativity?

Music is one of the most creative forms of expression on the planet, so it’s not surprise that it’s also doubles as great creative fuel.

And it’s not just me who’s saying that. The link between the two is even backed by science… quite baffling science at that! But instead of going into nerdy levels of detail (& boring the pants off you) I thought it’d be best to summarise the main impacts of music on the brain in black & white.

That way you can get a grasp of why music is SO valuable in relation to creativity & don’t have to spend X amount of hours translating a PHD-level scientist to do so. With that in mind then, here’s an quick overview of how music influences our creativity…

1. Music improves mental health

When it comes to pretty much all creative endeavours, mental health plays a BIG part. Pretty sure I’m not the only one who’ll agree with that, as with something creative like drawing, being in the right mental state is vitally important.

Strip it back, & art of any kind all comes back to one thing – feel. Just as music artists feel out the lyrics to a song or a photographer feels out their desired angle behind the camera, I feel out the shade & depth when drawing one of my portraits. Same core sensation, just a different application. Exactly why mental health plays such an active part in the work of any creative.

Feel down, & it’s likely that what you create will (in some way) reflect this. It’s much the same story whether you feel confident, aggressive, optimistic or just fed up, because at the heart of it, creativity is our response to how we feel. So when I discovered that music influences mental health, I was intrigued to say the least. Good reason I was, because it turns out that science backs it up!

music effects on the brain

According to those with the microscopes, the best music to encourage creativity is Classical music. A claim that all comes back to how Classical music affects the brain. Unlike with more aggressive forms of music, Classical tunes encourage the release of dopamine. A chemical in the body that works to counteract the hormones which lead to stress & anxiety!! Something that also means that Classical tunes even have the potential to lower your blood pressure too!

Although, out of all the classical music out there, instrumentals are the ones to go for. Lyrics (while full of emotion themselves) do take more brainpower to process. So if you want to make your brain as calm & focused as possible, a dreamy classical instrumental is the way to go. Most likely the reason Tibetan monks don’t meditate to Pavarotti.

FUN FACT: Music even helps to stimulate your body’s opioid system, which means that it can even help to relieve pain. In other words, music heals.

Want to capture your best self in pencil? I got you…

2. Music makes you a good problem solver

Yep – seriously.

Certain types of music can actually make you think clearer & be more creative when solving problems. Over long periods of time, it’s been said that music has such an effect on the body that it even impacts brain structures!! That’s especially the case for those who produce music, who’re said to develop stronger connections between the left & right hemispheres. An ever so slight advantage when it comes to fusing creativity with logic – i.e. solving problems.

portrait drawing

So if you’re an employer reading this, & want to encourage creativity & concentration within your company, then broadcasting some soft background music around your office wouldn’t be a bad idea. Call it a cunning way of boosting your team’s performance without them even knowing… #ThankMeLater.

3. Music gives you a mental workout

Recently, we’ve began to think quite differently about the brain.

At one time, scientists thought that the brain was split into 2 distinct parts, each of which had control over specific functions. The left side of our brain was thought to be very much focused on language & logical thinking. While the right side housed the part of us that focuses on music & rhythm. But, thanks to modern neuroimaging, we now know that’s completely wrong.

The easiest way to think of neuroimaging is like a heat-map. A way of tracking areas of high activity in the brain based on colour. In a typical experiment, scientists would get somebody to listen to specific types of music & track where their brain is most active. Because of which they’ve actually been able to somewhat map out the journey of sound through our brain in relation to different types of music. Exciting stuff, as the brain doesn’t just respond in one place.

With most genres of music, the high areas of activity are the…

  • Auditory cortex – here the brain that tracks pitch, loudness & rhythm.
  • Motor cortex – the area that controls how we tap our feet/ snap our hands.
  • Cerebellum – this is where we determine our emotional response.
  • Hipocapus – if we’ve heard the music before, this is the part of the brain that’ll recognise that & perhaps associate the song with a memory.

Want to learn more about the nerdy science behind the effects of music on the brain? Jump into this video. I found it a really interesting watch, especially the part where they use neuroimaging to map out the brain activity of a musician…

YouTube video

Want to capture your love for music through a portrait? We should work together!

What music do I listen to when drawing?

On the subject of music, my taste is pretty varied – I guess you could say I’m not loyal to one genre. Not entirely sure why, but there’s just something about a variation of music that really appeals to me. Perhaps it’s because each type of music suits a certain mood? Or I’m just indecisive?

Either way though, I would say that music is at least part of the reason behind my knack with a pencil. So to give you a taster of what I’ll be singing when drawing your portrait, here’s a quick snapshot of what I listen to behind the drawing board…

Hits of the 80s

Being a 60s child, the sounds of the 80s are pretty much a time capsule. One that takes me back to being in my late teens/ 20s – the time at which I was courting my hubby. So really it’s not hard to see why anything by Madonna, Chic, Michael Jackson or Kylie Minogue spurs me on at the drawing board. Sounds of the 80s have such a familiarity to them, that I just can’t seem to shake.

So before you ask – yes. Greatest Hits Radio is one of my ‘go-to’ stations.

Cheesy 90s pop

90s pop is also a huge part of my playlist, as during my 30s was the time when my husband bought (& restored) me a new car – the first car I’d ever owned that had a wicked stereo system. The bass really did hit the spot. It wasn’t quite ‘Pimp My Ride’, but for the time at least, it was impressive. The time when aftermarket stereos simply slid into the dash & were the ‘go-to’ thing to steal for any criminal. Thankfully though, mine survived.

A stereo that was no stranger to the likes of Westlife or Britney Spears. Looking back, this is most likely why my son developed an obsession with these artists from young, & why they’re still something I sing along to at the drawing board. That car – these tunes.

They just take me back.

Creativity isn’t just exclusive to music… I draw portraits for a living!

Classical tunes

Now, classic tunes are a bit different.

See, I’ve been into classical music ever since I was young. Me & my grandma (God bless her) used to do a spot of baking every week, backed by either Radio 3 or Radio 4. Being a big foodie, baking with her was pretty much the highlight of my week, so if you ask me, this is probably the reason why I still listen Classical music to this day.

Not only is it soothing & something I’ve become more or less conditioned to love – deep down, it reminds me of her.

Shout out Grandma Mick… you & me, we made a cracking scone!

Classical tunes… with a twist

Kind of unusual this one, especially for an artist who’ll soon be withdrawing her pension, but bear with me…

Because as much as I am a lover of classics & popular hit music, I’m also slowly developing a fetish for Hip Hop. Now, before you jump to conclusions, you won’t find me blasting Gangsta Rap at full volume with the windows down. BUT as far as instrumentals go, I actually find it quite soothing.

A great thing about the internet & YouTube these days is that you can listen to so much more in the way of music. So as ‘down with the kids’ as it may seem, I’ve actually developed an ear for more melodic UK Hip Hop instrumentals. To be honest, I can’t really put my finger on why. There’s just something about the simplicity & the fact that some producers sample/ remix classic tracks that I used to know back in the day, that gives it a sort of retro feel.

Hence the drawings of various rappers you see across this site, & why I’m keen to see how Hip Hop evolves in the coming years. So before you tell me am bananas, take a listen to this Hip Hop rendition of Paganini – for me, it’s a fantastic vibe…

YouTube video

I’ve drawn a LOT of music artists – can you spot any familiar faces?

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