Tips & Tricks

How Does Music Affect Your Mood?

What’s the first song that comes to mind when you feel happy? How about sad, anxious, or angry?

Chances are, specific types of music or genres immediately come to mind for each emotion. When you’re happy, you may hum a cheerful tune or dance to an upbeat melody. When you’re stressed, a slower, calming track might fit the bill.

Why is that? 

It's because the kind of music you listen to has a powerful effect on your mood and emotions. And not just in a subjective, "I like this song — it makes me feel good" kind of way. There’s actual science behind how music affects our brains and emotional state.

The science behind music and mood

The impact of music on mood regulation goes far beyond mere enjoyment, tapping into psychological systems that govern our emotions. One of the key ways music affects mood is through brainwave stimulation. 

When you listen to (or make) music, blood flow to the limbic system (the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions and memories) increases. This results in the release of hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol, which have powerful effects on mood.

When you play your favorite songs, certain brain regions activate and release dopamine, giving you a sense of euphoria. On the other hand, sad music can release cortisol — a stress hormone — especially if the song triggers negative emotions or memories. This explains why some people might find happy or calming tunes helpful in managing stress and anxiety.

Research has found that music also has a powerful effect on associative memory, meaning it can trigger memories and emotions based on past experiences. Our brains store memories with associated cues, such as sights, smells, and sounds. When we hear a song that reminds us of a happy memory, the brain releases dopamine and reinforces the positive emotions associated with that memory, making us feel happy. Similarly, a song that reminds us of a sad or traumatic event can trigger the release of cortisol and lead to negative emotions.

The power of music: What factors influence your mood most?

Now that you know a bit about the science behind music, you might be curious to know what aspects of it are most influential on your mood. Is it the lyrics, or does the melody hold all the power? What about the beat? Below, we’ll explore how each of these factors (and others) can affect your mood the most.

Music tempo

Tempo is how fast or slow a piece of music is. It's measured in beats per minute (BPM) and can be anything from slow, gentle rhythms to fast, energetic beats. 

Fast-paced music with high BPMs can increase heart rate and blood pressure, making us more alert and energetic. This is why many people enjoy listening to upbeat music during workouts or when they need a boost of motivation.

Slower tempos have a calming effect on the body and mind. They're great for relaxing, easing stress, and dialing down your heart rate and blood pressure. That's why mellow tunes are popular in meditation and yoga sessions. Slow tempos are also popular as sleep and study aids.


A song's lyrics and tone can also greatly influence our mood and quality of life.  Lyrics that really connect with us, whether they tell a story, express relatable feelings, or convey a message, can evoke strong emotions, stir up memories, and impact our overall mood. 

A song with deep lyrics about love or loss can make us feel happy, sad, nostalgic, or contemplative. Our brain links certain words and phrases to specific emotions and experiences. The same goes for the tone of the lyrics, whether they're upbeat or more mellow and thoughtful.

Consider "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen as an example. The hauntingly beautiful melody and heartfelt lyrics about love, longing, and spirituality have brought tears to many and deeply touched hearts. It shows how music connects with our feelings and affects our emotions through its words.

Musical key and harmony

Each musical key has a unique tone or character, and different musical harmonies can create varying emotional responses. 

Major keys like C major or G major bring out positive, uplifting emotions like joy, happiness, and excitement. They have a bright, uplifting sound that can make you feel optimistic. 

Minor keys like A minor or D minor tend to evoke emotions such as sadness, melancholy, and introspection. They have a darker, more somber sound that can elicit feelings of sadness or nostalgia.

Harmony also affects our emotional responses to music. Dissonant harmonies with clashing notes create tension and can elicit feelings of unease or discomfort. Conversely, consonant harmonies (where notes blend smoothly) can produce feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

Personal associations

When scrolling through a playlist, it's not uncommon to pick songs that remind you of certain life experiences, people, or significant events. Music has a unique ability to trigger strong emotions and memories because of its association with past experiences. 

For instance, a song that reminds you of your first love can bring back feelings of happiness and nostalgia, while a tune associated with a traumatic event may trigger feelings of fear, grief, or sadness.

Listening environment

Where you listen to music and how loud you play it can also impact your emotional response. Think about a crowded, high-energy setting like a concert or party with loud, upbeat music. The stimulation from such an environment can amplify the already energetic effects of fast-paced music to create feelings of excitement, euphoria, and sensory overload.

Playing soft, soothing music in a quiet, peaceful environment can enhance relaxation and calmness. Alternatively, playing aggressive or intense music in a quiet space can amplify feelings of agitation, anger, or stress. The music becomes the dominant stimulus in the environment, and the brain responds accordingly.

Rhythm and beat

The rhythm and beat of music can also directly impact our body's physiological responses. Fast, upbeat rhythms can increase heart rate and blood pressure, creating feelings of excitement and energy. Slower, steady rhythms with repetitive beats can calm the body, reduce heart rate, and lower blood pressure, promoting relaxation.

Additionally, the beat of music can also affect our brain waves, the electrical pulses generated by the brain. Slow and steady music can stimulate brain waves associated with relaxation and meditation (alpha waves). Fast-paced and rhythmic music can stimulate beta brainwaves, which are associated with alertness and increased focus.

Practical tips for using music to improve your mood

When you're feeling low or need a mood boost, music can be a powerful tool! Let’s look at a few practical tips to help you use music to positively influence your emotions.

Try mood playlists

Mood playlists are awesome for having a bunch of tunes that can lift your mood or chill you out whenever you need to. You can make playlists for different vibes like happy, sad, or relaxed — or even for activities like unwinding, working out, or focusing. 

Think about songs that have boosted your mood before and group them into themed playlists. Feeling low? Play your happy playlist for a quick pick-me-up. Need to relax? Tune into your chill playlist.

Create a comfortable listening environment

It's not just about what you listen to, but how and where. A good listening setup lets you really get into the music and connect with your feelings. Think about lighting, comfort, and distractions when creating your listening space. 

Dim lighting creates a relaxing mood, while comfortable seating or lying down promotes relaxation and comfort. Get rid of any distractions like phone pings or background noise. You can also add candles, essential oils, or incense to elevate the experience with your olfactory senses!

Mindful listening can also enhance the emotional benefits of music. It involves actively paying attention to the music and focusing on the lyrics, melody, and emotions evoked. To practice mindful listening:

  1. Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Take a few deep breaths to relax your body and mind.
  3. Focus on the sensations of the music — the instruments, vocals, lyrics, etc.
  4. Allow yourself to fully experience the emotions evoked by the music without judgment.
  5. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to the music.

Add music to your daily routines

Consistent exposure to music can have long-lasting effects on your overall mood and mental health. When you add music to your daily routines, you intentionally incorporate positive influences into your daily life. Below are some ways you can achieve this:

  • Listen to upbeat and energetic music during your morning routine to boost productivity and energy levels for the day.
  • Curate a workout playlist to keep you pumped and motivated.
  • Use calming music during your commute or before bed to create a sense of relaxation and stress relief.
  • Incorporate music into your mindfulness or meditation practice to deepen the emotional connection with the music and enhance its effects on your mood.

Explore different genres

Different musical genres can have different effects on our emotions and moods. While you may have a preferred genre, it's good to step out of your musical comfort zone and explore different genres, artists, and styles.  This can expose you to new music that resonates with your emotions in ways you may not have expected.

Not sure where to start? Consider the following:

  • Use music streaming platforms or apps that offer personalized recommendations based on your listening habits.
  • Browse through music blogs or websites that curate playlists or feature new and upcoming artists.
  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or online communities dedicated to sharing and discovering new music. 

Create harmony between your mood and music with Trala

Music has the power to influence and enhance our emotions. By incorporating it intentionally into our daily lives, we can harness its positive effects on our mood and mental well-being. 

And with Trala, an industry-leading music learning resourse, you can create harmony between your mood and music even further. Learning to play an instrument like the violin with Trala not only offers a creative outlet and new skill but can also help you build a deeper emotional connection with music. 

Ready to see how learning an instrument like the violin can empower you to become more in tune with your emotions? Get started with Trala today!

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