Sound rocks our world! But, not just any sound. We mean the sound that makes your soul sing, your body move and your consciousness expand. The type of sound that immediately boosts your mood and energy.
We’ve been lucky to work with Engineer & Producer, Alex Mader, on several of our track releases through The Headspace and Bass Movement music label.
We wanted to know more about the relationship between sound frequencies and mood. So we turned to Alex for an understanding of why certain sounds are appealing to the ear and create a pleasurable feeling for the listener!
What is the relationship between sound frequencies and mood?
The relationship between specific sound frequencies and a listener’s mood can be very difficult to measure, as pure, unchanging frequencies can be very rare to find in the natural world. The most obvious example I can think of would be highly resonant objects or perhaps very low frequency sounds such as tectonic shifts.
Pure frequencies can also be difficult to produce via acoustic means but there are examples of objects which are designed to resonate with a specific frequency due to their physical shape, such as tuning forks or singing bowls. The tones produced by these kinds of objects are usually perceived to be pleasant, as a pure tone lacks a lot of the characteristics that we usually perceive to be unpleasant in audible sound – namely combinations of frequencies which conflict or are considered musically dissonant.
To explain this a little further, what makes a lot of sounds uncomfortable to listen to, is not so much the presence of any particular pure frequency alone but is more about the relationship between the frequencies it contains. A really clear way to illustrate this is in the context of modern musical theory, which utilizes one of the most obviously pleasant relationships between tones, (a doubling of frequency) in the case of the musical octave.
A tone that is say 440Hz (or A4) and a tone double its frequency at 880Hz (or A5) would be considered a more pleasant combination of tones than say 440Hz and 800Hz (A4 and a very flat A5 respectively) and indeed could be considered more pleasant than either of these single tones in isolation.
We can take this simple example of pure tones and apply it to more complex sounds which contain an abundance of different frequencies such as those found in nature or produced by acoustic instruments. If a sound contains an overwhelming amount of frequencies which are of mathematically complicated (or musically dissonant) relationships to each other, they are generally considered unpleasant. Some examples of these kinds of sounds might include guitar or piano chords where the strings have been incorrectly tuned, or certain metallic percussive sounds where the object resonates in a constrained or distorted way.
To summarise, while its very difficult to scientifically measure the direct relationships between certain pure frequencies and their effect of mood, it has been a longstanding and verified observation that the combination of multiple frequencies can produce varying degrees of pleasant or unpleasant sounds. A fact that is a fundamental part of our modern music theory and sound design practices.
You can contact Alex via his website.
 Hz is a unit of measurement of frequency equal to the number of cycles per second
 Please note that the degree of ‘mathematical complexity’ is a subjective one and is something of a controversial issue in music theory. Interestingly the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers were obsessed with what they saw as ‘pure’ mathematical ratios in sound and music. He and his followers developed their own musical tuning standards which aimed to maintain the simplest mathematical ratios between notes as possible (with dubious success).