Masking Binaural Beats

I always say ask me anything and a lot of people are doing just that lately and today I thought I would talk about masking binaural beats with noise

Inbox: What is masking?

There are a lot of binaural beats in the world. There are so many, in fact, that many online music stores like Apple Music have found subtle ways to ban them. (Apple, for example, black-listed the word “binaural” and the phrase “binaural beats” from use in titles and descriptions of new music submissions in 2018 or so.) And it’s easy to see why the ban exists: binaural beats alone make for a crap listening experience. Here’s some proof:

One minute of a 4Hz Delta binaural beat via 100Hz, 300Hz and 500Hz carrier frequencies.

While this tone set is deliberately uninspiring, by literally any definition binaural beats alone do not meet the minimum criteria to be classified as music and therefor do not belong in a music store. (Apps, on the hand, are an altogether different situation about which I know nothing.)

There is also the issue of listening fatigue. While not clinically recognized, listening fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs after prolonged exposure to an auditory stimulus. When listening only to binaural beats, the continued exposure to high levels of audio in such a narrow bandwidth can lead to tiredness, discomfort, irritability, headaches and even pain and hearing loss. To avoid this fatigue, binaural beats need to be masked.

Initially, Monroe’s solution to this problem was to mask the sound with noise. Masking occurs when the perception of one sound is affected by the presence of another sound. By adding noise, the carrier frequencies for the binaural beats are less likely to cause fatigue because the the sound energy of white noise is equally–but randomly–spread across the entire frequency spectrum.

In physics and audio engineering, noise is described using colors. Brown noise, for example, decreases in power as the frequency rises. The perception of brown noise, then, is that of the low roar of a waterfall: it is deeper and warmer sounding than white noise. And it was Robert Monroe’s choice for Hemi-Sync®.

One minute of a 4Hz Delta binaural beat via 100Hz, 300Hz and 500Hz carrier frequencies with a modulating pink noise (because I don’t have a brown noise generator and I’m too tired deal with that right now…)

Using music to mask binaural beats and Hemi-Sync® is pretty self evident and in the late eighties and early nineties, Hemi-Sync® launched a line of products called Metamusic®. Initially a simple experiment using music created in house, folks at the Monroe Institute began reaching out to artists to create the Metamusic® Artist Series, a collection of more fully realized productions. Higher was maybe the fourth or fifth release in the Metamusic® Artist Series.

For better or for worse, this introduced its own set of unique problems.


What is your relationship with Hemi-Sync?

I always say ask me anything and a lot of people are doing just that lately and today I thought I would answer some common questions about Hemi-Sync® so here we go…

How did you connect with Hemi-Sync?

When I was in college, I attended a Hemi-Sync outreach workshop. We spent the weekend flopped out on air mattresses in someone’s living room and meditated for two days straight with headphones on. It was brilliant.

The outreach trainer and I became friends, and she eventually listened to a guided meditation that I had created with a would-be author. She sent the guided meditation to Robert Monroe. The music was re-recorded and an instrumental version was released as Higher.

Did you meet Robert Monroe?

I have never met Robert Monroe in person, but early on we spoke on the phone and even then, only once. He was curt and to-the-point. I found him to be supportive of my work (at the very least I know that he was a fan of Higher) but he was also very pragmatic in his advice to me, which pretty much boiled down to “do your work and get it out there, but keep your day job.” I’m exaggerating, but it was almost 30 years and at the time I had never heard of Robert Monroe. I later read Journeys Out of the Body, visited the Monroe Institute and met his family, so I now have a much clearer picture of the man with whom I was dealing. Had I but known…

Do you still work for Hemi-Sync®?

I have never been directly employed by Hemi-Sync® nor The Monroe Institute. However, between 1993 and 2009, I created 9 Hemi-Sync® Metamusic® albums which are listed here. Many of them — all of them? — are still available with Hemi-Sync® and some of them are exclusive to Hemi-Sync®.

Anyway, my relationship with Hemi-Sync® is essentially a licensing situation. My work has also been used at The Monroe Institute in various capacities (in-person workshops, research studies, etc.) for a number of years. I am not sure that is still the case.

What was your experience there?

I have been to the Monroe Institute several times. For anyone interested in a weeklong meditation getaway with the best brainwave audio on the planet, I think a great thing to do is try the Gateway experience. There are online options available for Gateway, but personally, I find the in-person energetic connections are the way to go. My Gateway was a peak experience: it’s where I got the idea to start creating my own music with binaural beats.