Scroll Top

Music on Trial: “Mood” music may influence us more than we realize

In my last installment of Music on Trial, I revealed my undying love for film scores. What I failed to share was the reason why, so here it is: Movie music has more emotion than any other genre except country, perhaps, but that’s not my style, and I love to feel the music I listen to deep down inside. Cheesy, I know.

Or maybe it’s not. Listening to music for emotional reasons is something we all do. Some people listen to “We Can’t Stop” because it pumps them up and makes them happy, while others don’t because Miley Cyrus makes them angry. The idea that music can have an impact on mood is not new. The cool thing is that it is far more than just an idea – there are studies that show the effects music can have on mood. There are therapists who work primarily with music, and there are websites that can help you find music that suits your mood, or the mood you’d like to be in.

In “The Effect of Music-Induced Mood on Aggressive Affect, Cognition, and Behavior,” a 2012 study done at the University of Potsdam, Barbara Krahé and Steffen Bienek exposed subjects to pleasant classical, abrasive hardcore and techno and no music and then evaluated their responses to aggressive situations. Those exposed to classical music reported more positive moods and exhibited less aggressive behavior than those who listened to hardcore and techno. The report also cited a number of other studies with similar findings. While these findings are in a very controlled environment, they suggest an intriguing connection between music and mood.

This method of influencing emotion is something playlist and radio-lovers use every day. The practice of using music to guide feelings is not just for the untrained, casual listener, though: Music intervention is a widely practiced form of therapy, serving not only emotional needs but also cognitive, social and physical needs. Music therapy is not limited to listening, either. Some music therapies involve creating, singing and dancing to music.

At the 1997 Grammy Awards, Michael Greene, the CEO and president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said, “When we look at the body of evidence that the arts contribute to our society, it’s absolutely astounding. Music therapists are breaking down the walls of silence and affliction of autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.” Music therapy has been accomplishing these amazing things for many years now and will likely continue to do so.

Many of us are not looking to cure medical afflictions, but that does not mean that using music to impact mood is any less practical in our lives. According to the American Music Therapy Association website, healthy individuals can create music to relieve stress, listen to music to relax and use music to support physical exercise. In addition, taking time to learn about music and practice musical skills can help improve both communication skills and physical coordination.

You may already have playlist upon playlist of your favorite tunes, but if you would like to find new music that caters to your moods and activities, there are dozens of websites designed for just that purpose. I’m not just talking about Pandora, which is great but can be too specific and repetitive at times. Other websites, such as,, and, allow you to search for what you are feeling in music form, beyond just artists and genres.

Stereomood and 8tracks are playlist-based, giving you paragraph descriptions and tags that help you decide whether or not a playlist fits your mood. Moodstream and Musicovery are more customizable to your precise mood. They have sliders and graphs allowing you to select the energy and tone you would like to hear as well as how contemporary the songs should be.

So the next time you feel like listening to sleepy, digital, party, driving, chill or any other ‘mood’ of music, try out some new music that accommodates what is inside and let it take your head and heart where you want to be.

Related Posts