White Noise vs Ambient/Pink Noise

I stumbled into this topic because I saw an ad talking about ‘green noise’.  I’d heard of white noise, but not green.  I went looking and that’s when I discovered ‘pink noise’.  I then found ‘blue noise’ and ‘brown noise’.  Needless to say, I was confused.  The picture above does help though.

First, what is it with background noise and concentration?  Well, it stems from the whole ‘reptilian brain’ part of our psyche.  We all have it.  These are the older parts of the human mind, which evolved to keep us alive and out of danger.  They can circumvent the rational parts of our mind in certain situations.  They are also easily distracted, which is where the ‘noise’ can come into play.

You see, these types of noises area all built around steady patterns.  The human brain will become used to them in a way that they get filtered out.  Along with the ‘noise’, it will get rid of other sounds that can trigger the ‘reptilian brain’.  This promotes an increase in focus, productivity, relaxation, and creativity.  You can see that it can also help with tinnitus.

It was interesting to find out that ‘pink noise’ is also what we call ambient noise.  It is a steady background noise, which is the same thing as ‘white noise’.  What’s the difference then?  Pink uses deeper sounds and lower sound waves, which is supposed to make it smoother and more gentle.  This is why you see that it helps with relaxation.  It also feels like ‘pink noise’ is more natural stuff while ‘white noise’ is more electrical/tech.  It’s still confusing to me.  So, what does this have to do with creativity?

Many authors use these types of frequencies to help with writing.  Some ‘white noise’ machines can be put in a spot where it blocks or muffles sounds that are trying to get inside.  This helps maintain focus because it reduces or eliminates distractions.  At least, auditory ones since I don’t think it will help much with an author wandering the Internet.  Then again, ‘white noise’ is supposed to improve both focus and productivity because of the mood it sets.  Not a bad thing if you’re having trouble achieving those things without help.

So, how about ‘pink noise’?  This is considered better than ‘white noise’ because it is gentler.  The former has a habit of becoming harsh and even somewhat painful like tv static.  With ‘pink noise’, you don’t start feeling pain or nausea if the sound goes on for too long.  It’s really that simple.

Let’s get to the creativity side now.  Apparently, a 2012 study was done on background noise and creativity. It found that 70 decibels was a creativity sweet spot.  This is the range of a busy coffee shop or a vacuum cleaner, which was surprising.  It seems too high a level makes it impossible for the human mind to concentrate, but too low means it is easily distracted.  Think of how being in total silence means you pick up on even the slightest of noises.  That can be distracting for some people.

I think this could explain why some authors need music.  I did read that it helps with creativity, but you have to be careful.  Songs with words can cause problems if you’re writing, but they work for visual arts.  You want gentle melodies, which doesn’t match me putting rock and heavy metal on.  An interesting tidbit is that familiar songs can act as ‘pink noise’ to help with editing while new songs can stir new ideas.

All of this really makes one consider how their surroundings affect their writing on more than a visual and emotional level.  We’re raised to believe that we can only concentrate and focus within total silence.  Yet, the human brain doesn’t seem to do its best when it doesn’t have any auditory shielding from distractions.  Not that I’m going to run off and get a ‘pink noise’ machine to play when I write.  Although, I might try to stick more to video game music that doesn’t have lyrics and see how that goes.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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21 Responses to White Noise vs Ambient/Pink Noise

  1. noelleg44 says:

    More interesting stuff, Charles.


  2. L. Marie says:

    A very interesting post. I didn’t know about the colors of noise. I don’t have to have music to create anything. But when I worked in-house, I listened to instrumental soundtracks (like Lord of the Rings and The Incredibles) to drown out conversations. This is why I can’t write in coffeeshops like some friends of mine prefer to do. I’m distracted by people. I prefer noises like the birds I’m currently hearing right now, the garbage truck picking up the dumpsters, and sometimes people vacuuming upstairs.


  3. I looked into these colours of noise recently, as sound magic features in my WIP. I found this – ten hours of pink noise! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SHf6wmX5MU&t=88s

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An interesting post. I tried a little of the pink noise and don’t think it would be helpful to my concentration.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe this is why I find it hard to write without music. It creates a mood, but also blocks outside noise.


  6. I’ve made the lap. I started off with Classical music until my wife complained about it. Then I got used to total silence. Once I got my headphones, I’ve used a lot of ambient noise from YouTube and I like it. There are also some good loops of theatrical type music. All instrumental, but geared toward heroic, disaster, etc. I tend to switch those on a chapter by chapter basis. If there are lyrics I can’t accomplish anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. V.M.Sang says:

    Interesting. I hadn’t heard of different coloured noise.
    On the subject of music, I can’t write with it on. I find I’m listening to it instead of writing, words or no words.
    An interesting thing occurred when we took our grandchildren to Kew Gardens, London. There was in installation called The Hive. It was like a giant skeletal beehive. It made a buzzing noise, but our grandchildren requested to move on as the sound was hurting their ears. We couldn’t hear the high-pitched sound they heard.


  8. This is interesting, Charles. I didn’t know there were differences between the background noises. Funny the things you discover when you’re doing research for something.


  9. Pingback: How Do Your Fictional Characters Get Around? by Traci Kenworth – A Dash of Words with Loleta Abi Romance Author

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