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How Music Affects You Emotionally?

We all perceive one music differently, and we perceive another the same. Our emotions, associations, and mood are to blame. Let’s see how music affects our emotions.

How Music Affects You Emotionally?

Physically or emotionally


Music occupies an important place in our hearts, and many people do not even imagine life without it. She is able to cheer us up in difficult times and remind us of happy moments. Some people see their personal history, which immediately resonates with their souls.

The sensations that we experience when listening to music differ from each other.

If we had to answer the question of how the sound of a tuba differs from the sound of a flute, then we could say something like that: the sound of the flute is high and gentle, and the sound of the tuba is low and rough. From the point of view of musical theory, we would define these sounds as different in pitch, timbre, and loudness.

Research conducted by record companies in the 60s and 70s proved that music affects the listener in the same way from a physical point of view: for this reason, crowds of people at festivals react to the same song in the same way. However, what about emotional perception?

Musical color


Rimsky-Korsakov perceived the coloring of different tonalities in colors characteristic of various natural phenomena. About the tonality in A major, he said: “This is the tonality of youth, spring – and not early spring, with ice and puddles, but spring, when lilacs bloom, and all the meadows are strewn with flowers; this is the tonality of the morning dawn when the light is not almost dawning, the whole east is already purple and gold. “

The coloring of the key in E-flat major – “dark, gloomy, gray-bluish; tone of cities and fortresses ”. F major – “clear green, pastoral; the color of spring birches ”. A minor – “pale pink; it is like a reflection of the evening dawn on a winter, white, cold, snowy landscape. ” B major – “gloomy, dark blue, with a steel, perhaps even a grayish-lead tint, the color of ominous thunderclouds.”

G minor – “without a certain color, has an elegiac-idyllic character.” A-flat major – “grayish-violet, has a gentle, dreamy character.”

The Theory of Musical Equilibration


So how does music affect us? Bernd and Daniela Willimeck, music theorists, answer this question.

Music cannot convey any emotions, it can only evoke them if the listener has any associations with it.” This happens when watching a movie when the viewer starts to worry about the main character.

These German researchers developed the Theory of Musical Balancing (die Strebetendenz-Theorie), which provides the first viable hypothesis about the emotional effects of music, offering important contributions to psychological research. In simple terms, their theory states, for example, that a minor key does not sound sad by itself; instead, the person listening to the music identifies with a process of will which conveys the idea, “No more.” Identifying with the content of this will is what fills the minor key with a sense of sorrow.

To date, scientists have tried unsuccessfully to establish a direct connection between music and emotion. However, musical balancing theory explains the emotional impact of music as a general process in which the listener identifies himself with the content of the will encoded in the music. The theory of musical balancing creates a structure in which even complex and special processes of will can be depicted musically, based on the many variations that result from harmony, both during their reproduction and in anticipation. Other musical parameters such as tempo, timbre, and volume also play a role. The Theory explains why a minor chord played at increasing volume does not seem sad, but rather angry: it expresses the same message, “No more,” but now appears to be full of energy and aggressive. Hearing this chord at a louder volume is similar to identifying with a person loudly screaming “No more.”

To obtain statistical confirmation of the emotional impact of harmonies, the researchers conducted extensive tests with over 2,100 participants from four continents; Members of the famous Vienna Boys’ Choir and the Regensburg Cathedral Choir also took part. The tests showed an astoundingly high correlation of 86%, confirming that some harmonies are preferred over others in certain contexts, a phenomenon that is determined and explained by theory. For example, a diminished seventh movement is ultimately associated with a sense of despair, while an enhanced chord conveys a sense of surprise. In addition, Bernd and Daniela Willimeck provide many examples from the music literature that show that over the centuries composers have deliberately used these harmonies to evoke certain emotions.

In Music and Emotions – Research on the Theory of Musical Equilibration, they base their arguments on the musical repertoire itself, and their precise analytical descriptions of harmony are compelling as an accepted parameter for making music.

How Music Affects You Emotionally?


Anneli Haake also notes that it is important to understand the difference between how music evokes feelings and what emotions it expresses. For example, to make a person feel sad, a sad melody alone is not enough. The opposite is also true – a person will not begin to rejoice, barely listening to a cheerful melody, since he may have his own, even negative, associations with this song (for example, breaking up a relationship with a loved one).

Ethan Hein, professor of music at Montclair State University, says the perception of music depends entirely on the cultural background of the listener. There is hardly a melody that will make the same impression on everyone. As an example, Ethan recounts his story: “I really liked the Hebrew tune Der Gasn Nigun, which I thought was a funeral song. Later I found out that it was a wedding hymn. “

In Western culture, it is believed that if a song sounds in a major tonality, then it is funny, and if in minor tones, it is sad. The same goes for rhythm. A fast pace is associated with some kind of activity – running, jumping, enthusiastic dancing. A slow pace is associated with sleep, rest, or fatigue.

Also, the level of “emotionality” depends on musical intervals. Lucky intervals are the most consonant and are based on simple proportions – octaves (2:1), fifths (3:2), major thirds (5:4). However, all this, again, depends on the cultural background of the listener.

This is due to the fact that, in general, the musical tastes of different peoples of the world were formed independently of each other. “For Western listeners, Korean music sounds sad, but for Koreans themselves, it sounds festive and beautiful,” said composer Michael Sidney Timpson.

A Circumplex Model of Affect


To explain the influence of Western music on a person, the circular model of James A. Russell is well suited – this is the so-called model of emotional experience, where emotions are arranged in the following sequence: pleasure (0 °), excitement (45 °), activation (90 °), distress (135 °), displeasure (180 °), depression (225 °), drowsiness (270 °), relaxation (315 °). Check out A Circumplex Model of Affect.

How Music Affects You Emotionally?

Vertically – this is the scale of “emotion intensity”, horizontally – the scale of “valence”

It turns out that fast music has a high intensity, and slow music has a low intensity. As for the keys, the major key is the positive valence, and the minor keys are the negative

Music can send us on an exciting adventure and tell our own story. It can intertwine consonances and rhythmic syncopations that tell of peace and well-being, which will replace various dissonances that express a certain conflict.

Music accompanies us all our lives in sorrow and in joy. Thanks to her, people for many centuries are happy, sad, resting, or concentrating their attention on what they love.

Don’t forget that the SoundAudio site provides a library of background music to download and use. You can always find the right music for your project.

Have a good mood!


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