The Chemistry of Music


YouTube Video

My “...” is the chemistry of music, put simply, but what I wanted to do was delve into the effects that music has on your brain. Many people know that listening to certain songs pump you up or mellow you down, but I wanted to know if there was any science behind it, seeing as music is my absolute passion. My life revolves around music, whether it is singing in the car, playing my violin, being in large choirs, or simply passing the time as I wash dishes at the restaurant I work at. Knowing the chemistry that occurs whilst you listen to music has been fascinating and I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Composition of ...

What is the chemistry of music? Basically, music stimulates the brain into producing more dopamine and serotonin which are like happy chemicals for the brain. C8H11NO2  is the chemical makeup of dopamine and dopamine is a neurotransmitter of the brain, which means it helps regulate movement in the extrapyramidal system part of the brain. C10H12N2O is the chemical makeup of serotonin, which is also a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is known for regulating body temperature, moods, hunger, tiredness, and sexuality. It is found mostly in the raphe nuclei all over the brain and contributes to several more areas than dopamine, but works with dopamine in the areas it is found in as well.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The composition of music’s reaction in your brain.

  • Music

  • Conscious human brain that has been well maintained

  • Dopamine   C8H11NO2

  • Serotonin  C10H12N2O

Main Chemicals, components, and compounds of music.

Music itself doesn’t have a composition. Music is just sound waves at different frequencies that our brains organizes into patterns. Your brain has to work to interpret sounds or else it would sound like meaningless mumbo jumbo. But, our brains can understand the patterns music make in tone, frequency, and rhythm and our brains enjoy it. Our brains actually release two main chemicals into your body when music is played, but it does depend on the type of music you like. Say you hate screamo music and it aggravates you, the chemicals won’t necessarily be released. If, however, you listen to music you like such as classical, the chemicals secrete into your body. These chemicals are the same chemicals I mentioned earlier; dopamine and serotonin.

Chemistry's Role

The two main components, serotonin and dopamine, are eaten as different substances, then your body chemically changes them. Dopamine, for example, we get it from a certain type of protein we eat called tyrosine. Tyrosine then gets broken down into dopa which we as humans then process into dopamine. Dopamine can’t cross the blood brain barrier which means it must be manufactured in the brain. Serotonin works basically the same way, but instead of having tyrosine as the precursor, tryptophan is and it works the same as dopamine in the sense that it needs to be produced in the brain. Many musical sounds come from man-made instruments, however I believe music can be found nature as well, such as birds singing, a bubbling creek, or the wind in the trees. The effects that music has on the human brain is naturally occurring, and chemistry helps the proteins from which the chemicals come change into the chemicals your brain forms. But, both chemicals can be man made. Dopamine, for example, is found in meth with is what causes the high. Introducing unnatural amounts of dopamine can cause your brain from producing it naturally.

Background Research

A lot of searching went into this topic, I had to compare many sources to make sure I was getting accurate information, when I wasn’t sure how much science was used to test it. I found out many studies have been tested, from infants to adults. It is shown that babies that listen to classical music such as Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart were more likely to have higher IQ’s as teenagers. Also, people that listen to classical music written by such composers were more likely to produce dopamine and serotonin whilst listening than they would listening to any other music. This is because the patterns in the music as well as the many other instruments being used makes your brain work harder to understand the patterns and interpret all the different sounds and frequencies than it would listening to pop music. This wakes up your brain and kicks the areas that produce dopamine and serotonin into action, therefore releasing those chemicals into your body and making you happy. Because your brain is more stimulated, it also helps you focus and concentrate on tasks that you may be doing. This is why babies that listened to complex music at such a young age received better IQ scores than those who didn’t; their brains were used to being stimulated from a very early age, so in the next stages of development they could process information better than those who didn’t listen to Bach as babies (on average). Just like how classical music can stimulate your brain, other genres of music have different effects as well. Jazz music is known to have similar effects as classical, while blues music is know to bring down the amount of serotonin and dopamine levels. Many factors go into how a song affects you; beat, genre, lyrics, instruments, just to name a few. Say you like slower music, listening to something upbeat may not appeal to you. Say you like music with lyrics, classical music may not be your cup of tea. Lyrics are also a very powerful tool when it comes to how your brain reacts to the music. Because your brain can interpret the intonation of a voice and can process the words being said, some songs may break your heart and some may lift you up. If someone is singing about something sad and they sound heartbroken, while the music being played is a soft, but tragic minor melody, you may begin to feel sad. But if someone is singing about empowerment and the music is an upbeat major, you may feel pumped and ready to go. Music’s effect on the brain is not an exact science, and it holds a lot of factors, the biggest being that, as human beings, we all have our own opinions and everyone is different. Although complicated, and not precise, it is fascinating and something I intend to research more. I could not have picked a better topic to try and pick apart and learn about.


Talks over the effects music can have interpreting facial expressions.

Explains how ambient noise helps concentration and can induce creativity.

Music helps our brain function by improving motor skills and have better deductive reasoning.

Music can help improve physical activity.

---Talks over the power of music on human nature.

---Health benefits of music and what effects where.

---Talks over neuroscience of music.

---Chemicals released in your brain when listening to music.

---Unity of music listeners and talks about how music effects decision making skills.

---Goes over the properties of dopamine.

---Goes over the properties of serotonin.

About the Author

singing.jpgHannah Wambolt is a 17 year old junior at Billings Senior High. She enjoys singing and kids. She has two jobs; one is at the Y working with kids of all ages, though mostly kindergarteners, the other is a waitress at Hash-n-Dash. She enjoys both but the job at the Y, including experiences at school with a teacher, has inspired her to become a teacher. She will be attending MSU-Bozeman after she graduates, and hopes to become an English teacher as well as performing classical music. She loves hiking, camping, fishing, cave exploring, rappelling, judo, taekwondo, spending too much time on netflix, eating, reading, crying over stupid movies, and fangirling. She has a cat named Tamowda and a dog named Tika. She also enjoys volunteering for the March of Dimes. She has a sister, Maria, who is 31, and a brother, Steven, who is 29. Both have 2 kids, a boy and a girl. Eli, 10, is Maria’s son, and Sophie, 6, is her daughter. Allegra, 2, is Steven’s daughter, and Orion, 1, is his son. Hannah loves spending time with her brother who was her father figure for a long time and introduced her to caving, rappelling, hiking, and climbing mountains. He is a Sgt in the army, and was in Afghanistan for a year. He came home on her 16th birthday, making her sweet 16 one she will never forget. Besides her family life, she is interested in reading and also dabbles in writing. She enjoys reading everything, but loves fiction that involves fantasy and adventure. That is Hannah in a nutshell.