How We Feel Through Songs

March 16, 2023


Phot Courtesy of IPR.


As I was scrolling through my phone, a video of JVKE talking about his latest song “Golden Hour” caught my attention. He was talking about 440 Hz, a key that “some guy” in the 1930’s decided all of music would be based around. However, his song wasn’t. I didn’t really care about that though, because as he continued talking, he decided to step outside of the 12 key 440 hz range and explained that there were numerous other keys that each evoked a certain emotion. 

That got me thinking; we all listen to different genres of music. Some of us tune into a playlist that has only one genre they like while many others formulate playlists that hold numerous. But most importantly these playlists are created, more often than not, to appease our mood at that time. Spotify, a hub that holds countless playlists tailored to every mood, is a great example of this. 

For example, many workout playlists are mostly hip-hop, rap, pop, or rock, because it holds a tempo that keeps your brain stimulated and builds up your momentum. I know that when I’m lifting I don’t want to hear Adele singing an emotional ballad–I don’t need another reason to cry other than the obvious pain that I’m feeling at the moment.

But then look at a different instance; what if you’re going out for a morning coffee and don’t want hard rock at 7 in the morning? Then you might walk into a cafe or Starbucks that plays softer music like indie or pop, or maybe even jazz if it’s that bougie. 

Yet there’s a common thread in all of this; all these beats make us feel a certain way…as always readers there is a reasoning behind this and it is in the name of science that we look for answers. 

I won’t indulge you with too much history but basically throughout the 1900’s, numerous scientists (Hevner, Wedin, Crowder, etc.) wanted to find a connection between music and the emotional impact it had on the listener. 

A paper, written by Gabreilsson and Lindstrom, summarizing the work of said scientists believed that “the difference between sadness and happiness…are known to be quite clearly distinguished through cues of tempo, pitch height, and mode.” For example happiness is achieved when musicians use a “faster tempi, high-pitch range, and a major rather than minor mode” whereas the reverse evokes sadness. 

Adam Sattler on Twitter: "Tag yourself in the descriptions of musical keys from Charpentier's 'Regles de Composition' (1682). I'm "gay and very warlike."" / Twitter
A chart showing the numerous emotions. Photo Courtesy of Twitter.

Furthermore, certain keys will invoke numerous emotions. So, art does have a way of literally making people feel a certain way! 

Hypnotic in a way? Sure. 

But it’s still unbelievable how the power of music has such a hold on our emotions. This is due to three parts of the brain; the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and the cerebellum. All these help trigger the motions you are feeling as you listen to your favorite song. 

Now you’ll know why “Golden-Hour” By JVKE makes you feel all fuzzy inside or why a song that’s more uptempo like “Levitating” By Dua Lipa makes you want to bop your head! 

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    Brian DonnellyMar 17, 2023 at 10:49 am

    What an amazing article. Music is a huge part of my life and I loved hearing your take on how it can effect our moods. Sometimes the right song can turn my entire day around. Thanks for sharing a few new songs with us!