The Effects of Music on Heart Rate

Mark Allinder, Jen Aragon, Leah Biessenberger


CU Boulder, November 2009


Most people place a certain type of music with a certain environment, activity, or emotion. We tested the physiological effect music can have on a person which may lead to these types of associations. We hypothesized that audio stimuli has a direct physiological effect, and that music with a slower tempo and soothing atmosphere will lower heart rate, while the opposite would raise heart rate. We performed three trails with two selections of music: a soft ballet piece, and a tense, rock song. For each trial, the softer song was played first, followed by the tense song. A five minute break was given between each song to allow the subjectÕs heart rate to return to its baseline. Heart rate was measured prior to each song, at each songÕs one minute mark, and again at each songÕs two minute mark when the music was ended. Our results showed a decrease in the mean heart rate during the classical song, and an increase in the mean heart rate during the angry song. The mean subject heart rate did indeed lower during the soft song and raise during the tense song. The results produced a P value of 0.38 for heart rate during the music samples and a P value of 0.39 immediately after the music samples. While our results were consistent with our hypothesis, they were not significant. A problem this test has is the narrow nature of itÕs variables. Having the time to play and test a larger selection of music would be beneficial to a test such as this, as well as a larger subject base. The physiological effects of music on the human body has been the subject of much interest in recent years. The effects of different types of music on heart rate were experimentally tested for the California State Science Fair in 2008, where it was discovered that 100% of the subjectÕs heart rates increased when they listened to tense music (Atluri 2008). The book Receptive Methods in Music Theory shows that music was proven to have an effect not only on heart rate, but also on arousal level, mood state, and respiration (Grocke and Wigram et al. 2007).


Grocke, Denise and Wigram, Tony. 2007. Receptive Methods in Music Theory,      232-235


Atluri, M. 2008. Does music affect blood pressure and heart rate? California     State Science Fair. Retreived October 24, 2009 from http://www.usc.       edu/CSSF/History/2008/Projects/J1103.pdf