by Tracey Lee
“Music was my first love
And it will be my last.
Music of the future
And music of the past.
To live without my music
Would be impossible to do.
In this world of troubles,
My music pulls me through.”
By John Miles
It’s the driving force behind our music radio shows.
And our lovely job as radio presenters is to sell it.
So what makes a listener…listen? They connect with a station that plays music they know and love (familiarity). Some like to listen to the radio to discover new music.
Music stations come in many, many different formats. One of the leading music categories is Pop CHR.
What makes a great Music Director? A highly tuned ear for music, quick at spotting good music/ hits and educated about the science of sound.
But this article is not about market research and auditorium music testing and why certain songs get top of the pile. It’s about you and your listener, the science of sound and why we like certain songs and how we can use that to our advantage to coincide with our on air personality.
Why we listen to music –
*Pass the time away
*to emulate or change our mood
*Music stimulates the brain
Each listener is different, they each perceive sound differently ; music and personality.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SOUND.
Why certain songs appeal to us more than others and trigger different emotions?
It’s all about Music Theory and science; the way our brain perceives different notes.
Music Theory – The Science behind the Sounds.
Don’t worry if you are a virgin to the musicological territory, I won’t dive deep into Appoggiaturas and Middle Cs. I’ll just keep it simple!…well kinda simple 😉
Consonant intervals (C) to Dissonant intervals (D) play a factor –
Intervals are recognised as either consonant or dissonant.
Consonant notes are pleasing, soothing, melodious, and agreeable to the ear which makes it easier to listen to them longer. The sound is comfortable.
Dissonant intervals are unsettling, unnerving and cause tension that the listener desires to hear released and resolved to consonant intervals.
Heavy Metal and Rap musicians often use the instability and tension evoked by dissonance to bond with their audience by creating a feeling that all is not great in the world and seem rebellious and alienated by utopian views of modern society.
The interesting thing I found during my research over the years was that many worldwide studies came back differently.
*One tribe who had never heard music – C + D EQUALLY
*Bolivia – D > C (the ratio of Dissonance was higher).
*Western – C > D
The results were blatantly obvious…we love songs with Consonant notes.
This would mean that we are not biologically trained to prefer certain sounds, it’s something that happens over time based on many elements ie…culture, experiences and location.
A 2009 study by Nicholas Hudson, a biologist at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization –
He used music compression programs to mimic how the brain absorbs audio information and analyzed a series of popular songs from various music genres –
classical, jazz, folk, pop, electronica, tango, rock, punk, techno.
*”I Should Be So Lucky” – Kylie Minogue – 69.5%(of its original file size.)
* “Theme from Bubbleman” by Andy Van – 68.5%
* Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” – 57.5%
* Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony- 40.6%
Results revealed –
Songs with the highest compression rates were rated as the most enjoyable to listen to.
That style of music has far more complex patterns and are not as familiar to the ears as in easy, comfy, popular songs. Our brain goes into overload to solve the puzzle ,works faster and exercises our poor little neural muscles!
There you go! “I’m just going to listen to some highly compressed tunes and have a brain work out, catch ya later!”
LET’S BUILD A BRIDGE!
Like anything, too much of a good thing can be irritating. We need a change of audio scenery and that’s why in some songs you hear Bridges –
A Bridge is that transition which happens after verse-chorus-verse-chorus (ABABCAB) typically in the last third of a song. The bit that sounds different from the verse / chorus,
adding contrast, emotion, depth and a certain ‘peak and release’ moment that slowly falls back into verse-chorus again.
I love a good bridge, it just breaks up the song and instills a little more flavour!
A ‘Middle 8’ is a bridge in the middle of a song usually with 8 bars.
Examples of songs with killer bridges:
Beatles – A Day In The Life
Metallica- Enter Sandman
Led Zeppelin- Stairway to Heaven
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
Elvis – Suspicious Minds ( which breaks the rules a little and doesn’t return to the chorus)
Bangles- Manic Monday
Huey Lewis & The News – The Power Of Love
Queen- The Show Must Go On
Pet Shop Boys- It’s a sin
Roxette- Listen to Your Heart
Bryan Adams- Summer of 69
Another reason we listen to certain types of music is ‘Connection’.
We like hearing something that relates to us…lyrics that express our feelings and encourage support, happiness, sadness, anger, grief, rebellion etc…
Interesting study if you want to delve deeper into the science of songs –
In 1989, Musicologist, Alan W Pollack literally ripped apart and dissected 28 Beatles songs.
His analysis is well worth a read and opens your eyes and ears to the geniuses that were Ringo, George, Paul and John.
He didn’t stop there though with his Beatles research! In 2000 the whole shabang; 187 songs and 25 covers.
PUTTING THE MUSIC TO WORK-
My current show now gives me the opportunity to explore sound from different eras and genres. This way I can develop my personality, get listener feedback and just have fun – On Purpose.
It ticks all the boxes.
It’s educational for me and my listener. It’s all about the music. I’m the personality driving the music, selling the music, selling the ‘station sound’.
I put time and research into constructing my playlist each week with music science in mind.
Also song placement is very important as is how each song transitions into the next. This creates a smoother flow between musc/idents/verbal links.
My aim is to shoot out earworms into the ether…the effects only happen later!
That listener could be going about their day – driving, collecting the kids, making the dinner, coming home from work and…BAM… ‘The Earworm’ …that catchy little song that just goes around their head, over and over and over…it’s just stuck in there inside their brain…they might even start humming or singing! GOTCHA!! Mission accomplished, they’ll remember where they heard it and like a boomerang, they’ll come back for more.
Now if you can drive those earworms with personality, you’re onto a winner and your station will reap the rewards.
MUSIC & PERSONALITY- HOW DO YOU COLLABORATE THE TWO?
How do you do that with a playlist that was programmed by your Music Director?
Simple, same thing! They’ve done all the hard work, music research, you just need to sell!
Sell your music well and they’ll come back for more and more…
WHY will they like that song? – Make the music relatable to your listener,
HOW will they feel? -Connect that song with your listener to create emotion for them!
WILL they listen for more? Use links, transitions, make that song come alive for your listener! Be creative, have fun and they’ll come back like that boomerang!
One of the companies I worked in when I was younger was a Supermarket chain called ‘Superquinn’. The owner was a man called Fergal Quinn and he was a marketing genius. I worked in the training with him, exploring customer service and developing ideas to make our customer come back for more. The campaign was called the ‘Boomerang Effect’
It works in radio too!!
Now , go out there and make some great radio!
About Me –
At 13, got my first taste of radio and been on an incredible journey ever since. I worked with all different formats of music from Hot AC, Soft AC, Rock to Dance Music, was a nightclub DJ too. Both these aspects of my career gave me a great insight into how people react to certain types of varied music played.
A job as an radio production manager opened my eyes to what sound looked like as a wave and a world of possibilities.
With all these tools under my belt, coming from a family of musicians and a lifelong fascination with sound, I started researching the subject in 2009, studying cymatics and psychoacoustics, the science of sound and why it matters! I’m working on my book, ‘Sound Matters’ which is packed with interesting discoveries. I presented my ‘Power Of Sound- Sound Matters’ video at the European Radio Show, Paris (Jan 2018) and the International Radio Festival, here in Valletta (Nov 2018) which got some amazing feedback including a Psychoacoustic Lab in UK, Cymatics study groups worldwide and Martyn Ware of the band, Human League / Heaven 17 who referenced me during his speech at the IRF.
Interestingly enough, it was the place I met Tony Prince,one of thee radio innovators of our time and currently the man behind United DJs Radio.
I present a show every Tuesday 11-1pm UK (repeat Saturday 3-5am UK) on United DJs www.uniteddj.com