How to use Gnaural and Gnaural2
Gnaural can play sound directly
through your computer sound system, or create a
file that you can burn to CD or put on your iPod/MP3 player. Either
will need earphones to actually experience binaural beats, as
the principle requires isolating the stimulus to each ear.
While there are many ways to explore binaural beats, the
standard "relaxation" approach is to listen to the sound while lying
eyes closed. The volume should be at a comfortable level, and the noise
just barely audible beneath the tones. If your headphones are connected
properly, you should immediately notice a gentle "wow-wow-wow" beat
from the mixing of the tones in your head. These
are binaural beats. Often when starting a session, I will do a
quick test to be sure my headphones are working properly: I simply
pull one side of the headphones off my head (Note: as of version 4, there is
a Balance control you can use for this too).
If the binaural beats
instantly dissappear, I know my headphones were connected properly. But
still hear a "wow-wow-wow" sound, it usually means my
headphones weren't plugged-in completely in to my computer or MP3
player, giving me a useless monaural beat in both speakers.
satisfied that all is functioning properly, you should simply relax and
let the binaural beats take your mind on a ride. Within 8
minutes, you're brain should be fairly well in-sync with the binaural
beats. It is my own observation that as my brain starts to synchronize
with the beats, it actually becomes hard to hear them, as if
my overall brain wave activity is cancelling them out. Which
is one of the reasons I like to place spikes -- short, 12-second
rise-and-falls in the schedule -- in my session schedules every 6
minutes or so. These help me keep my mental focus as my brain activity
slows-down, by gently nudging me periodically, and thereby keeping me
from drifting in to a sleep-like unconsciousness.
sessions generally last about 17 to 25 minutes,
although 8 minutes is probably enough to produce the desired effect.
you can design schedules any way you like, the default
session ("schedule") built in to Gnaural is a "relaxation" schedule,
and runs for around 74 minutes -- basically because that is the most
that will fit on a standard CD-R disk. While I have only rarely had a
session that long, in general, I've found it a whole lot more useful to
have a session provide more duration than I need, because I can always
just stop before it is done. But if a schedule ends too early, it can
feel a bit like getting woken-up in the middle of an interesting dream.
When Gnaural starts, by default
it looks for a file named "schedule.gnaural" [Note: older version called it
"gnaural_schedule.txt",with a structure explained here].
Windows, Gnaural looks for this file in the installation
in Linux, it looks in the
first-run. If Gnaural doesn't find the
file, it creates a
new one with a default
meditation-oriented schedule. This file is in XML format, and
plain-text editor. But it is complicated, so normally should only need
to do all necessary editing with Gnaural's built-in graphing editor
(the graph at
the lower-half of Gnaural's
) which makes it easy to
this file without ever having to look at it. For instructions on the
graphing editor, see here
those who need
version 0.4 and later schedule files manually, you can find more
information on their
I am not an expert on the brain or on what frequencies induce
mental states, so I can't offer any good advice on areas of
brainwave spectrum to explore. The generalities I use to make my
- The lowest end
of the brainwave spectrum is called the "delta" range, with frequencies
than 4 Hz. This is usually considered a “sleep”
- The "theta" range (between 4
and 8 Hz) is often associated with
deep states of meditation.
- The high end of
activity is called
the "beta" range, and extends from about 14 to 40 Hz.
“alpha” range (from 8 to 14 Hz) is often considered
a area of “high focus”, possibly good for reading
or for mental endurance while cramming for an exam.
My approach is to start with a beat
frequency in the alpha
around 12 hz, because I understand this is approximately the range
where an active, wakeful brain will go when the eyes are closed and
mind consciously relaxed. From there, I slowly let the beat frequency
slide downward toward the low theta range. I've found 5 minutes to be
enough time for me to get there, but it will probably take longer for
people who haven't done it before. The whole idea is to gently
brainwave activity, through binaural-beat entrainment, to the range of
frequency we want to explore. The binaural beat technique can't force
to happen; it can only facilitate. So with that in mind, the more
slowly you can descend, the better. The one caveat to that, though, it
that one can basically just "go to sleep" if not
occasionally perked-up. For this reason, I
include spikes in the schedule every 6 minutes or so, in which
I raise the frequency to around 7 or 8 hz in around 6 seconds, and them
back down again in 6 seconds. Where your "spikes" should be is
really a matter of what feels right; I know the spikes are too close
together when I am fully awake when they arrive. Contrarily, they are
too far apart when I simply go to sleep and wake up an hour later. They
are in the right place when they catch me just before the point where I
am no longer conscious of my participation in
the session. I have found that a lot of the "interesting stuff" happens
in the stage right in between wakefulness and sleep, know as
the hypnagogic (or alternately
You may want to experiment with mixing binaural beats with other
sounds (waterfalls, rain, waves, etc.). Gnaural can play many types of
sound files; simply add a new voice (Ctrl-j), choose "Audio File"
for voice type, then the "Choose Audio File" button to tell Gnaural
what to play. Once loaded, its volume and stereo parameters can be
treated like any other voice.
Gnaural and its source-code are free, released under the GNU
General Public License
hope that others might
care enough to contribute to furthering the implementation (to
participate with ideas, constructive comments, and code, contact
gnaural at users.sourceforge.net). Please use this
technique responsibly. For instance, don't use it while driving or
biking, etc. Reality "off-the-sofa" requires the full range of brain
activity. Also, while I may not have heard of any bad
the Binaural Beat technique, you might want to ask a clinician before
using it if
you have epilepsy, for example. I
can personally attest to having never had any negative results
over the many years I've used this technique, but I am by no means a
had a lot of requests for what are termed "presets" -- that is,
already-made schedules that serve some particular goal (like being very
awake or deep in trance). Problem is, I don't think one can really know
if a particular schedule does what it states without lots of people
trying them and reporting back. I offer some experimental
ones of my own design here (NOTE: those
are for version 0.4 or higher of Gnaural only; for version 0.3 and
earlier see here)
, to get the
ball rolling, so to speak. Save them to your hard drive and open them
Gnaural. Feel free to email me your own experiments.
As mentioned, Gnaural now has a visual interface to
edit/create Schedule files without the tedium of hand-editing text
files. The actual interface is the graph
on the lower half of the application; by clicking in this area, you can
add, delete, move, and edit data points. The approach is mouse based:
- Left button: creates,
selects, moves data points
opens an editable dialog for the data point
button: deletes data points
changes made to the graph can only be saved and/or sent to the binaural
beat generator after selecting "Apply" from the "Graph" menu (keyboard
Some random tips to get you
- Double-clicking creates
a new data point
across data points selects them
more to a selection by holding Shift and
selecting more points. Likewise, subtract from a selection by holding
points can be moved en masse by dragging any single selected point
- Use Shift with the
Arrow keys to precisely move selected points
the Delete key deletes points, but not the time associated with them.
To also delete time, press Shift-Delete
Ctrl-X, and Shift-X can copy selected data points. Ctrl-V will paste
- Delete (on your keyboard) will
erase any selected data points. Shift-Delete will also delete the
durations associated with the data points
will undo the previous operation; Ctrl-Y will redo
data-points beyond the right-edge of the graph will extend the duration
of the schedule
- Dragging data-points
above the top edge with recalibrate the graph's scale to
contain the point
- Remember to press
Ctrl-L ("Apply") after making
changes to the graph; otherwise, they can't be saved or run in Gnaural
progress through a schedule is indicated by the green line on the
graph; if you don't see a green line, it means you haven't pressed
Ctrl-L since making changes
(Ctrl-V) will paste
the time BEFORE the clump of datapoints as well as the time they
contain (so as to precisely place a pasted area over it's parent area)
How can I put a data point higher that the 12 hz at the top of the graph [visual editor]?
quick way: Using the visual editor ("the graph"), click-and-drag
any point you see higher than the top of the
graph and then let go -- the graph will recalibrate to some arbitrary
value higher than the default 12 you see.
The precise way: right-click
on any data point to bring up the data point's dialog box, then set the
exact Hz value of beat frequency you want (specifically in the
'Starting Frequency' entry in the box). The graph will immediately
recalibrate to contain this new point if it is
How can I delete a data point?
Click the middle
button (the "Scroll Wheel" on most
mice) over a data point to delete it.
How can I delete all the data points at once?
to the menu "Graph" and select "Clear."
When I change the graph, it doesn't affect my schedule. What's wrong?
Whenever you've made changes to the
which you want to keep and/or run, select 'Apply' under the
Graph menu. This makes whatever you see on the graph become what
Gnaural will run. If you want to save those changes to your
current gnaural_schedule.txt file, select "Save" under the File menu --
beware, this immediately saves to
the whichever schedule file Gnaural had indicated in the Program Status
window before you had hit "Apply."
I can't open the dialog box for the last data point on the right of the graph. Why?
it is really the first data point, due to the "wrap-around"
loop-able approach used by Gnaural. To illustrate, if you move that
last data point up or down, the first data point will moves right along
So just edit the dialog for the first point.
I want to make a new schedule, and I want it to be 25 minutes long. How can I do it?
to the menu "Graph" and select "Clear." Click (left-click, that is)
anywhere in the middle of the graph to produce a new data point.
Right-click on the new point, and in the dialog that pops-up, set
"Event Duration" to 0 (that's zero). Then right-click on the first data
point (the point furthest to the left) and set the entry "Event
Duration" to 1500 seconds (that's 25
What is the base frequency for?
make a radio analogy, the base frequency can be thought of as the
frequency" for the beat frequencies -- essentially, a means of
delivering audio information that is in it's natural state
our range of hearing. You can pick whatever you want, but in general,
it is probably most effective to use something between 110 hz and 300
Long answer: Humans, for all
practical purposes, can't hear sounds below 20 hz. But
it is not unusual in a Gnaural session to deliver beat frequencies less
than 5 hz. The solution offered by the
binaural beat approach is to deliver the "sub-audible"
information via the difference between two "audible" tones. The base
frequency you choose is basically arbitrary. But in practice,
I've found that
if the base frequency is too low, the range of the modulating beat
vary the percieved loudness of the base frequency too much
(literally because the modulated base frequency on one side of your
headphones will be driven either further in or out of our
threshold of hearing range, thus making one side of your headphones
sound louder than the other). And on the other side, I've read
that if you set the base frequency too high (over 1khz), our auditory
system simply can't process the beat frequency properly. I tend to
use something between about 110 and 220 hz. I
formerly used frequencies common to our musical scale (in
the off-chance it might give me perfect pitch!), but now
I have the opposite view: I like to use frequencies I am
unlikely to hear alone in everyday contexts.
Why don't you build more default schedules in to Gnaural?
answer: The default one built in
to Gnaural is the only one that I've used and refined long enough to
feel comfortable recommending as a reasonably valid
of implementation of the binaural beat principle. I probably
build in any more default ones, but I do hope that people will
share their own schedules. For now (until the idea hopefully catches),
people can post the text of any schedules they are finding useful in
the Open Discussion Gnaural forum
Long answer: I've been informed that other binaural beat
provide more internal schedules, often with titles that target
particular mental states. While I encourage people to explore those
subjective ideas and share their own schedules, Gnaural itself was
designed with a different philosophy. The underlying design focus
behind Gnaural (and going all the way back to BrainWav, the first DOS
version from the early 1990s) was to be more like a "laboratory grade"
tool, in which a generic functionality is provided that doesn't incline
or emphaize any hypotheses beyond the ground covered
the Oster paper of 1973. However, by no means
that design-focus meant as a limit. If anything, I hope it made it more
flexible as a general tool for exploring all potential uses of the
phenomenon -- especially the idea that binaural beats can be used to
influence mental states.
And as to why I felt a need to "stick within the literature"
: it was
not because of any particular dislike claims of others regarding
binaural beats. Almost the opposite: it seems to me that a growing gap
between application claims and scientific corroboration has
the subject of binaural beats almost "controversial" in the scientific
community. Which in turn has disinclined scientific investigation
in to implications of a neurological effect established in the
literature over 30
years ago. From a scientific point of view, being able to control
brainwave activity with a simple, non-invasive means would appear to
have immense potential for application. Personally, I'd like to see the
sides -- serious scientific investigation and grass-roots empiricism --
benefitting from each other's strengths rather than working at-odds.