Right now I’m a little over a minute into my first Brain.fm session. Brain.fm is a startup that offers sounds that claim to dramatically improve focus, relaxation and sleep. I’m giving it a try at 7:11 pm after just finishing up dinner and watching an episode of The Goldbergs on Hulu. It was a very busy day — something came up this morning which altered my usual morning routine of typing three articles (a list, a review and a news item). Because my morning was thrown off, so was my afternoon (where I like to work on a video or maybe a sponsored article if there’s one in the pipeline). That’s because my morning schedule shifted entirely into the afternoon and my afternoon schedule shifted into… oblivion. So here I am banging away at the keyboard tonight playing catchup on the third article of the day: the news item. And it just so happens that that news item is Brain.fm — a service that claims almost magical powers of helping you concentrate better (i.e. helps you be more productive). Just what I could use right now.
Brain.fm gives you the option to listen 7 times before requiring that you signup and start paying. Fair enough. I went ahead and started a focus session: an electronic music focus session, to be exact. It’s a 30 minute track that’s just kind of ambient. There’s no heavy beat. There’s what seems like a propeller whirring back and forth in stereo and some soft strings and… I’m not really sure what all else. But it doesn’t sound bad. It’s definitely not distracting (like listening to music can be). In fact, as of late, I’ve taken to listening to music sung in other languages while I work so I can’t really follow along (and thus get distracted). It’s been interesting, but this seems better already.
Do I feel more productive? I’m about 10 minutes into the track and I’ve written a little over 300 words so far. Not bad. It’s been 10 minutes of solid, steady typing. I haven’t had any major brain farts or gotten distracted. I do seem to be pretty focused and in the zone. But still I’m wondering how much of that is a placebo effect; me just wanting this to work because it would be amazing and incredibly useful if it wasn’t a gimmick. But the website does say it can work for you the first try.
Before I get into more details about how it all works and some of the research, etc., let me first talk about the user experience.
I like the design of the service. It’s colorful and lively and easy to navigate and use. After my first listening session begun, I was presented with some “pro tips” such as use with earphones or headphones and use when working, reading or doing creative work. I was also told to expect immediate results and that the effects would also last after the session was completed. After closing that pop-up box, what was left was a large animated audio wave flowing across a green background with some quotes on focusing and concentration from people like Steve Jobs, Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Dickens overlayed in white text. At the top of the screen are four large buttons: home, explore, learn and progress. At the bottom are the controls: a play/pause button, a repeat button, a skip button and a volume slider along with an indication as to how far along the track is (out of 30 minutes) — though there is no time stamp, so you sort of have to guess. Finally, just above that there’s a research / more info button.
As I clicked around the site I was presented with the option to create a profile as “every brain is unique.” There were about seven categories that asked me to answer yes or no to questions about sleep, anxiety, ability to focus, my temper, etc. From what I’ve gathered thus far, the idea is that Brain.fm improves the more you use it based on your feedback and your profile.
Now it looks like I’m within the final eight minute stretch of the first track. So how do I feel? Have I been more productive? At this point I’ve written nearly 700 words which already means this article is a bit longer than the average news item I post (which I typically try to keep fairly short). But still, I can’t deny that the words do seem to be flowing out pretty quickly and perhaps with a bit less effort than usual. I definitely notice the music. It’s that same propeller whir and what almost seems like a video game soundtrack — this could easily be a track off a Halo game (which is fine with me: Halo games have had some of the best music of any video game franchise in history, in my opinion).
Next up I click on the research / more info button which brings up the following paragraph: “Each brainwave session is designed using specific, high frequency protocols that have been found to be highly effective in a clinical setting. The session you are currently using is on eof the most successful sessions used in a clinical setting for users with poor focus and attentional abilities. This session also contains new “3D audio technology which is experimental, but so far has shown great promise at enhancing focus even further. benefit should be realized almost immediately while listening to this session.”
Session one over. The next screen I see says, “I want to” and is followed by three options/buttons: Focus, Relax or Sleep. I’m still writing this article so I click on Focus. The screen then says, “What type of focus are you looking for?” The options are Relaxed or Intense. I choose Intense. Another track starts playing. It seems to have a hint of Western movie soundtrack mixed with Asian instruments. I feel like I’m at a Chinese restaurant about to chomp into a fortune cookie. Alright, let’s go.
I click on the Explore button at the top and find the various tracks available for listening. They are presented in the three categories I’ve mentioned a few times already: Focus, Relax and Sleep. Under each is a rainbow-colored assortment of tracks. Under relax I see: ambient music relax, beach relax, chimes and bowls relax, forest relax, nightsounds relax, rain relax, thunder relax, underwater relax and wind relax. Similar tracks are shown under the other categories: beach focus, rain focus, beach sleep, rain sleep… you get the point.
I click on the Learn button and then on How to use Brain.fm for Focus. Up pops a colorful slideshow-like PDF which I scroll through. I’m told to use high quality headphones (no problem there: I’m still rocking the Q-Jays earphones I recently reviewed). Scrolling down a bit I find a slide that says tingling sensations, pleasant lightheadedness or a feeling of being dissociated with my environment is normal. Hmm.
Now I’m about a third of the way through my second listening sesh. Checking my word count again surprised me: I’m not at nearly 1,200 words — rarely do my news articles stretch past 600 or maybe 700 hundred words. That means I’ve already about doubled my normal output in just about 40 minutes (whereas I usually set aside an hour for this type of article). I guess that’s pretty impressive. But for me I don’t really notice any feelings of lightheadedness… although maybe there’s a tingly feeling crawling across my chest… not sure.
To be honest, the thing I notice — I think — is that I’m this deep into an article and ready to keep going. Normally I’m ready to wind down and get this thing over with and posted and submitted to social media. Cool.
Clicking on the Progress button up top gives me a teaser of what I could get if I signup for the paid subscription (which I’m definitely considering at this point). Analytics! I LOVE analytics. As a blogger/vlogger, I’ve got Google Analytics, Numerics, AdSense and Chartbeat all on the homescreen of my iPhone (and there are more analytics apps in a folder elsewhere). Plus, I thrive on productivity apps that show me data about my habits like Productive, Focus and Hindsight (again, all on my homescreen). So an app (a web app in this case, although I would love to see a native, rather than web, mobile app at some point) that increases productivity and gives me data makes me feel pretty, pretty, pretty (a bit of Larry David coming through here — is that a side effect) excited.
Alright, so I’ve told you a bit about what it’s like to use Brain.fm — but what about that research? And how does this thing work? Well, Brain.fm is audio brainwave training that’s “backed by 180+ studies and intensive EEG analysis.” According to the website, studies show a GPA change in students from 2.53 to 3.15 after a semester of brainwave stimulation. That’s an increase of about .61%! People’s anxiety also was shown to drop after 30 minutes of listening. So Brain.fm is positioning itself as an alternative to listening to Spotify (or Pandora or any other top music platform) for productivity, binaural beats, nature sounds, white noise and even the “mozart effect.”
But it’s not just “sound.” There’s nothing random about it. There is music that is created using Artificial Intelligence (or AI) meshed with auditory neuroscience, personalized training and OmniPhonic audio.
At this point the second track now seems far less Asian (though the hints are still there). I’ve got what looks to be about 5 minutes left of this second listening session and I’ve now typed an astonishing 1,600 words. Wow. That blows me away. This will by far be the longest article I’ve written for DailyTekk in a very, very long time. I’m sure I’ve topped it once or twice since I began the site back in 2012 — but this is indeed very, very unusual. Especially for a news article (which really turned out to be a bit of a review as well).
So Brain.fm costs $6.95 a month, $47.88 annually or $149.99 for lifetime access. The annual and lifetime access plans offer a 60-day money-back guarantee (which is pretty impressive). Would I recommend Brain.fm? Considering how well it seems to have worked during it’s own writeup, well — YA! Do yourself a favor and use the free trial. I AM TRULY BLOWN AWAY by this service. Wow.
Now where can I sign up for the affiliate program… cause I’m going to be promoting this thing like none other.