The River's Badge

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Do Certain Songs Get Stuck in Your Head?


For a songwriter, I'm hopelessly lax in actually listening to music.

So, why, out of nowhere, does a certain song get stuck in my head? And it's generally not even a song I'm particularly fond of.

They're called "earworms", in case you didn't know (yes, there is actually a term for these pesky irritants). And I'm here to help! How does one get rid of earworms, you ask? Well, my extensive (30-second) research has found some tips.

I was delighted to learn that, "women, musicians and people who are neurotic, tired or stressed are most prone to earworm attacks." Apparently, I am a neurotic woman musician, although I really didn't think I was neurotic. Maybe I'm just tired and stressed instead. I'm actually none of those things (well, maybe a bit sleepy), so you take your "scientific" research with a grain of salt.

If you don't have time to click on the link (because you're too busy humming the theme song from The Facts of Life), here are some tips for ridding oneself of earworms:

How to Get Songs Out of Your Head

Unfortunately, there's no tried and true way to get songs out of your head once they're stuck in there. They can stick in your brain for anywhere from a few minutes to several days -- long enough to drive even the sanest person batty. Most earworms eventually "crawl out" on their own, but if a song is nagging you to the brink of insanity, here are a few tips to try:

1. Sing another song, or play another melody on an instrument.


Well, that just seems like work to me. I'd have to pick up my guitar, which is halfway across the room. Plus, how can I sing another song, when I'm just going to bust out with the stupid song that's been ping-ponging around in my brain for the last 24 hours?

2. Switch to an activity that keeps you busy, such as working out.


ha ha ha ha. Okay. Working out.

3. Listen to the song all the way through (this works for some people).


I'm seriously going to try this.

4. Turn on the radio or a CD to get your brain tuned in to another song.


Again, this seems like a lot of effort to me. First of all, I don't have a radio, unless you count the one in my car. And I'm not going out to the garage to switch on the key, and sit there like a moron, for my husband to ultimately find me and decide that it's time to call the professional help line number that he's had posted on the refrigerator for lo these many months. Which he wrote "Famous Dave's" next to, as if I'm so stupid that I can't figure out that this is not the number to order barbecue ribs.

5. Share the song with a friend (but don't be surprised if the person become an ex-friend when he or she walks away humming the tune).

ha ha - I've done this! It's great! I like to call it "transference". In my experience, it does actually work. On the downside, if you do this on a work break, you will, in a matter of moments, receive an email containing one simple phrase, such as "Last Train to Clarksville".

6. Picture the earworm as a real creature crawling out of your head, and imagine stomping on it.

This, to me, seems a bit extreme. Or "neurotic", if you will. I really don't like killing (or stomping on) things, even earworms. Plus, that all just seems icky.

So, I've decided that I'm going to combine numbers 3 and 5. That is, I'm going to share the song with a friend (you), and I'm going to play it all the way through.

Luckily (or unluckily, as the case may be), there is no actual "video" of Grand Funk doing this song, but that's actually a good thing. I want you (my friend) to get the full experience of listening to this tune, so that I no longer have to. And if you want to retaliate, knock yourself out. Shoot me a comment, and I will gladly assume your burden.

That's what friends are for.

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