Over the course of the week, I definitely noticed a change in attitude, focus, and concentration – all remarkably improved, even serene and super productive. Were the stars aligned? Was it the sunny weather? Or do the music and sounds we listen to really affect us in such a significant way?
There’s growing scientific and anecdotal evidence suggesting audio can meaningfully impact mood, well-being, sleep, and more. To get the inside scoop into these transformative benefits, we sat down with Chicky Reeves, who runs Chicky & Coco Recording Studios and is an industry veteran with decades of technical experience leveraging the power of sound and music.
Earth Therapeutics: Thank you for joining us today! Can you tell us who you are and a little bit about your career and experience working in music and sound engineering?
Chicky Reeves: Thanks so much for having me. My name is Chicky Reeves and I've been fortunate enough to make a career working with music and live sound engineering. I got my start touring with icons like Grace Jones, Prince, and OMD — talk about a crash course in music! Since then I've mixed live for various acts like for Barenaked Ladies and Howard Jones, with whom I’m currently on tour.
I also own a studio and produce for private clients and I taught live sound at London Met. I’m a regular contributor on SONIC TALK, a podcast on all things sound and studio related. So between touring, studio work, and teaching, I've experienced first-hand how sound can shape our emotions and states of mind. Whether I'm controlling live sound at a concert, crafting beats in the studio, or showing students how to design sonic experiences, audio has been my life's work. I've learned so much about the science and art of using frequencies, music, and sound to help shift moods and energy. Music has so much untapped power if we can learn to harness it intentionally.
ET: Sounds and songs can instantly transport us, much like they did when we were teenagers. Could you talk about when you felt that sensation as an adult?
CR: Absolutely. The best example from my recent experience is listening to Max Richter’s 8.5 hour composition Sleep.
Max Richter performs his eight-hour-plus work Sleep accompanied by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) at Studio Springs in Tribeca. (Vogue)
(CR cont.) I discovered it while researching how music affects our psyche and health. I listened to it continuously on a long international flight – and for hours afterwards, it had an incredible effect on me. All my usual background anxieties melted away. I felt present, focused, and content. Now I use that album when I need to reduce anxiety or increase focus. It instantly transports me to a calmer state of mind.
ET: Nice. When we spoke briefly in prep for this interview, you mentioned the different brainwave frequency ranges like alpha, theta and delta. How do these frequency ranges affect us physiologically, mentally? How can we best use them to transform our day-to-days?
CR: Sure, the main frequency ranges are delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma.
The lower frequency delta and theta ranges, from 1-8Hz, are associated with deep relaxation, sleeping, healing and access to the subconscious mind. Listening to binaural beats in these frequencies before bed can help induce restful sleep and release stress.
The alpha range, around 8-14Hz, is the relaxed but focused zone, great for reducing anxiety, promoting calm and enhancing creativity. I love using alpha beats when I want to get into a flow state for writing or other creative work.
Then you have the higher arousal beta range, 14-30Hz, which is useful if you need focused concentration and energy when studying or working.
Gamma frequencies, 30Hz and up, are associated with extremely high cognitive functioning and memory processing. I'll sometimes play these kinds of beats when learning complex new material.
(CR cont.) Knowing where your current mental state falls on this frequency spectrum, and what range you want to shift into, allows you to choose audio that can push your brainwaves to that optimal zone. So if you need to move from a tense beta state down to relaxed alpha, put on some alpha binaural beats and your physiology and mental state will follow.
ET: Can you talk a bit more about binaural beats, what they are and how they’re useful for shifting our brain state?
CR: Binaural beats don’t actually refer to drum beats, but rather the pulses that happen when two slightly different tones play simultaneously. You perceive the beats in the center of your head. They can “entrain” your brain frequencies to match the frequency of the beats. So if you want to relax into a meditative state, listening to a binaural beat in the theta range will get you there by balancing your brain waves.
ET: This is a great, accessible idea. What advice would you give someone who wants to use music and sound more intentionally to shift their vibe or mindset?
CR: Experiment and see what audio choices work best for your desired state! For instance, I keep a playlist of uptempo, empowering songs for when I need an energizing boost. And I have go-to albums like Sleep that I know will instantly calm me.
(CR cont.) Try binaural beats, nature sounds like birdsong, or curated playlists to set the tone. Be open-minded, pay attention to how different audio makes you feel, and choose mindfully to create the inner environment you want, whether that’s relaxed, focused, inspired or something else entirely. You have the power to program your inner world!
ET: In addition to specific musical compositions and binaural beats, you mentioned nature sounds as another option for audio-induced vibe shifts. Can you expand on effective ways to use nature sounds?
CR: Nature sounds can be incredibly grounding and calming. The key is finding high-quality recordings that capture the ambience in an immersive way. Some apps like Ananda have excellent nature soundscapes integrated with binaural beats that promote relaxation or sleep. I also love putting on nature sound videos from YouTube on my TV when I need to de-stress – seeing and hearing a mountain stream or rainforest waterfall instantly shifts me to a more serene state. And mixing nature sounds with music can enhance the effects even more. Experiment with different natural settings to transport your mood.
ET: You clearly have some go-to audio choices already established. But for someone just starting to explore intentional audio, how can they discover new possibilities?
CR: Ask friends or communities online for music, album, artist, podcast or other recommendations intended for certain vibes – people love sharing what audio inspires them! Try searching for playlists on Spotify or elsewhere using keywords related to your desired mental state, like "chill focus" or "motivated morning." When you hear a new song that really clicks with an intended vibe, take note and add it to a custom playlist. Be on the lookout for podcasts, ambient mixes, binaural beats and more. Expose yourself to a diverse range of audio and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Over time, you’ll discover amazing new vibes through intentional audio immersion.
ET: Excellent advice. Is there anything else you’d like to add about effectively using sounds and music to shift mindset and energy?
CR: Just remember to keep exploring! Our tastes change over time. Use streaming services to constantly expose yourself to fresh influences. Revisiting meaningful music from earlier in life can be incredibly nostalgic too. Build a diverse toolkit of audio options you can call on to create distinct vibes. And share your own discoveries and playlists with others – you never know what audio could speak to someone and help shift their state of mind for the better.
Speaking of which, I was given the opportunity to curate playlists for Earth Therapeutics: 1) re : New (to recharge); 2) re : Lax (to chill); and 3) re : Mind (to bask in nostalgia). You can find them on Spotify and linked below.