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14 August 2012

Music Psychology

I was listening to music in the car the other day and found myself becoming emotional as I listened to one of the songs. It made me think about the power of music and its connection to our moods.

The Psychology of Music

As musicians, we’re biased to believe that music has a powerful impact on our daily lives. Internet research suggests that we are not alone in the belief that music has a psychological connection.

The first internet search result was for Psychology of Music.  The excerpt from their website explains, Psychology of Music publishes peer reviewed papers directed at increasing the scientific understanding of any psychological aspect of music.”

There have also been numerous books written in recent years on the topic, including:

  • Psychology of Music: From Sound to Significance by Siu-Lan Tan, Peter Pfordresher, Rom Harré (May 11, 2010)
  • Psychology Of Music by Carl E. Seashore (Nov 4, 2008)
  • Music in the Human Experience: An Introduction to Music Psychology by Donald Hodges and David Conrad Sebald (Dec 10, 2010)
  • How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond by John Powell (Dec 2, 2011)
  • Music, Thought, and Feeling: Understanding the Psychology of Music by William Forde Thompson (Oct 27, 2008)
  • Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology (Oxford Library of Psychology) by Susan Hallam, Ian Cross and Michael Thaut (Jul 14, 2011)
  • The Psychology of Music / Edition 3 by Diana Deutsch (October 2012)

No PhD Required

Even without this substantiating documentation, you would probably agree that some music affects you on a cellular level. You feel it in your soul. Even without words, music can evoke an emotional response of joy, sadness, or another visceral response just by the intonation, cadence, or chord progression employed by the songwriter.

Intentional Use of Music

  • Advertising executives promote the use of music to evoke a specified response from current and potential customers. The goal of course is for the music to help facilitate an increased desire to purchase the product or service being advertised.
  • Music Supervisors for television and movies use music to support the plot. Sometimes the lyrics are important, but often times, it’s a certain melodic resonance that is sought.

Hypothesis Testing

Do a little experiment with yourself. On a day when your mood is even—not ebullient, not morose—play a favorite song. How do you feel after you’ve listened to the tune? Now play a song that you really don’t like. How does that song make you feel? Listen to a third song which you neither like nor dislike and consciously disregard the words. Only listen to the music. How do you feel? Now read the lyrics from that third song. Does your emotional state mirror the lyrics? 

Please share your “results” below.