Why we love repetition in music

Have you ever heard a short musical piece from a song, any particular rhythm, tune or beats and it kind of got stuck in your head? And then the next time you hear, you might have started humming or tapping to it. Slowly and steadily the more you listen to that part, the more you begin to like that piece. You may even you tube the entire song. And then hear it on loop. Does the question “why does this happen” ever cross your mind?

Well if it has now and has developed curiosity.. The answer is “Repetition in Music”.

What is “Repetition in Music”?

Repetition in music is the recurrence of sounds or sequences; it may be called a restatement of a theme. “It’s a principle of music to repeat the theme. Repeat and repeat again as the pace mounts.”- William Carlos.

Now, why does music so heavily tend on Repetition?

According to psychologists this is partly due to the ‘Mere Exposure Effect’, which means we tend to like things we’ve come across before. And partly due to ‘Semantic Satiation’.

What makes repetition so prevalent in music?

“Repetition changes the way we orient to sound”- Margulis. People are more drawn towards songs that have repetition, than the ones that do not have repetition. Repetition is the connection that holds different parts of music together. It connects each bit of music irresistibly to the next bit of the music that follows it. Repetition invites us as into music as imagined participants rather than as passive listeners. So after hearing a few notes, we’ve already imagined what comes next.

For example: If you’ve heard Justin Bieber’s song Fa la la, every time you hear the line “baby it sings to me like” you go “fa la la, fa la la ”.

Research has also shown that the more listen to a song, the more aspects we explore. Repetition is what makes any sound musical; when we listen to the same song over and over again, it forms an emotional connection.

For example: The recent edits on Instagram make people listen to song along with different pieces of videos showcasing different types of emotions. When we go through the edits twice or thrice, even we tend to attach our emotions with the song. Soon we start doing it on loop and even want to listen the full song. And in case we don’t know the song we ask about it in the comments.

Even though critics find repetition a short cut or a loophole to make a song famous, it is something which is used in all genres, across the globe for creating an interactive and distinctive musical experience.

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