Can a Steady Beat Reduce Anxiety?


Do you have a favorite song or playlist you like to listen to when you are feeling stressed? Or ever found yourself completely mellowed out by a new song you hear on the radio? This may be because music can be a great way to relax and let go of stressors during the day. But how simple can a song be in order to have an effect on anxiety? In “Steady Beat and State Anxiety” Anita L. Gadberry looks into the effect of music on state anxiety (or anxiety that occurs in the present moment and is not related to a diagnosis). Gadberry looked at the effect of a simple steady beat on state anxiety compared to silence.

In this study, healthy individuals ages 20-50 volunteered to take a timed, anxiety inducing test and participate in the experimental music relaxation intervention or the control group of silence. After the test, almost all participants displayed anxiety (tensed posture, sighing, verbally reported anxiety). Both groups rated their anxiety level and were told to “sit back and relax.” The experimental group (or the group that experiences the music intervention) listened to a steady beat played live on a bass tone bar at 66 beats per minute (about the speed of resting heart rate or a clock ticking) for two minutes. After the music intervention, the participants rated their anxiety on the same scale as the pre-test.

The group that experienced the steady beat rated their anxiety significantly lower than the group that was exposed to silence. In fact, a few of the control group participants that sat in silence rated their anxiety levels HIGHER after sitting in silence.  Steady beats can regulate our system and at times our bodies (especially breathing and heartrate) can entrain (or sync up) to the music. Any type of music with a steady pulse could be effective in reducing anxiety.

If a low, calming steady beat made this much of a different, making a playlist of favorite, relaxing songs may make even more of a difference! Music for relaxation can be as easy as a playlist on your MP3 Player, phone, or computer to be used when walking to work or class, during your commute, or as a break during a stressful day. For more information on how music and music therapy can improve your life, please visit or continue to browse

Jessica Fletcher, MM, MT-BC

Gadberry, A. (2011). Steady beat and state anxiety. Journal of Music Therapy, 48(3), 346-356.