The emotional effects of sound

In this post I will cover some of the findings of my research into the emotional effects of sound in media.

In my research into sound I found a number of interesting articles (listed in my bibliography) about the effect of sound on human emotions.

Here are some of my findings;


  • Sounds/music in the minor key scale
  • Slow tempo – said to mimic pace of mourning wails
  • Piano and strings are commonly used instruments for sad music


  • Abrupt shifts in pitch can cause alarm
  • Minor scales
  • High pitch usually used in high tension moments and low pitch in anticipating moments
  • Silence between scares can also cause tension (anticipation for scare)
  • Non linear sounds


  • Major scale
  • Upbeat tempo, usually faster
  • Voice and laughter are sounds that people react well to


  • Comfortably predictable with some variation
  • Constant, no unexpected sounds that may cause listeners alarm
  • Usually soft tone – not too loud and not too much variation in pitch or volume
  • Natural sounds of water and crackling fires are popular for relaxation tapes


Research into this area has helped me greatly in my understanding in the use of sound in media and how it can be used to evoke an emotional reaction out of audiences, I will draw from these findings while working on my final concept for my environment sounds to ensure that they use the right techniques to make my audio track fit appropriately with the theme of my design.


References: See bibliography [click here]


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