What Can Music Psychology Teach Us?
Updated September 06, 2019
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Music. It's all around us. When you enter the grocery store, when you walk into the gym, and even when you walk out on the street, you may hear music. You probably have a type of music you prefer, and you have probably felt some emotions while listening to music.
It makes sense that in the field of psychology, music has been a subject of study. Music can make people feel emotions, motivate people to act, and it's an outlet for artists to express themselves.
In this post, we will look at music psychology and how music can change a person.
What Is Music Psychology?
Music psychology helps us explain how we behave when exposed to certain music. It also looks at how our minds process, create, and use music in our daily lives.
What makes music so interesting is that it's a unifier. Everyone from every culture experiences music. People all over the world listen to, create, and use music in various ways. Let's look at a few aspects of music.
Music and Emotion
What's quite interesting is how music can change your emotions or boost them. When you're going through a breakup, a song about heartbreak can help get your emotions out. A more upbeat song can help you mask your feelings. Everyone is affected by music and uses music to let their emotions out, in a different way. Music can be the reason why you cry during a sad scene in a movie. Putting funny music over something unfunny can make it humorous.
How does it work? Well, you can look at music as a kind of an illusion of the senses. Technically, music is just a series of sounds. However, because of how the music is sequenced, our brain puts the sound in order and gives the song a new meaning.
Often, a musician will have an audience in mind. For example, someone who makes gospel music knows that their music needs to make the listener feel a connection with God. Someone who makes country music knows that their audience wants a connection with things particular to that audience.
Music works by tapping into the primitive parts of our brain. These parts are usually associated with reward, emotion, and motivation. When you hear the notes of a song, your brain syncs up with the sounds of the music and can tell what the next beat will be.
Often, music is met with a reward. When you listen to a progressive rock song, you are expecting unique twists and turns throughout the music. When that happens, you feel like you're rewarded.
As you can expect, music can create imagery. Sometimes, the imagery is done through the lyrics. Other times, the music itself creates imagery. A ripping guitar solo can make you picture intense imagery. A slow song can make you picture calming water.
Now, let's look at the psychology of catchiness in music. Catchiness is when a part of a song, or the song as a whole, is easy to remember. The term "earworm" is often used to describe a song that you just can't seem to get out of your head. A song doesn't need to be good to be catchy, and people catch songs in many ways. Often, the simpler, the better. Songs with repetitive notes, a refraining hook, and other techniques such as alliteration are often catchy.
Often, a band will release their catchiest song as their single so that the people will remember that song and check out their other music. Some forms of music take multiple listens to appreciate their complexity, but a catchy song is intended to hook you with just one listen.
Extremely catchy songs will make you want to listen to the song repeatedly. Often, you just can't seem to get the song out of your head. It can keep you up at night. Our memory loves repetition, and popular songs are crafted with that in mind. It works. Some may claim that catchy songs cannot be classified as good music, because they are not complex enough, when considering lyrics and other aspects. However, catchiness works for those reasons exactly, for it is easy to remember and not complex.
In advertising, a catchy jingle or even a song is effective. A jingle will stay in a person's head and can make the person remember the product. Someone may forget about what the product does, but they may remember that catchy jingle at the end. Odds are, you have a bunch of jingles in your head from years ago. Advertising works like that.
While many different factors can make a song catchy, there are a few big ones. It seems like detailed phrases with high pitches, male vocalists, and tons of vocal effort make the perfect catchy song.
No matter what you think of catchy music, it does stick in your head, and there are plenty of music producers who spend millions every year figuring out how to craft that perfect song for the current generation.
Think about some catchy songs. What are some that come to mind? What memories do you associate with them? By thinking about this, you may come up with your criteria of what makes a song so catchy. Even though there are universal rules for catchiness, everyone also has their makeup of what makes a song catchy for their situation. Think about it a bit and see what you can come up with.
When it comes to counseling, some counselors use music as therapy. Music therapy may involve listening to music, writing music, or playing instruments to create music.
Music therapy can help people deal with emotional and social problems, and it's good for people of all ages and with all problems. It's good for people with disabilities, able-bodied people, and those who struggle to express themselves verbally.
Music as a coping mechanism has been around for a while. Even Plato and Aristotle studied music and recognized its therapeutic component. However, modern music therapy didn't begin until the 1960s, as doctors began to realize the healing power it could have.
Some forms of music are designed specifically to help people to relax or to lift mood. Ambient music has no rhythm or harmony and is often used to help people meditate and relax.
If you're overstressed or feeling anxious, music can help to calm you down. Music therapy is great for young people who want to express themselves, but also old people who are in pain or have Alzheimer's. Music can be used to trigger certain memories.
If you're interested in music therapy, or just therapy in general, talk to a therapist today.