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The Science Behind Why You Like the Music You Like

Why Do You Like the Music You Like?

Think about the music you’ve heard, including the songs you love and, just as interestingly, the songs that you hate. Have you ever wondered why some songs resonate with you?

While science can’t give us a completely satisfactory answer to that question just yet, we’re learning more and more about how and why our brains respond to music.

First, it’s important to remember that a song is essentially a set of sound vibrations, so before we understand why we prefer certain songs, it’s important to understand why we prefer certain sounds. Your brain has a compartment called the auditory cortex that stores every sound that you’ve ever heard; the sound of chalk on a chalkboard, the ice cream truck’s ditty and the soundtrack of your favorite movie – it’s all in there. Your auditory cortex is entirely unique.

In an experiment conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, researchers set out to determine how the auditory cortex communicates with the accumbens nucleus, which is the part of your brain that gives you happy feelings when you’re participating in an activity you enjoy. The experiment showed that after a song has been filtered through the auditory cortex, it lights up the accumbens nucleus.

Since the auditory cortex is unique to the individual, then it makes sense that different sounds appeal to different people. It may also explain why musical taste is often regional – you’re exposed to a lot of the same sounds as the people in your geographic region, and therefore, you’re more likely to enjoy the same style of music.

Your Musical Memory Template

This connection between your auditory cortex and your accumbens nucleus and how it affects the way you perceive music makes sense, but obviously, your personal song preferences are even more complex.

According to a study conducted by neuroscientist Valerie Salimpoor, our brains create musical memory templates based on music we’ve heard in the past. When you listen to a new song, your brain decides whether that song fits any of the templates that it has stored. If the style or chord progression is similar to other songs that you like, your brain’s pleasure center lights up. If your brain doesn’t have a template for it – meaning it’s a style that you haven’t been exposed to – the song is much less likely to hold your interest.

Music and Cultural Identity

A fascinating aspect of our music preferences is how early the groundwork is laid. In the first six months of life, babies can follow the rhythm and syntax of any song. However, beyond those first few months, that ability becomes more limited in a process called “inculturation.” Children and adolescents tend to forge their own individual identities as they develop, and this includes their taste in music. At the same time, though, the musical styles that they’re exposed to early on become a part of who they are and are associated with comfort. In other words, the music that you enjoy and the music that your parents and grandparents enjoyed may not be too dissimilar.

A Unique Gift for Music Lovers

With Soundwave Art™ you can celebrate the music you love or give a great gift to the music lover in your life by turning any song into a piece of art. Prints, canvas, metal and wood options are available, making it easy to find a piece that suits any décor and personal preference.

Mike LaTour - Co-founder Mike LaTour  Soundwave Art
2019 Finalist - Digital Innovation In Art Award

I spent 17 years in the music industry and have always had a love of art. Combining music, sound, and art was a perfect fit.

I’d like to thank you for visiting us and invite you to have a look around. Express your creativity and record a sentiment that will last for generations!