Music can have a very powerful effect on the human brain. Songs we know can stimulate memory and emotions like few other things in this world and even songs we’ve never heard before can cause us to feel happy–or sad.
And, while some of your reaction may have to do with the lyrics, much of that has to do with the way the song is composed.
Grammy-nominated Producer/Composer No’a Winter Lazerus explains how he does this. “If I’m looking to brighten a mood, I might use more major chords and instrumentation that feels safe, hopeful, joyous…For something darker, I’ll perhaps use clashing instruments or strong bass. For something sad, it can be as simple as a lone instrument played with a lost or lonely melodic arc.”
If music can make you feel certain emotions, could it be used to help you perform better when you train? Absolutely! One study, led by Dr. Christopher Capuano of Farleigh Dickinson University followed a group of moderately obese women for six months. The women followed a 1,200–1,500 calorie diet and walked three times a week. Half were permitted to music of their choice during their workout and half were not. Those who listened to music lost an average of 16 pounds and were much more likely to adhere to their workouts. Those who didn’t lost an average of 8 pounds and were only 68% (as compared to 98%) adherent to their exercise routine. Now the weight loss numbers aren’t dramatic, but considering those who listened to music lost, on average, twice as much weight as those who didn’t, it might be worth popping on a playlist during your next workout.