The enhancing effects of music on happiness

This thesis examines the enhancing effects of music on happiness.Music is the purest form of art. It can be said that it has an impact on almost everyone. Certain pieces of music have a relaxing effect, while others stimulate us to act, and some cause change in or emphasize our mood. This work specifically concentrates on how listening to different kinds of music can increase the level of happiness and the factors associated with it.

Defining Music

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

The word music basically comes from the Greek word “mousike” meaning art of the muses.As generally percieved, music is one of the fine arts which is concerned with the combinition of sounds with beauty of form and the expression of thought or feeling.It can be defined as vocal or instrumental sounds having some degree of rhythm, melody and harmony. According to the Australian Oxford dictionary (2004), music is “the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form,harmony and expression of emotion”. The Collins dictionary (2000) relates music as “an art form consisting of sequences of sounds in time, especially tones of definite pitch organized melodically, harmonically,rhythmically and according to color”. Music is also known as, ” the art of combining sounds so as to please the ear” (Chamber’s dictionary,1987) .

Music is also viewed as an art that is difficult to tie down . According to Wikipedia , the definition of music varies according to culture and social context. The artists may view music as a performing art, a fine art, and an auditory art .William Sheakspeare has defined it as as the “food of soul”.Humanistic psychologists view music as a means of self fulfillment,integration and self actualiztion.For existentialists it is another department of choice and freedom. Music in any form has a universal appeal, like an international language,it is understood and spoken everywhere,and its charm and penetrating power cannot be denied.(Malik, M.S., 1983).

Components of Music

According to a physicist’s point of view, music consists of a set of a set of sounds with particular frequencies, amplitudes, and timbres which are organized into highly predictable patterns. The social and cultural meanings by people turn these sounds into music (Hargreaves, D. J and North, A. C., 2000).The components of music are,

Musical note is a single sound of definite pitch and duration which can be identified in writing.

Rhythm, is the arrangement of sounds in time, this arrangement is a complex arrangement of notes into a mixture of short and long durations within a single bar or a series of bars. Regular pulse groupings are called bars or measures. Rhythm is one of the most central features of many styles of music, especially jazz and hip-hop (Lerdahl & Jackendoff, 1983).

Scale, is a progression of notes in an ascending or descending order.

Melody or tune assembles a series of notes into recognizable musical shapes. The notes of a melody are created with respect to pitch systems such as scales. A melody usually though not necessarily possesses rhythm. The rhythm of a melody is often based on the tones of language, the physical rhythms of dance or just periodic beatings. (Narveson, 1984).

The beat of a piece of music is its regular pulse, determined by the bar lines by which music are metrically determined.

Pitch, is the height or depth of a note in relation to other notes or in relation to an absolute pitch. The absolute pitch has internationally been set at A=400 Hz that is, the A above the middle c has a frequency of 440 cycles or vibrations per second. Pitch is determined by the sound’s frequency of vibration. The process of assigning note names to pitches is called tuning. The difference in frequency between two pitches is called an interval. The interval indicates either the doubling or halving of the base frequency. (Machlis & Kristine, 2007)

Harmony is the study of vertical sonorities in music. A vertical sonority refers to considering the relationship between pitches that are together. Harmony can also be implied by melodies that outline a harmonic structure. A larger structure involving multiple pitches is called a chord (Darmschroder & Williams, 1990).Harmony in music can be analyzed through Roman numeral system. A system of chord symbols is used in popular and jazz music. (Friberg, 1991).

Musical texture is the overall sound of a piece of music .It is described as the number of parts or lines and their relationship. The perceived texture of a musical piece can be affected by the interval between each musical line, the timbre of instruments or the number of instruments used. Monophony, homophony and polyphone include musical textures. Monophony is the texture of a melody. The texture of homophony is achieved when a melody is accompanied by chords. The melody in homophony is usually voiced in high notes. Polyphony consists of several simultaneous melodies of equal importance (Temperly, 2001). Form, is a feature of musical theory that explores the concept of musical syntax, on a local and global level. The syntax is often explained in terms of phrases and periods or sections or genre respectively. (Juslin, 2003).

1.1.2 Musical Instruments

The earliest and largest collection of prehistoric musical instruments was found in China and dates back to between 7000 and 6600 BC. (Wikipedia).People of different cultures have developed musical instruments of their own distictive fashion,the sounds of these instruments thus,affect different prople differently.Some distict musical instruments are,

Sitar, it has been the king of indian court music since 14th century. It is the modification of an earlier instrument,the Keena.The sitar is made of teak,jackwood and a seasoned gourd.Its neck towers above the players head while it is played.It mainly has six or seven playing strings running above the feet and below them, a dozen or so sympathetic strings,that set up a steady running echo.The sitar is played with a wireplectrum worn on the right finger of the sitarist.The sitar music is a world in itself.Learning to play the instrument with proficiency needs ten or twelve years of intensive study(Bhattacharya, McDonald & Carter,2008).

Rebab, is the name for various Arabic bow string instruments found in Islamic countries. They occur usually with three strings in various shapes like elongated boats, trapezoid rectangles etc. The Rebab was both carried eastwards and westwards with the spread of Islam (Kartomi, 1990).

Guitar is a string instrument, originally brought to Spain by the moors in the middle ages. It has a flat back. The modern instrument has six strings. The guitar is a popular instrument used to provide a simple choral accomplishment to a dance or a song.

Flute, is a cylindrical tube closed at the upper end where these is a side hole, though which the player bows air and makes the internal air column vibrate. The modern flute was largely developed by T.Bohm, he made it possible to pierce finger-holes in correct positions. The flute did not come into general use in chamber and orchestral music until 18th century (Taylor, 1992).

Saxophones are classified as members of the single reed family. Saxophone was invented in about 1840 by Adolph Sax, a Belgian instrument maker. Saxophones are regular members of dance bands military bands and are also used to play distinctive solo in orchestral work. The sound of the saxophone is extremely variable. Its timbre being intermediate between wood and brass, it passes from the softness of flute over the broad, mellow tone of cells to the metallic strength of the coronet (Ingham, 1998).

Drum, is the generic name for instruments consisting of skin stretched over a frame or vessel and struck with the hands or a sticks. The drum was introduced in the western world through Greece (Kinnear, 1985).

Tabla, is a type of an oriental drum. It exists in different forms. The Indian table is a single headed drum resembling a small tympano, having a similar sound. The Arabic tabla is beaten by the hands and the tone is much drier than that of the Indian instrument (Holroyde, 1972).

Xylophone is a set of tuned wooden bars beaten with sticks. The bars usually rest in a frame and are arranged in order of pitch. Most xylophones are provided with resonators, either in the form of a cradle shaped box under the bars, or in the form of a separate gourd for each bar gourd for each bar. When playing the xylophone, the player uses mallets of various weights and hardness according to the quality of tone required.( Nettl & Bruno ,1956).

Piano, Classicism is the greatest and the best known period of piano music. The pianist uses a flexible system of levers connected by four joints, knuckles, wrist, elbow and shoulders. It can also be played by placing the finger on the key and raising the arm slightly in a relaxed action. Piano is a mechanical instrument through which the notes are produced by the strike of keys (Krumhansl, 1997).

Violin is the most important of the stringed instruments in the orchestra as well as in chamber and solo music. Its main parts are the, body consisting of label sound board, back and ribs (sidewalks), the finger board, string holder, the bridge. The violin provides expressiveness ranging from soft lyricism to extreme dramatic excitement and a sensitive timbre (Cremer, 1984).

Harmonium is a keyboard instrument that sounds by means of thin metal tongues being set in vibration by a steady current of air which is provided by a pair of pedal operated bellows. The metal tongues act as free reeds. Modern harmonium can produce expressive graduations of sounds by means of the expression stop. The harmonium was developed in the 19th century from a number of experimental instruments (Encyclop?dia Britannica (11th Ed.), 1911).

Types of Music

The aim of all music is to touch the core of the heart and thus music can be called an expression of our heart’s sayings. Different types of music help in soothing one’s disturbed soul, in the growth of concentration and also cheer us up to live life to the fullest. There are various types of music as people have different tastes i.e., classical music, rock, hip-hop, folk, opera, mystical etc. The objective behind listening to music remains the same.

Classical music is a complex form of music as it requires high musical skills like learning the ragas and ability to coordinate with other musicians .The one who wants to learn, he/she has to go through proper training in this field of music (Bhattacharyya, 2008).

Rock music, originated in the rock n roll era of 1950s. The singers are accompanied by a guitar, bass and drum. Certain rock groups use pianos, saxophones, flute, mandolin and sitar for a deeper effect. This type of music has several subtypes such as hard rock, progressive rock and metal rock. All these types of rock music are popular to date.(Warren , Romanowski & Parles ,2001).

Hip-hop (Pop-Music) music always includes the use of instruments such as guitar, violin, fiddle, piano, bass and drums. In these types of music, the bass is the main instrument. This can be used in different intensities to emote feelings of anger, pride and others. This type of music is the result of hip-hop culture and is known as hip-hop music. This music shows a heavy influence of Jamaican music. The roots of the music are found in African American and West African music. (Light, 1999).

Folk music is a kind of traditional music that is handed down from generations in every culture. Folk music shows the social upheaval that lies among various classes of people. This also portrays their struggle for survival and their culture (Bhattacharyya, 2008).The term can be applied to music that has been evolved from rudimentary beginnings by a community uninfluenced by popular and art music and it can likewise be applied to music which has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten living tradition of a community. It is the re-fashioning and re-creation of the music by the community that gives it a folk character (Lloyd, 1975).

Opera music first emerged in Italy in the 17th century. This genre of music a remarkable combination of theatrical art and musical inventions and is specifically played in theatres. This has greater demand for its amusing orchestral supplements. The introduction and interval of this music set the tone for the action on stage. (Grout & Williams, 2003).

Mystical music Music is an outburst of the soul .Mystic music includes spacious, contemplative, heartfelt, trance inducing and psychedelic sounds in such genres as space music, electronic, ambient, visionary, acoustic, world fusion, classical, neo-classical, and even some progressive rock; a mix of entrancing drones, structures, and rhythms. Mystic music extends from Bach to rock. Mystic music is that kind of sonorous sound experience that lifts and awakens you above normal consciousness, even if only for a few moments. If you listen sensitively, it puts you in touch with your most special memories and forgotten dreams. It is relaxing and good for your plants (and your body too; not to mention your mind, heart and soul). Mystic music remains true to the original purpose of music: to help us contact the spiritual dimensions of life and reveal the secret to us; and to, “keep the spirit alive” (Nasr, 1997)

1.1.4 Effects of Music

Music holds a very significant position in our lives since the beginning.From the early beginning to the present day,interest in music with reference to healing and therapeautic experiece has sustained (Bartlett ,1996) The qualities of music were known even in earliest times. Evidence suggests that dance and song preceded speech. Researchers have found that about two-thirds of the inner ear’s cilia resonate only at the higher frequencies that are commonly found in music (3,000 – 20,000 Hz). This seems to indicate that primitive humans communicated primarily through song or tone.India has one of the oldest musical traditions in the world, references to Indian classical music (marga) can be found in the ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas (Wikipedia).

There are references to the divine alliance of music and medicine in classical antiquity and the healing function of much among primitive people (Schullian and Schoen,1948). Recent work on music has confirmed the effectiveness of music too. This is of the fact that music can trigger Endorphins in human body that help the mind in creating sound images,allowing people to escape into a painless worlds sheltered by their imaginations. Music can speed up or slow,regularize or disturb our heart beat,relax or tense the nerves,can affect digestion,respiration and blood pressure(Tame,1984)

Ansdell(1995) says that we make and experience music because or body is made up of cells,organs,and muscles that have pulses and tones,tensions and resolutions of the tensions.Emotions share with music the qualities of speed force attack and intensity.It has also been suggested that music could be a powerful tool to use within neuro-disability and the structure of music can help organize and retrieve information. (Taylor, 1992). In many instances it has been found that people with brain related problems were able to function in better ways while being exposed to music. (Erdonmez, 1993; Nordoff & Robbins, 1997). Mc Carty (1999) described how music could reduce negative emotions and increase positive emotions in healthy as well as clinically ill people. In the words of Janet Towell(2000), “Music can soothe the soul, excite the emotions and provide a sense of cultural identity”. Music can decrease pain and depression while increasing mood and self esteem. A study showed that tempo affected arousal while mode of the music affected the mood (Husain, Thompson & Schelenburg, 2002).

Well ness is a product of healthy body, mind, spirit interactions, and, as a result music can an important asset in creating the appropriate environment for persons’ healing (Stewart, 1990).Music’s appeal to us is primarily emotional and psychological. Music has been noted for its ability to enhance people’s moods, move them to tears, make them want to rejoice or just move them emotionally in both negative and positive ways (Goldstein, A, 1980). Radocy and Boyle(1979) suggest that there are eight types of affective responses to music.Some of these relate to an innate sensory perception of the sound while others are associted with images,experiences and emotional context of these experiences.These responses may include simple feelings;negative and positive organic feelins;moral religious feelings and emotions and tempraments.Because of this entity,music often can help people in confronting issues which they have not dealt earlier in their lives.This is because of the association between the events of our past with the particular piece of music (Bright ,1993;Levine , 1999;Ortiz ,1997).

Stewart(1990) believes that music is an affective therapeutic agent under the right circumstances as it can “allign patterns of emotion,structures of conciousness and /or psychic energy” (P.62).It does not appeal to logic and rarely meets with intellectual resistence to iniciate its actions(Guzzetta , 1995).Music can help us to initiate psychological movement by modifying our mental states and cuing us towards more positive affirmations such as sad to cheerfull,discouraged to hopefull,or plain to peaceful.Music has an essential ability to create another world of virtual time(Blaking,1990).Menuhin(1972) reveals furthur that “Music creates order out of chaos, for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent ,melody imposes continuity among the disjointed,and harmony imposes compatibility among the incongruous.Listening to music can create and expand out internal space where we can retreat from the norms and the reality of the world.This is achieved by creating an internal imaginative world of sound which is rich in symbolism and personal meaning,and allowing us to revisit the emotional context of particular memories(Bunt,1996).

According to Sloboda(1989) ,the reason most of us take part in musical activities is that music is capable of arousing in us deep and significant emotions.These emotions range from the aeshetic delight in sound construction,through emtions such as joy or sorrow which music sometimes enhances to simple relief from boredom of depression.The music itself cannot have extra musical meaning unless the experience to which it refers already exists in the mind of the listener.When music has similar connections with human life,then it can make people more aware of feelings they experienced by intensifying the emotions.Particular music can help in moving painful memories or the unresolved issues in life .Stor(1992) also refers this arousal as being a condition of heightned alertness,awareness,interest and excitement.He also believes that apart from the relations between seeing an emotional arousal,the relation between hearing and emotional arousal is stronger.

Campball(1992), observed that when we communcate with the emotional centres of our being such as through the use of music,we can better reduce stress and achieve a sense of welbeing.Music can also help in achieving peace and relaxation (Ortiz ,1997). Diamond (1979) suggests that music can be an important part of primary preventative health care at a psychosocial level. Bunt(1996) shows that how music can be used to assist people in realizing their feelings, going beyond their everyday experiences, resolving hurts and pain and appraising significant live events. Music can also evoke memories of the emotional context of past events and times and aid people to explore issues for a different angle and retrieving events and emotions. Music evokes not only the memories of past time but also the emotional context of those times(Bunt,1997).It has been reported that music is an activity that the healthy impaired talented and interested enjoy, because it provides them with a relief from their stress ,anxiety, depression and mourning(Blacking,1995).Music coupled with personal attention and care of other people, can provide gratification and restore a sense of worth to people who may be experiencing depression or low self-esteem (Crystal, Grober & Masur,1989).

According to Spingte (1998), music is the most intense means of emotional communication. In view of Hallan, S & Price, J. (1998), calming music led to better participant performance on arithmetic and memory tasks. Music can “align patterns of emotions, structures of consciousness and / or psychic energy” (Stewart, 1990).

Thus, music has great influences on a listener. It can take the mind and body to do spontaneous things whether they are good or bad. Depending on the type of music and the inner message it has, music can influence a person and his/her actions (Cassidy, 2008).


There has been a surge of interest in Positive Psychology during the last quarter of this century. There has been a huge amount of interest and research on happiness, wellbeing and satisfaction among all positive fields (Diener 1995).The classic definition of happiness by Jeremy Bentham(1800s) is that happiness is “the sum of pleasures and pains”.

Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy.It is a positive emotional state that is defined by every person on a subjective level. The term subjective well-being is used as a synonym for happiness. Happiness is defined as an overall appraisal of life, where the good and the bad is balanced (Diener & Scolon, 2003). Happiness in this older sense was used to translate the Greek Eudemonia, and is still used in virtue ethics.(Wikipedia).

Happiness is a belief about yourself and the outside world. You can be doing something you normally experience as pleasurable but not be happy. Pleasure is born from the external world; happiness is born from the internal workings of our own minds. Martin Seligman,( 2002) one of the founders of positive psychology, describes happiness as consisting of “positive emotions” and “positive activities”. He categorizes emotions related to the past, present and future. Positive emotions relating to the past include satisfaction, contentment, pride and serenity. Positive emotions relating to the future include optimism, hope and trust.

Veenhoven (1997) has defined happiness or subjective well-being as the degree to which one judges the quality of his life favorably. According to Schwartz and Strack (1999), even very minor incidents in life can affect the level of happiness.

The findings of a Pakistani research have shown that number of happy people is more than that of unhappy people and that the eastern people have higher levels of happiness than western people. Work satisfaction, social support, religious affiliation, social class, income level, and marital status and satisfaction were found to be predictors of happiness (Suhail, & Chaudary, 2004).Individual differences in the levels of happiness also have significance.

Theories of happiness

The theories of happiness have been divided into three types,

Need/goal satisfaction theories,

Process/activity theories,

Genetic/personality predisposition theories (Diener et al, 2002).

Psychoanalytic and humanistic theorists believed that reduction in tension and satisfaction of needs lead to the achievement of happiness. It was theorized that people were happy as they had achieved their goals. (Compton, 2005).

According to the process/activity theorists, participating in activities generates happiness. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) proposed that people who indulge in interesting and challenging activities, and thus experience the feelings of flow, are happier. Emmons (1986) has also emphasized how pursuing goals generates happiness.

The genetic/personality theorists view happiness as a stable construct. A Research by Costa and McCrae (1986) proved that happiness is based on personality and genetics.

Lucas (1996) also found in a research that personality traits were closely related to happiness.

Keyes and Lopez (1995) presented another model of happiness. They defined happiness as a complete state of mental health while combining many principles of pleasure. They defined emotional happiness as the presence of positive affect and life satisfaction with the absence of negative affect. Social happiness was achieved by incorporating acceptance, actualization, contribution, coherence and integration. However, self acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy and positive relations with others were the components of achieving psychological well-being,

Most of recent researches agree with idea of happiness being a combination of psychological, emotional, and physical well-being.

Causes of Happiness

Sex: No significant differences have been seen between the levels of happiness of men and women (Nolen-Hoeksema &Rusting, 1999).In a study by Wood,Rhodes & Whelan (1989), it was found that women report slightly higher levels of happiness. Fujita, Diener & Sandvick (1991) also reported that women showed greater capacity for joy. Shayam and Yadev (2006) found that elderly men scored higher on well-being as compared to elderly women. However the impact of gender accounts for only 1 percent of variability in happiness in people.

Finances: Financial status is related to happiness, however with an increase the effect diminishes (Diener, 1997).Diener (1995) found that positive correlations existed between the GDP and subjective well being of fifty five nations. According to Keely,(2000) increase in income does not lead to increase in happiness.Most people are happy regardless of their material wealth(Diener , 1996).

Marital status: Research has shown that married people are happier as compared to unmarried, divorced, separated or widowed people. Shields & Wooden (2003) found that married women and men were consistently happier than unmarried men and women.

Education: Education has greater affect on the happiness levels of people with lower incomes (Campbell, 1976).Education appears to have only small direct influence on happiness.

Culture: Diener & Lucas (1999) found that some nations appear to be more emotional than other nations. It was found that people in individualistic cultures had higher subjective well-being as compared to collectivistic cultures. (Ball, 2001).

Health: Physical health is strongly related to levels of happiness. If one is physically healthy he/she would have higher levels of happiness as compared to a person who is sick. According to physicians, Brief, Butcher, George & Link (1993) a strong correlation exists between subjective well-being and health.

Religion: Many researches support that people who are religious tend to be happier. Studies have found that engagement in religious activities is significantly related to higher well-being (Donahue & Benson, 1995).James Peacock and Margret Poloma (1999) found that one’s perceived closeness to God was a very strong predictor of happiness.

Life Events: The number of positive events correlate with positive affect at .33 in people whereas, the average intensity of positive affect when subjects were feeling happy correlated with happiness at .25 (Schimmack, Diener & Oishi 2002).Happiness correlate with a number of friends and the relationships with them (Diener & Lucas, 1999).Peak experiences however have been found to be due to religion music or other intense activities.

Thus, immense research has been done on the effects of music on physical as well as mental health which has shown promising results.

You Might Also Like

I'm Alejandro!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out