Binaural beats are a method of producing brainwave entrainment.

They are used to stimulate and influence your brain’s electrical brain wave activity and guide you to specific mental states that correspond to the frequencies of brainwave entrainment used.

They work through signals of two different frequencies that are played separately in each ear, which causes the human brain to detect the phase variation between the frequencies and try to reconcile that difference by creating a third signal — called a binaural beat — which is equal to the difference between those two frequencies.

I’ve been listening to binaural beats to study and relax ever since I discovered Holosync while I was at University and I have found them to be very effective for improving my focus and productivity.

I’ve also found that they are an effective tool for both active recovery and achieving deep states of relaxation in addition to the benefits of increasing the length of my attention span when doing challenging work online.

While much of the scientific establishment is skeptical of their benefits, these frequencies have been studied extensively by Robert Monroe and The Monroe Institute over the past 40 years.

From their extensive research, they argue that inducing brainwave frequencies through the use of binaural beats causes a wide range of effects and could be a revolutionary technology for improving mental health (I will outline the scientific research into the efficacy of binaural beats later in this guide).

There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence from the millions of people that regularly listen to binaural beats on YouTube to achieve states of deep tranquility, flashes of creative insight, euphoria, intensely focused attention, and enhanced learning abilities.

1. How Do Binaural Beats Work?

A binaural beat is technically an illusion created by the brain when you listen to two tones with slightly different frequencies in each ear simultaneously.

What happens is your brain interprets the two tones as a beat of their own and aligns your brain waves to produce a beat with a frequency that is the difference in hertz (HZ) of the two tones.

For example, if you are listening to a 430 Hz tone with your left ear and a 440 Hz tone with your right ear, you would be hearing a 10 Hz tone which will entrain your brain waves to the alpha frequency in the range of 8 – 12 Hz.

The brain way perceives the binaural beat and resonates to the frequency of the difference in the two tones, which is popularly known as brainwave entrainment, and in the scientific literature, it is called the frequency following response.

Here’s a good overview of how binaural beats work because it can take some repetition to wrap your mind around how the process works:

2. The Benefits of Binaural Beats:

There hasn’t been any large-scale clinic research funded into binaural beats largely because the technology can’t be easily patented so it doesn’t make sense for companies to do expensive studies.

However, there have been a variety of small studies on the focus, health and performance benefits of brainwave entrainment with binaural beats (PubMed lists 142 studies in total).

Here are some of the highlights of the health benefits of binaural beats from the different studies:

1. For Improving Focus: A study by the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition in the Netherlands had 36 participants listen to gamma-frequency (40 Hz) binaural beats for 3 min before and during a task. They found that binaural beats enhanced attention to specific visual details. [1]

2. For Boosting Concentration: A study at Duke University Medical Center had participants listen to 30 minutes of beta (16-24 Hz) binaural beats. They found they had better-sustained concentration, less negative mood, and improved control of attention to resist distractions [2].

3. For Improving ADHD: A pilot study at the University of South Florida College of Nursing on 20 young students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) found that those who listened to binaural beats regularly for 3 weeks self-reported improvements in attention. [3]

4. For Reducing Anxiety: A study done at Clinique Psyché in Montreal of 15 “mildly anxious” volunteers found a significant reduction in their anxiety when they listened to binaural beats at least 5 times each week for a month. [4]

5. For Improving Sleep: A study done by the Institute of Movement and Neurosciences at the German Sport University in Cologne of 15 elite young soccer players had them listen to binaural beats during their sleep for 8 weeks and every participant reported better sleep quality. [5]

6. For Chronic Pain: Researchers in Richmond, Virginia had 36 adults with chronic pain listen to two recordings of binaural beats for 20 minutes each day for 2 weeks. The result was that 77% of participants felt their pain was reduced. [6]

7. For Boosting Creativity: Participants completed a divergent and a convergent thinking task to assess two important functions of creativity and the study found no difference in convergent thinking but a boost in divergent thinking, which is associated with creativity and insight. [7]

8. For Boosting Cognition: A meta-analysis of binaural beats studies at the National University of Distance Education in Madrid, Spain found that listening to binaural beats before and during a task can boost memory, attention, and lower anxiety. [8]

9. For Deeper Meditation: A study done at the Brain-Computer Interface Laboratory at the Mahidol University in Thailand found that participants who listened to 30 minutes of theta (6 Hz) binaural beats had an easier time entering a deep meditative state. [9]

10. For Improving Memory: A study was done with three acoustic stimulation control conditions and three binaural beat stimulation conditions: None, Pure Tone, Classical Music, 5Hz binaural beats, 10Hz binaural beats, and 15Hz binaural beats. They found that listening to beta (15Hz) binaural beats significantly improved working memory (the ability to recall and retain multiple pieces of information). [10]

Theta Brainwave Study Brainwave Entrainment

A 2017 study found that by listening to a theta binaural beat at 6 Hz, participants were able to enter into a deep theta-level meditative state within 10 minutes (theta activation in red).

3. How To Listen To Binaural Beats Correctly

If you want to properly experiment with binaural beats to improve your focus and productivity then it’s important that you take a systematic approach.

Here is how to use binaural beats for brainwave entrainment:

1. Choose a binaural beats frequency geared for focus and concentration.

The best binaural beats for improving your focus and sustaining your concentration for longer periods of time will probably be Medium Beta (15 – 20 Hz) Low Beta (12 – 15 Hz), High Alpha (10 – 12 Hz), and Gamma (40 – 50 Hz).

2. Find a comfortable place free of distractions.

It’s important not to listen to binaural beats when you need to do something that requires your full attention like driving.

3. Always listen to binaural beats with stereo headphones.

Get a proper set of stereo headphones to listen to binaural beats and it is also a good idea to listen to pure binaural betas frequencies that haven’t been subject to compression algorithms found in lower-quality MP3s and YouTube audio tracks.

4. Experiment with the different binaural beat frequencies to find what works best for you.

I recommend experimenting with the different brainwave frequencies mentioned above. This can be done either without music or under your regular music (although something instrumental like ambient, chillstep or classical is best) with a tool like MyNoise.

5. Do sessions of at least 30 minutes to get the full experience.

You can listen to different tracks that are designed for achieving a variety of states of consciousness and mental activities. It can take the brain 7 minutes to fully entrain, or fall in sync, with the audio stimulus so listen for at least 15-30 minutes.

6. Focus on doing a specific activity for the duration of the session.

If you’re using binaural beats while you’re working or learning on the web, it is best to choose a specific task and then block any distracting social media websites so you can get in an uninterrupted state of focus.

Try this step-by-step process to experiment with binaural beats frequencies to find out what frequencies work best to help you with focus and concentration.

4. The 5 Types of Binaural Beats:

5 Brainwaves Frequencies Chart (Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta)

You can choose a specific brainwave frequency based on what you want to experience:  relaxation, creative problem-solving, visualization, or achieving a focused state of creative flow, etc.

There are 5 different frequencies of brain waves that can be entrained using binaural beats:

1. Beta Waves (12 – 30 Hz)

Beta is a higher frequency brainwave associated with our normal waking state when we are actively engaged in thinking or a task.

Lower beta binaural beats in a brainwave frequency known as the Sensorimotor Rhythm (SMR) between 12-15 Hz can help you in:
  • Keeping your attention focused
  • Analytical thinking and solving problems
  • Stimulating energy and action
  • High-level cognition

2. Alpha Waves (8 – 12 Hz)

When you get in the alpha state of mind, your brain is relaxed and focused on the present moment.

Alpha brain waves are the gateway to meditative states and accessing the flow state, where you feel completely immersed in an activity and they can help you with:

  • Relaxation and focus
  • Reducing stress
  • Accelerated learning capabilities
  • Full engagement in the flow state

3. Theta Waves (4 – 8 Hz)

When you get in the theta state of mind your brain is very relaxed and in a dreamlike state where you can more easily access the contents of your subconscious mind.

Theta brain waves are the gateway into deep meditation states, flow states with full transient hypofrontality (complete immersion), and dream journeys. They can help you with:

  • Meditation and deep relaxation
  • Reprogramming limiting beliefs
  • Creativity and insights
  • Lucid dreaming

4. Delta (0.5 – 4 Hz)

The delta state of mind is associated with the deep, dreamless state of sleep which is crucial for restoration and the release of human growth hormone (HGM).

Delta brain waves are the gateway into transcendence and deep states of relaxation, where they can help you with:

  • Increasing deep sleep
  • Healing and pain relief
  • Anti-aging: cortisol reduction/DHEA increase
  • Access to the unconscious mind

5. Gamma Waves (30 – 100 Hz)

The gamma state of mind is thought to involve the synchronization of the brain’s hemispheres and the balancing of all the brainwaves simultaneously.

Gamma brain waves can help you achieve the highest concentration levels, spark new insights  and improve your creative problem-solving skills, by helping you with:

  • Peak concentration
  • Brain synchronization
  • Better memory
  • Faster cognition

5. Listening To Free Binaural Beats on YouTube

There are a variety of excellent binaural beat tracks set to music on YouTube.

While there is some debate about why compression algorithms on YouTube and in MP3 format may reduce the effectiveness of binaural, I find that they usually work quite well.

I personally find binaural beats work best behind classical or ambient or atmospheric instrumental music like chillstep.

Here are some of the best YouTube channels for listening to Binaural Beats:

1. Brainwave Power Music

Other recommended playlists:

2. The Brainwave Hub:


Other recommended playlists:

3. Healing4Happiness

6. Listening To Premium Binaural Beats Programs

So why would you want to pay for binaural beats when you can listen to them for free on YouTube?

If you want to systematically train your focus and concentration then it’s best to buy a brainwave entrainment program.

Here are some of the best options for long-term training in brainwave entrainment:

1. Zen12

If you struggle to meditate but you would still like to improve your focus and attention then Zen12 is an affordable option for an advanced brainwave entrainment program.

For the Zen12 program, you listen to 12-minute meditations daily for 3-6 months and they claim that their brainwave entrainment technologies make the benefits of those 12 minutes more like an hour of regular meditation.

2. iAwake’s Profound Meditation System 3.0

iAwake Technologies is one of the most innovative and prolific producers of brainwave entrainment audio programs and they offer a number of free downloadable binaural beats to try out their musical technology.

Their Profound Meditation System 3.0 is ideal if you want to re-train your nervous system to get out of sympathetic (stress) dominance and into a more parasympathetic (relaxed) dominance, which can help significantly boost your focus, energy, and productivity.

7. Concluding Thoughts About Binaural Beats

Like I said earlier in this guide to binaural beats for boosting focus and productivity, some people find binaural beats work wonders for them while others find little or no effect.

If you don’t have any luck with binaural beats then I’d recommend also experimenting with isochronic tones and monaural beats, which use a different process of brainwave entrainment that works better for some people.

I hope you enjoyed this guide and if you have any questions about binaural beats or brainwave entrainment please feel free to email me.