What is New Age in the Context of Music? (Explained)

Dive into the world of New Age music. Explore its history, distinct characteristics, and influence on home studio music production. Get tuned in now.

Are you ready to dive into the fascinating world of New Age music? Whether you’re a long-time fan or just curious about this captivating genre, join us as we explore what’s new in New Age. We’ll take a deep dive into the tranquil melodies, ethereal sounds, and spiritual vibes that define this ever-evolving musical landscape. So let’s embark on a harmonious journey together, where soothing rhythms and uplifting compositions await.

What is New Age in the context of music? It’s a genre that prioritizes peace, relaxation and creates atmospheres that seem out of this world, often using instrumental music and sounds borrowed from nature.

What exactly is New Age music?

New Age music is a genre that prioritizes tranquility, relaxation, and soothing soundscapes over the typical ‘hooks’ and rhythms of pop music. You’ll find it composed mainly of instrumental music, often combining acoustic instruments, synthesizers, and nature sounds.

A woman sitting on grass and meditating. Source: unsplash
A woman sitting on grass and meditating. Source: unsplash

What’s the difference between New Age music and ambient music?

Don’t get tripped up here. While the terms may seem interchangeable, they aren’t. Ambient music, stemming from avant-garde scenes in New York and London, pushes the boundaries of instrumental music. Think Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and Gavin Bryars.

On the flip side, New Age music usually marries folk harmony traditions with gentle atmospheres. Think George Winston, Vangelis, Yanni, and Enya. Oh, and don’t forget, New Age music often serves functional purposes like healing or underscoring guided meditations.

New Wave refers to a pop offshoot of punk rock, and it’s not connected in any way to New Age music or the New Age spiritual movement.

What’s the difference between New Age and New Wave music?

New Wave refers to a pop offshoot of punk rock, and it’s not connected in any way to New Age music or the New Age spiritual movement. Both styles were popular around the same time in the early to mid-’80s, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

What is new age in the context of music? (explained) | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

How did New Age music originate?

New Age music originated in the 1960s and early 1970s in Europe and the United States. It was influenced by a variety of genres, including electronic, ambient, folk, world, classical, krautrock, rock, easy listening, minimal, and progressive rock.

The genre was initially associated with creating artistic inspiration, relaxation, and optimism. It gained popularity as listeners used it for activities such as yoga, massage, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in different environments.

The exact definition of new age music is not well-defined, and it is often considered an umbrella term for marketing rather than a specific musical category. New age music can be both acoustic and electronic. Acoustic forms often feature instruments such as flutes, pianos, acoustic guitars, and a wide variety of non-Western acoustic instruments.

A woman holding a sound bowl. Source: unsplash
A woman holding a sound bowl. Source: unsplash

How has New Age music evolved?

Electronic forms of new age music frequently rely on sustained synth pads or long sequencer-based runs. Vocal arrangements were initially rare in the genre. Still, as it evolved, vocals have become more common, often featuring Native American-, Sanskrit-, or Tibetan-influenced chants or lyrics based on mythology such as Celtic legends.

Several artists and recordings played a significant role in the development of new age music. Tony Scott’s “Music for Zen Meditation” (1964) is considered to be the first new-age recording. Paul Horn, with his album “Inside” released in 1968, and Irv Teibel’s “Environments” series (1969-1979), featuring natural soundscapes and chants, were important predecessors. Steven Halpern’s “Spectrum Suite” in 1975 is also recognized as a key work that helped start the new-age music movement.

How has New Age music affected music production over time?

Diving into the sphere of music production, you’ll notice that the emergence of New Age music has left its mark. The table below provides a brief summary of how this genre has influenced music production, specifically within the context of home studio recording and audio engineering:

DecadeInfluence on Music Production
1970sAdvent of synthesizers ushered in a new layer of sound, fostering the growth of electronic music within the New Age Genre.
1980sIntegration of nature sounds became more prevalent, leading to innovative recording and mixing strategies.
1990sWide use of synthesizers and digital audio workstations in New Age music production, promoting technology development within this sphere.
2000s-PresentIncreased accessibility to music production tools due to the digital revolution, empowering more artists to experiment with New Age music in their home studios.
A timeline indicating the influence of New Age music on music production

What makes New Age music unique?

Here’s the lowdown on five key characteristics of New Age music that set it apart:

  1. It’s all about peace and tranquility. New Age music usually sticks to a major key with minimal harmonic shifts, creating a calming, peaceful mood.
  2. Atmospheric vibes are big in New Age. It often serves up a wash of sound that creates enormous atmospheric soundscapes.
  3. A mix of acoustic and electronic instruments. Artists vary their choice of instruments as per their tunes.
  4. It’s often used as meditation music. Many guided meditations have tranquil New Age music in the background.
  5. The use of nature sounds is widespread in New Age tunes.

If you’re thinking about New Age music in a home recording studio or music production setup, consider the following dos and don’ts:

Experiment with different instruments.Overcomplicate your composition with a plethora of sounds.
Prioritize a calming, peaceful mood.Ignore the importance of a nice room acoustic.
Layer sounds to create atmospheric soundscapes.Rush the production process.
Use nature sounds.Mix your track too loud.
Dos and don’ts of using New Age music

And, a bit of friendly advice from a non-expert to another: while you’re exploring New Age music in your home studio, remember that simplicity and tranquility are key. Don’t let the intricacies of your DAW or your VSTs distract you from your main goal: creating peaceful soundscapes that’ll relax even the most stressed listener—pretty much like Smooth Jazz FM on a Sunday morning.

Advantages and disadvantages of New Age music

New Age music, a genre characterized by its soothing and meditative qualities, has gained popularity over the years. While it offers several benefits to listeners, it also presents a few drawbacks worth considering. In this section, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of new age music.

Advantages of New Age music

New Age music offers several advantages that appeal to a wide range of listeners. Here are some of its positive aspects:

  • Relaxation and stress relief: One of the primary advantages of New Age music is its ability to induce relaxation and alleviate stress. The calm and gentle melodies, often accompanied by nature sounds or ambient tones, can help create a serene atmosphere, promoting a sense of tranquility and mental well-being.
  • Meditation and mindfulness aid: Many individuals find New Age music to be a valuable tool for meditation and mindfulness practices. The gentle and repetitive nature of the music can assist in focusing the mind, facilitating deep relaxation, and enhancing the overall meditation experience.
  • Sleep enhancement: New Age music is often used as a sleep aid due to its calming effect. Listening to soft, soothing melodies before bed can help relax the body and mind, promoting better sleep quality and assisting those who struggle with insomnia or sleep disturbances.
  • Creative inspiration: The serene and ethereal qualities of New Age music can inspire creativity and enhance artistic endeavors. Whether it’s writing, painting, or engaging in any other form of creative expression, the gentle melodies and ambient tones can stimulate the imagination and provide a soothing backdrop for inspiration.
  • Background ambiance: New Age music serves as excellent background music for various activities. Whether you’re studying, working, practicing yoga, or simply looking to create a peaceful ambiance, the soft and unobtrusive nature of the music can enhance focus and create a calming atmosphere.

Disadvantages of New Age music

While New Age music offers numerous advantages, it also has a few drawbacks that some individuals might consider. Here are a few disadvantages to be aware of:

  • Lack of variety and complexity: New Age music is often criticized for its repetitive and simplistic nature. Some listeners may find the consistent melodic patterns and minimalistic compositions lacking in complexity, which could lead to a sense of monotony or limited musical depth.
  • Subjective enjoyment: Personal preferences play a significant role in one’s enjoyment of New Age music. Due to its particular style and atmospheric qualities, not everyone may resonate with this genre. Some individuals might find it uninteresting or unengaging, preferring more energetic or dynamic musical genres.
  • Cultural appropriation concerns: New Age music occasionally incorporates elements from various cultural traditions. While this fusion can create unique and appealing compositions, it may also raise concerns about cultural appropriation or misrepresentation. Listeners should be mindful of the ethical implications surrounding the use of cultural elements within this genre.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch the video.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about new age music? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

Is New Age music popular only within certain age groups?

Not necessarily. While some might associate New Age music with older demographics, this soothing genre crosses age boundaries. Younger folks who are into meditation or seeking destressing melodies might find themselves vibing to a New Age track.

Can New Age music be mixed with other genres for a unique sound?

Absolutely! Many artists, like Mannheim Steamroller and Mike Oldfield, have successfully blended New Age music with other genres. Remember, music has no rules. If your instinct is telling you to mix it up, go off it!

Is New Age music only instrumental?

Not always. While a large portion of New Age music is instrumental, some artists also incorporate wordless vocals or chants into their compositions, adding greater depth and variety to the tracks.


Alright, fam, that’s the end of our musical journey through New Age music. And hey, in the spirit of this genre, let’s exit with a laugh, shall we? Why don’t some composers ever get sunburned? Because they always stay in the shade (A-sharp). Groan-worthy or a chart-topper in the pun world?

Anyway, did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know! I read and reply to every comment.  If this post hit the right notes, why not share the beat and pass it on to a fellow music enthusiast? For more harmonic content, swing by my blog on the regular. Thanks for hanging out with me today, and until next time, keep those creative chords strumming!

Key takeaways

Our walk through the New Age music landscape covered some pretty solid ground. Here are your key takeaways:

  • New Age music prioritizes tranquility and soothing soundscapes.
  • Ambient and New Age music, while similar, differ in their roots and composition.
  • New Age music has strong spiritual roots, often linked to the New Age spiritual movement of the ’70s.
  • The characteristics of New Age music include peace, atmospherics, a mix of instruments, frequent use in meditations, and incorporation of nature sounds.
  • New Age music has influenced music production and engineering, particularly in home studios.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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Edited by Nick Eggert, Staff Editor

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