reason so many classic songs are earworms

What Is an Earworm? How to Use It to Create an Unforgettable Melody for Your Film or Video

We’ve all experienced it, you’ll hear a song on the radio, in a store, or on a TV commercial, and you just can’t get it out of your head. Maybe it’s a catchy chorus, a groovy bassline, or a hypnotic rhythm that just won’t stop playing on a loop in your mind.

If this happens to you, you’ve been hit with an earworm. So what exactly is an earworm, and what’s the reason so many classic songs are earworms? Read on to find out more.

What Is an Earworm?

An earworm is essentially a hook in a song that is so memorable that you can hear it in your head long after you stop listening. Think of songs like Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. If you hear the song once, you just can’t stop humming the catchy chorus.

Characteristics of Earworms

As you can see, earworms are diverse. Most pop songs will aim for a catchy hook, but an earworm could also come from another element or section. With that said, almost every earworm will have some common musical features.

Earworms are almost always repetitive songs. If a section doesn’t repeat multiple times, you won’t be able to get it stuck in your head. Generally, an earworm needs to be repeated three or four times for it to be effective.

Earworms also need to be relatively simple. There’s a reason nobody goes around humming complex jazz phrases. A straightforward melody helps you to remember the earworm, which is why a hit song tends not to use complex chords, time signatures, or musical phrases.

Another key to crafting the perfect earworm is to make sure it invokes an emotional response. Music is an art form that’s all about conveying emotions, if it doesn’t make the listener feel something, it’s not an earworm.

Utilizing Earworms in Film and Video

Of course, earworms are relevant in any kind of medium involving music. Just like an earworm can make a pop song into a hit, a catchy melody or memorable rhythm can maximize the emotional impact of a film.

With most films and videos, you have significantly more time than a conventional pop song, so your earworms can be more subtle and less immediately catchy. If you’re making a movie that’s a few hours long, you could strategically place an earworm during key scenes to maximize the emotional impact. You can also create variations of the earworm throughout the movie.

For example, consider the driving industrial rhythm from The Terminator soundtrack. Despite being in an incredibly unconventional time signature, the rhythm is memorable because it comes up again and again during pivotal scenes.

Now You Know the Reason so Many Classic Songs Are Earworms

The reason so many classic songs are earworms is because they’re simple, catchy, and repetitive, but most of all, they make the listener feel something. When crafting earworms for film and video, the extended length allows you to make something a bit more subtle and complex.

Composing a memorable earworm for a movie requires a deep appreciation for the transformative power of sound and access to cutting edge sonic technology. If you’re looking for the perfect soundtrack for your movie, we at Institute of Sounds can help. Contact us today and let’s write a score that will captivate your audience.

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