Why Does Repetition Work in the Music We Love?

Repetition.  It’s a tool used to memorize, hone skills, and make lasting impressions.  In many cases though, repetition causes fatigue or boredom, so why does the technique work so well in the world of music?


Author Tom Service writing for The Guardian wanted to know why.  In his article, Stuck on Repeat: Why we love Repetition in Music he states that not only does repetition within a song work for us, it also explains why we like listening to the same song over and over again.  He states that repetition, “Far from dilutes our pleasure… [it] only seems to amplify our involvement in these musical experiences.”

Consider repeating a word over and over again.  After some time, that word loses its meaning and ceases to sound like an actual word.  This phenomena is known as “semantic satiation” and although it plagues words and phrases, it doesn’t have the same effect on music.  Instead, repetition causes us to anticipate with excitement the upcoming chorus or tune, and increases our feeling of “participating” in the music.

When you think about it, that anticipation of getting ready to belt out the chorus of your favorite song is in many cases what keeps us going back again and again.  It’s part of what makes music special and sets it apart from other art forms.

You can read more in detail in Service’s full article here on The Guardian.