How Binaural Beats Work

The science of brainwaves

When two tones of slightly different frequency are played, one to the left and the other the right ear, the brain creates a virtual third tone. A pulse exactly equal to the difference between the two tones used. For example, using tones of 210 Hz and 200 Hz creates a pulse of 10 Hz. This is how binaural beats work from a technical viewpoint. Why the brain does this and it’s purpose are not known — but we do know it is a real effect.

Using this method very precise virtual sounds (binaural beats) can be created in the brain. This included frequencies below the normal threshold of human hearing which is typically between 20-20.000 Hz1.

This capacity to drop below normal hearing levels is important. Low brain wave frequencies occur in deeper more settled states of awareness, such as relaxation, meditation, creative thinking and sleep. These brain wave states can be induced using binaural beats.

Feeding a different sound stimulus to each side (hemisphere) of the brain has the potential to create an extra and highly desirable benefit: whole-brain synchronization.

Greater neuronal connectivity within and between both sides (hemispheres) of the brain improves performance. Think of this as greater mind-power. Exactly this type of connection has been observed in long-term meditators2 and highly successful and creative individuals.

The healthy brain operates across a broad spectrum of frequencies, usually with one dominant frequency. This dominant frequency indicates the kind of experience you are having — sleep, creative expression, clarity etc.

Some particular combinations of brain wave frequency have also been categorized. The Awakened Mind brain wave pattern was first observed by the British psychobiologist and biophysicist C. Maxwell Cade in the early 1970s.

Cade measured the brain wave patterns of healers, spiritual teachers and advanced meditators. He found a pattern which he classified as lucid awareness coexistent with thought processes.3

The experiental qualities associated with different brain wave frequencies have been classified into 5 groups: gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta respectively.

Associated Experience
Gamma Waves
Higher mental activity including perception, problem solving, compassion.
Beta Waves
Busy or anxious thinking, concentration, arousal, feelings of separation, cognition.
Alpha Waves
Relaxation, superlearning, serotonin production, pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness.
Theta Waves
Dreams, deep meditation, increased creativity, emotional experiences, REM sleep.
Delta Waves
Deep dreamless sleep, release of HGH, loss of body awareness.

Further reading on Wikipedia.

Choose your state of awareness

Use our free binaural beats to enhance your experience of life. Deepen your meditation practice, improve your work or study performance, catch up on sleep or just peacefully relax after a stressful day.

Binaural beats are easy to use and can be combined with your favorite background music, nature sounds or white noise.

It takes typically 7-8 minutes of listening for the brain to tune in to the binaural beat. Shorter periods of listening are unlikely to produce any effect. Stereo headphones are required as each ear needs to hear a different tone.

There are many potential uses and sound-combinations possible with binaural beats . If there is a particular binaural beat you want to see here let us know. We will consider including your suggestion in the MR collection.


  1. Wikipedia: Human Hearing Range.
  2. Delmonte, M. M. (1984). Electrocortical activity and related phenomena associated with meditation practice: A literature review. International Journal of Neuroscience, 24, pp. 217-231.
  3. Cade, C. M., & Coxhead, N. (1979). The Awakened Mind. Longmead, Great Britain: Element Books.

About the author

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paul lloyd

Paul Lloyd

Paul is the owner of the MR website and editor-in-chief.