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Playing to the beat 🎶

Music can be used in a number of ways to enhance and maintain performance. The initial assumption is that music can be used to manage arousal. This can be done in 2 ways, firstly to hype people up for a performance and secondly to manage emotions and calm oneself down. This can be done through a number of functions. Firstly, the beat of the music can influence the heart rate of the listener, where certain heart rates may be more appropriate for certain activities. Secondly, lyrics may be associated with previous performances or events and may act as a motivational tool. These lyrics may also act in an instructional manner giving an individual a better idea of what is required of them prior to performance. This could even be accompanied with some imagery skills associated with the performance of the individual.

In line with this, music may be used before, during or after performance in order to manage the respective areas of performance. In preparation, it may help the performer reach the right mental state to perform at their best. During performance it could be used as a distractor to take the mind away from pain or difficulties, it may also allow for mental breaks and help with minimising anxiety during performance. If the music is appropriate during performance it can really inspire performers and allow them to increase their effort and exertion, possibly finding another gear. After performance, it could be used as a celebratory tool or even for relaxation. In line with relaxation, if low effort is necessary then the music would often be at a lower tempo (40-60 bpm) and this is where we see a clear link between music (bpm) and heart rate (bpm).

This is a tool that can be used in many instances by many individuals trying to perform. Therefore, the application of it can vary from person to person. Some good examples include the haka before the All Blacks play rugby or Swing Low when England play rugby. These are two clearly rousing chants, melodies or songs for the respective teams. Up until 2007 marathon runners were able to use personal listening devices, but this has since been banned and more research is now being done in relation to music on the route throughout marathons to demonstrate the effect. This is because runners often talk about running to the beat and running to songs/playlists that they like, motivate them and are associated/disassociated with aspects of their running.

In closing, time and volume should be managed so as not to damage one’s hearing. It is clear that even in sports where we can’t listen to our own music, chants could serve this purpose. The use of music and by whom is variable, it ultimately depends on the individual, the situation, when it is used and what the music is.

Some closing ideas:

  • Use music to prepare: It can help to get you in the right mindset and help you concentrate (this is the battle half won!)

  • Use music that has meaning: Is it associated with something, do the words mean something, does it help visualise what is expected of you?

  • Find the most appropriate music for the situation (“psych up” or relax)

  • If the music isn’t serving its purpose- cut it.

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