Why does music affect us emotionally

Fascination with music - this is how music affects people

Music! Hardly anyone can do without them. It makes you sad, makes you happy, stimulates and calms you. Clearly, music is an emotional thing. And as it is with emotional things: there are always scientific disciplines that want to explain how things work. Numerous studies therefore deal with the nature of music, its structures and why it affects people the way it does.

One thing is certain: music affects the whole body. It penetrates through the ear into the brain and sets off complex reactions there: from influencing the pulse to tingling in the stomach area, to tears and joy. Why it is, how humans came to music in the first place and whether musicians are actually more intelligent - there are many and not always clear answers to these questions.

Music influences us - take the test

We rarely think about it, but when we do, for a change, we get interesting results. Music is more than just radio entertainment, it can control our perception. So we start with a test. Just try it on yourself.

Which music suits this scene?

Imagine the following movie scene:

A long highway, desert left and right. The sun goes down on the horizon. A road cruiser drives lonely on the asphalt, it gets smaller and smaller and at some point disappears completely into the sunset. The film is over. So far so good.

Now find the right music for the scene:

How about a cool rock number in the style of "Born to be wild"? The cool ending to a cool movie. Or would you rather hear soft tones? A singer with an acoustic guitar and a rough husky voice sings a sad song about the love of his life. The car disappears in the sunset without him ever seeing her again. You shed a tear. The film is over.

The scenes couldn't be more different. And why is it? In the music, of course.

Music in the stomach and in the head - heart and brain

Music creates emotions. It puts you in a good mood, makes you melancholy, stimulates or calms you down. The fact that and how music influences our mood is due to the interplay of various factors.

Why music and heartbeat go well together ...

The first factor reduces a piece of music to its essential substance. When the melody and harmonies are faded out, the basic beat remains.

This is how BPM is graphically illustrated

Without it, the beat, a piece of music would tend to appear contourless. Pieces with a fast basic beat are stimulating, slower songs seem sedate and calm. If a song has more than 80 beats per minute it is considered to be alive, with less than 70 beats per minute it is perceived as calm and calming. Why this is so has to do with a very fundamental issue: namely, our own heartbeat. A normal human resting heart rate is around 70 beats per minute. So we unconsciously associate this beat with calm. If the basic beat gets faster, we associate this with excitement, tension, energy or movement, because the heartbeat also gets faster in joyful, eventful or physically demanding situations. Strictly speaking, the fact that a person brings the beat of a song into connection with the heartbeat is not actually active knowledge, but rather an unconscious, yet decisive reaction to what is heard. Practical: everyone has their own emotional metronome built in.

Stayin Alive beats help with resuscitation

The beat of a song can help and influence us in different life situations. It is no coincidence that we meet runners in the forest with headphones that play their personal jogging playlist. Various studies show that a beat of around 120 beats per minute reflects the runner's pulse and enables them to run smoothly. In addition, a beat of more than 70 BPM is generally stimulating and provides the necessary momentum when running. Lists with suitable songs for jogging are available on various portals on the Internet.

Sounds strange, but it's like this: Sometimes a beat can actually save lives. A campaign by the American Heart Association recently pointed out that the Bee Gees song "Stayin‘ Alive "with 103 BPM offers the right heart rate for chest compressions. So if you get into the situation of reanimating a person, with this song in your ear you can find the right rhythm for the resuscitation and keep a clear head. The general rule is: first dial an emergency call. Then reanimate until help comes. Ideally in this alternation: press 30 times, ventilate twice, press 30 times and so on.

Bebop is full of beats

Even if it's not about life and death, the beat is a decisive criterion for many styles of music. The hallmarks of Speedcore, a variant of the slower hardcore techno, are more than 250 BPM and the high speed of the pieces, which put the audience (admittedly partly with the help of other substances) into an intoxicated state. Various jazz pieces or pieces of bebop are also characterized by a rapid beat, which, in contrast to the mostly artificially generated beat of speedcore, is still "handmade". Nevertheless, the increase in the number of beats comes to an end at some point. From 1000 BPM, beats are no longer perceived individually by humans. The blows act - similar to the individual images in a film, which appear as a liquid film from a certain frequency - on people like a coherent sound.

Why music is like sex ...

Music creates emotions

Music is not only touching the heart, but first and foremost has to do with the head. In fact, with our brain. Like all other noises, music first reaches our ears in a very profane way in the form of sound waves. Sound waves are basically nothing more than vibrating air. In the ear itself, the mechanical stimulus triggered by these waves is converted into nerve impulses. The ear already has the ability to recognize the specific frequencies of sounds. The sound is already pre-sorted in the ear, the respective impulses are directed to different areas of the brain depending on the sound. Speaking voices, for example, are processed differently than the clink of glass or a piano melody.

Music and rhythm make it into the limbic system, among other things. That means exactly where our emotions arise without our being able to influence them. So before we even know that music is playing, our brain has already connected an emotion to it. So if we get goosebumps spontaneously with some songs, it's because of this uncontrollable impulse generator. By the way: The fact that we like music so much may also be due to the fact that it stimulates the same areas in the brain as sex.

To put it simply: Music is so diverse

So music and sound initially have an unconscious effect on us - without us being able to specifically think about it. Last but not least, this fact is used by advertising, business branches and film music to create moods and to control the emotions of viewers and customers within fractions of a second. Of course, that doesn't mean that with the right music we would become mindless consumers. Because in addition to the limbic system, the nerve impulses also reach areas of the brain that actively deal with the musical input.

That we then consciously perceive a sound as a sound is the task of auditory cortex, the hearing center in the cerebral cortex. In addition, there are other areas distributed over the brain that become active when listening to music and take on various tasks. After all, even with an average piece of music, it is not only necessary to distinguish between individual tones, but also harmonies, rhythms, timbres or instruments.

Both halves of the brain process music differently

The left hemisphere is more specialized in subjecting music to an analysis and differentiating between its details. The areas that are otherwise responsible for processing speech are particularly active. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, processes music as a whole and recognizes higher-level structures. In addition to the passive recording of music, areas in the brain whose task is movement coordination are also activated. Listening to music is obviously linked to a corresponding motor activity (e.g. dancing, rocking feet, etc.).

Of course, not every brain reacts the same way. How music is perceived depends on the individual. The brains of musicians or experienced listeners, for example, react differently to music than those of people who deal with music in less detail. Here, regions that trigger emotional affects are more active, while musicians perceive melodies and songs more analytically.

One thing is certain: like hardly any other phenomenon, music challenges and promotes the brain in a complex way, as the most diverse areas are activated.

Did you know? People who are under Amusia suffer, can not distinguish tone sequences, harmonies, rhythms, melodies despite actually functioning sensory organs, cannot recognize "correct" tones and "wrong" ones. The ability to produce the desired tone sequences oneself is also often lacking. Amusia can be congenital or as a result of a stroke, if the corresponding areas of the brain are damaged. How exactly amusia expresses itself varies from case to case. It is one of the auditory processing and perception disorders.

Music and intelligence - what is it?

Does music make you smarter?

When listening to music and also making music, the whole brain is challenged. Music was therefore long suspected of making us smarter. This is not entirely wrong, but the so-called Mozart effect has been refuted in recent years. The term "Mozart effect" was used to describe the following phenomenon: In a study in 1993, some students were exposed to Mozart music, other subjects in the test group were not. In the following tests, the students who had previously listened to Mozart did better. The conclusion was therefore that music promotes intelligence or the spatial thinking skills that are in the foreground in the test. Ultimately, however, further studies in the following years showed that the positive effect was only short-term and that similar results can also be achieved with other activities with a positive connotation (such as drinking coffee or reading an exciting book).

Music strengthens the sense of community

Although the enjoyment of classical music does not suddenly turn the listener into an intelligence beast, the effect of music on a neural, emotional and social level cannot be denied. Music not only has an effect on listening, but above all on people who actively make music. Early musical education in children promotes concentration, language skills (language and understanding of music are closely linked) and motor coordination. Making music in groups also has a positive effect on social behavior. And not just with children. Music also has a similar community-building effect on adults. This can partly be explained as follows: When making music in an ensemble, the body releases special hormones that actually make people more social, strengthen the emotional bond and through which we have greater trust in the other. By the way, the released hormone oxytocin is the same hormone that is responsible for a close mother-child connection that is released during lovemaking (that brings us back to the topic) and that is generally produced after pleasant stimulation through smells, touch or sound .

Music and walking upright - Why we can sing

In order to be able to use the positive effect of making music, an instrument is not absolutely necessary. Everyone can create music and melodies themselves without any tools. Namely in the form of singing. And at this point it should be noted: It doesn't have to be opera arias or rock songs. Everyone can sing! Just not everyone dares to do it. But this is another story.

Singing is first and foremost about the ability to produce sounds. We should really be happy more often about the fact that we can achieve this at all. After all, a person's ability to speak and sing are among his most important skills. Just think about it if you get annoyed by a cell phone chatterbox next time you take the train: It's nice that we can talk! The fact that this ability developed was one of the most important starting points for transforming us from speechless great apes into modern humans - who can use cell phones, for example.

Revolution and evolution - singing and speaking developed through walking upright

It all started with walking upright. Together with a stretched body, the position of the larynx changed, the speaking apparatus developed further and revealed unimagined possibilities. How and why language and song ultimately developed, there are no clear statements about it. One assumption of how music became an integral part of our culture relates to the benefits an early homo sapiens enjoyed from singing and moving women in mating matters. As in the animal kingdom, sounds and noises were presumably used as courtship rituals. If you are confronted with the ecstatic teenagers in front of the stage of Justin Bieber or One Direction, the effect of singing male specimens can perhaps not be completely dismissed. It is also interesting that there is music in all cultures. Another original function of song and music is probably lulling the offspring to sleep. Lullabies are believed to have been around for many millennia and all over the world.

Singing has positive effects on the body

Even today, singing is considered a completely natural means of good defenses and a better mood. Singing has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. In contrast to guitar, drums and the like, when singing, the instrument is located directly inside us, the resonance body is ourselves. Many complex reactions have to take place in the body in order for a tone to be generated and maintained. Various mechanisms are activated when singing, from activating various muscle groups to changing, deeper breathing and more upright posture. And mostly automatically. Numerous studies have shown that people who sing regularly are healthier.

So whether as a lure at the bridal show, as a lullaby or simply to have fun: Singing is good. So, just start and sing your favorite song - it usually doesn't hurt. Speaking of favorite song. Do you have any idea where your music preferences come from?

Where does the taste in music come from and can one argue about it?

About taste can not be argued. So in principle yes, but you don't get any result. After all, taste and preferences are subjective. Also in terms of music. There are various theses about why this is so and how our taste in music develops. There does not seem to be an unequivocal answer, rather various factors can play a role here.

One can (not) argue about taste in music

On the one hand, taste in music has something to do with shaping, with what is known and familiar. We automatically find songs, styles, line-ups, melodies that are familiar to us good in other pieces as well. The parental home certainly plays a role in musical socialization. Which music is heard there, whether music is heard at all and how often music is heard, these are important factors in the musical character and in the question of which music seems familiar and known to us. By the way: the younger children are, the more open they are to unknown or different types of music. Ideally, schools and parents should try to ensure that children maintain this openness.

In addition to the familiarity factor, music and musical taste have another particularly important quality. "Tell me what you hear and I'll tell you who you are." Because music creates community. Music tastes can unite. And so in the most important phase of social orientation, namely puberty, a taste in music that is independent of the parents' home develops. What do friends hear? What's hot Which songs and bands are cool? Youth is considered to be one of the most formative phases in terms of musical taste, while the cornerstone, as I said, is laid earlier. Friction points between offspring and parents usually arise when the distorted guitar drives the mother crazy or the beat makes the glasses in the closet jump.

The beat determines whether a song is calming or stimulating

But as already mentioned, there should be no arguing about taste in music.That being said, music preferences are rarely set in stone. Experience has shown that taste in music is constantly developing - with some more, with others less. You learn to appreciate new things, combine certain music with certain living conditions or, as in puberty, possibly adapt to the musical preferences of a new social environment.

Music for stupid? One study even claims that a person's taste in music allows conclusions to be drawn about their intelligence. Particularly clever contemporaries are said to have a preference for Beethoven, U2, Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Guster, Counting Crows or Sufjan Stevens. According to a study by the website "Musicthatmakesyoudumb" ("Music that makes you stupid"), it seems to be in a worse position for the intelligence of people who like to listen to Nickelback, Beyonce, Lil ‘Wayne, Justin Timerberlake or Aerosmith. Of course, it remains questionable whether this thesis is really meaningful. However, it is definitely enough to tease fans of Nickelback or Beyonce with it.

One thing is certain: listening to music should be fun! Of course, it can't hurt to stay open to new ideas. But nobody should have to hide when it comes to their musical preferences. So, just turn up Beyonce, Helene Fischer, Beethoven, Motörhead or whoever and have fun with it.

Last but not least - are musicians better people?

Admittedly, the question is pretty stupid. However, it actually appears more frequently on the Internet. Are musicians the better readers? Are musicians the better journalists? And most importantly: are musicians the better lovers? Something like that, it goes non-stop. This is nonsense, of course. As in all areas for which you need special skills, musical talent or ability naturally stands out. Musicians often have special skills. But athletes have that too. And craftsmen. And dentists. Almost everyone can do something that the general public cannot. The fact that music is often perceived as something special is probably due to the above-mentioned fact that it is not just a "craft" that one can learn more or less, but that it uses emotions like hardly any other form of expression and feelings are linked. However, this fact does not make a musician more intelligent or better than others. Of course, it can't hurt to live out your musicality or encourage children in this regard. However, the same applies to other hobbies and skills. Sports, manual labor, writing stories, trying out recipes and many other activities - they all challenge and encourage us in certain areas.