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Listening to Pure Tones – Your Questions Answered

The large majority of people prefer to listen to binaural beats music with some form of music overlay that masks the frequency track underneath.

This is because listening to a pure tone isn't to everyone's taste. However, some people do enjoy the hypnotic properties of the naked tone, and some purists may argue that this is how it should be listened to.

In this post, we'll explain exactly what pure tones are, how to listen to them, whether or not they are better, and where you can download professionally created tones.

What is a pure tone?

A pure binaural beats tone has no music overlay.

Typically, you will find that this type of music uses a meditation-style music overlay, or nature-inspired sounds such as rain, ocean waves, or rainforest ambience.

The pure, raw, or naked tone, as it is sometimes referred to, has no overlay at all. It is the pure frequency on its own.

What does the pure tone sound like?

The pure binaural beats tone sounds quite like a humming sound. It is quite flat in tone and lacks any kind of melody.

If you close your mouth and make a sustained “um” sound, that sound will be fairly close to the texture of the tone.

However, the pitch – whether the tone sounds high or low – will depend on the frequency.

However, the pitch – whether the tone sounds high or low – will depend on the frequency. The higher the frequency is, the higher the pitch of the tone. The lower the frequency is, the lower (more bassy) the tone.

With both left and right cups of your headphones covering your ears, you will hear a slight pulsating of the tone, as the two frequencies converge in your brain and create the binaural beats effect.

To elaborate a little on this process: binaural beats work by sending a tone of one frequency to the right ear, and a tone of a different frequency to the left ear.

The brain receives the two tones (from the left and right ear channels) and interprets the two as one tone. This interpretation is the mathematical difference between the two frequencies.

The brain then follows along at this frequency, producing brainwaves in and around this frequency. This is known as ‘frequency following response'.

For example:

  • Left ear receives 200 Hz
  • Right ear receives 205 Hz
  • Resulting tone = 5 Hz (Theta).

We have an extensive post that explains more on how binaural beats work.

Why aren't all binaural beats tracks raw (pure)?

There are two reasons.

The first we have already mentioned above, which is that for most people the tones are quite off-putting to listen to on their own. I mean, it's just a continuous tone, like a sine wave. It's a never-ending hum, with a slight pulsation. Listening for the first time, some people are like; “What the hell is this!”

And that's why most people prefer a music overlay.

With a cleverly designed music overlay the tone can be integrated and harmonized with the music, so that it isn't very noticeable. The hum of the tone then actually complements the music, and vice versa.

The second reason is that the music overlay can contribute to the benefits of the tone. For example, if you are listening to a track for stress relief, the music can add relaxation properties to the overall composition.

That said, as a music producer, you need to ensure that the sound design is beneficial and is harmonically balanced with the tone, otherwise the track will sound dissonant (lacking harmony). You can find plenty of examples of this error online from amateur productions.

However, if you like listening to the raw tones, then by all means listen to those instead or in addition to tracks with a music overlay.

The tones are an acquired taste. So even if you are initially put off, once your appreciation of healing music grows, you may grow to like them.

What makes a good pure tone?

In a nutshell, a professionally produced tone is a good tone.

Firstly, the producer has to understand how to create binaural beats. That's a given.

Secondly, the correct carrier frequency has to be used to ensure maximum effectiveness.

A carrier frequency is the frequency – out of the two frequencies sent to the left and right ears – that remains constant (in Hz).

Choosing the correct carrier frequency one is dependent on a couple of technical factors, which I won't go into too much detail on. In short, there are preferable carrier frequencies. That being said, experience is also a key factor in the decision. We put a lot of research into this area.

A deeper technical explanation can be found here.

The second aspect of a good pure binaural beats tone is sound quality. The quality of music is only ever as good as the source it comes from. Therefore, professional music software, an acoustically treated environment (studio) with high-end monitors, and mastering experience is ideal.

Are pure tones better than a music overlay?

While there is no definitive research, there doesn't appear to be any difference in benefit while listening to pure tones.

What I would say though is that the tones can be pleasantly hypnotic. In terms of meditation practice they can really help you zone into the present moment.

Moreover, some people don't like certain types of music overlay. For example, we've had users ask for tracks without piano in. Conversely, we get many requests for tracks with Eastern-inspired flutes, and rain and ocean waves tracks.

That said, I personally find I can't listen to raw tones as long as I can listen to binaural beats with a music overlay of some design.

Where can I find real pure tones?

All our products now come with the pure (raw) tone as standard. We provide the music overlay version and the raw tones as an additional download. That way, you get two different listening experiences for the price of one.

What if I want a custom tone made?

It may be the case that you know the exact frequency of the binaural beats you want to listen to. Perhaps you want to have one or more frequencies feature in your track, as many of our programs do.

Or perhaps you are working on a commercial project that you want a pure tone for, such as a guided meditation that you want to sell from your website, or a track to make part of a course package.

In this case, you can take advantage of our custom tone service. Just let us know your requirements and we will produce the tone you want for a flat fee. It is then yours to use in any project you like.

Please see more details here.

In Summary

We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between binaural beats with a music overlay and the pure tone frequency track, at both a listening and technical level.

In short, the raw tone is the naked frequency, without any music or natural ambience. Listening is an acquired taste but may be preferable for those who find some types of music overlay distracting.

Pure tones can be quite heavy on the ears, and therefore your listening tolerance might be shorter than when listening to a track with an integrated sound design.

Remember, though, there are well-produced tones and poorly produced tones, as a number of factors are at play in the creation of this type of healing music.

There's nothing stopping you experimenting with the two listening formats and seeing how you get on. Switching between the two may even yield better results.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below or reach out to us by email.

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