Why is that song stuck in my head? - Deepstash

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Let's Begin

Music. Vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. 68% of adults aged between 18 and 34 years old reported listening to music every day, and the majority of their older peers also enjoyed music with the same regularity.

music is to feed our souls, but sometimes, short pieces of music can stuck in our ears or our heads, repeating itself over and over until you wish to tear your ears out. It’s Called an Earworm . But why? how do songs get stuck to your head, and more importantly… How do we get rid of them?


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Earworm, Sticky song syndrome, or most commonly Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI). At best, it means that the song is catchy. At worst, it means replaying over and over until you get annoyed of that song. The word “Earworm” is a calque from the german word “Ohrwurm” which means the exact same thing.

Over 90% of people are plagued by earworms once a week, and 23% experience them several times a day, most of them are either singers or music producers. Live music is more likely to stay in your head than recorded music, because it includes some visual elements that could help you remember the song


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Why do we have Earworms?

Why do we have Earworms?

again whenever you encounter these elements again.

When we listen to a song, it triggers a part of the brain called The auditory cortex, which makes the listener automatically fills the rest of the song, and to have that song in their mind they had to scratch that part of the brain so the song repeats itself over and over, here… earworm occurs.

Researcher Vicky Williamson says that our brains could also be triggered by experiences that trigger the memory of a song, it’s called the involuntary memory,


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such as seeing a word that reminds one of the song, hearing a few notes from the song, or feeling an emotion one associates with the song, all these may lead you to remember the song but in a way that shocks our brains so it gets stuck in our heads for a period of time.


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A Catchy song

A Catchy song

Musicologist Dr. Alison Pawley and psychologist Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen out at the University of London have done researches on what makes a song catchy, their conclusion was that there are four traits that make a song catchy:

  1. Longer and detailed musical phrases . The breath a vocalist takes as they sing a line is crucial to creating a sing-along-able tune. The longer a vocal in one breath, the more likely we are to sing along.
  2. A Higher number of pitches in the chorus hook . The more sounds there are, the more infectious a song becomes.


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Combining longer musical phrases and a hook over three different pitches was found to be key to sing-along success.

4. Male vocalists . Singing along to a song may be a subconscious war cry, tapping into an inherent tribal part of our consciousness. Psychologically we look to men to lead us into battle, so it could be in our intuitive nature to follow male-fronted songs.

5. Higher male voices with noticeable vocal effort . This indicates high energy and purpose, particularly when combined with a smaller vocal range (Freddie Mercury of Queen and Jon Bon Jovi).


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How to get rid of earworms?

Sometimes, earworms can be annoying, not the song but that non stopping repetition. Well… earworms usually disappear by itself, but a few techniques have been found to help.

  1. Listen to the whole song. Since earworms are usually only a fragment of music, playing all the song would stop the process of auto-completing the song and therefore getting rid of the earworm
  2. Replace it with another piece of music. I know this isn’t an efficient solution, you just replaced an earworm by another, but at least it’s a new tune XD.


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3. Chew gum! Chewing gum activates the motor cortex , which is used when you imagine music, almost as if you are imagining what it feels like to sing the song out loud. Chewing gum interferes with this process.

4. Play puzzles (Sudoku, Chess, Anagrams…), Scientists found that engaging memory in difficult work is an effective way of stopping earworms and reducing their recurrence.


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