Music Taste Explained!

Music Taste Explained!

Aly Guernsey, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered why you listen to all the trendy music, but when certain 80’s songs come on they become your favorites? Yeah, there is an explanation for that. The main factors contributing to music tastes, according to science and scientists, are as follows: culture, family influence, peer influence, internal preferences, and personality. 

Culture and geographical location affect music preference mostly by the beat or fundamental pieces of music. For example, if you live in Tennessee, you are more likely to enjoy country music, especially if you grew up there, because said location has an abundance of that kind of music. If you live in New Orleans, you are more likely to gravitate towards jazz. 

Family influence is another large component of music taste, which refers to childhood exposure. As children, our minds have not reached a higher stage of development, and therefore base likes and dislikes on emotions. A study conducted upon babies and their musical mothers somewhat proves this theory. The three babies were placed backstage while the mothers performed, and babies found more comfort with the music their own parents played. Another study, by Nim Tottenham, demonstrated this on 22 year olds. Tottenham went through the hits at the top of the charts when these people were 7 year olds. When these songs were played for the individuals, their emotional comfort was measured by biorhythms, and it was higher than any other music. Her reasoning was that the music was perceived more emotionally than cognitively at that young age. 

The peer influence centers around how a peer suggests music, and what is popular or trendy at that time. This is part of why each generation has a different kind of music that the other generations “don’t understand.” 

Our internal preferences are the most outwardly obvious factors of music taste. These include “rhythm, harmony, timbres, structure” and “lyrics.” (Timbre is the tone quality of a note, such as the difference between middle C on a piano and the same note on a guitar.) These preferences are exactly what they sound like, very straightforward. 

The last inclination in music taste is personality. In a study executed by Heriot-Watt University, people who enjoyed classical over any other music have high self-esteem, are creative and introverts. Jazz fans have the same results except they are extroverts, while opera listeners have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle. A different study in this line by University of Cambridge said that cognitive style could predict music taste as well. In short, if you score better in empathy than systemizing, you “might gravitate to straightforward, unpretentious singer/songwriter styles like country or folk” and “low energy tracks, poetic or emotional depth and sad characteristics.” Systemic thinkers are “more likely to enjoy intense music like punk and heavy metal” and “more complicated music with cerebral depth, positive emotions and animated, tense or high-energy qualities”(O’Bannon, 2018).

These are the ways we subconsciously choose our music according to science, but humans tend to be unpredictable sometimes. Maybe you just went through a breakup and listened to Taylor Swift on repeat; even though, you don’t normally listen to her at all. Science can’t easily explain that. 


Timbre definition: 

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