Why are we so drawn to Bass

The beat drops and we start to nod our heads to the beat. Our sensitivity to bass is so instinctive that it feels like we are programed to respond more to low frequency sounds. So why are human so drawn to bass, regardless of our individual preferences to music?

Let's go back to the very beginning...

According to cognitive scientists, our love for bass starts when we are still in our mother's womb. The first sound a fetus hears is the mother’s heartbeat and the rhythm of her voice, which are all low frequency sounds. The higher frequency sounds from the outside world are mostly drowned out. So during the first 8-9 months (before taste, smell, vision are online) the constant rhythm of a mother’s heartbeat is what keeps the fetus company and provides comfort until birth. After birth, beats and rhythm continue to be a constant in a baby's life. Gestures such as soft and slow rhythming pats on the back reminds the baby of the comfort it felt when it was still in fetal status. Hence slow and repetitive low resonances become one of the first source of comfort for a human. As we grow, the lasting effect continues to influence us as our brain unconsciously respond more towards lower frequency sounds. Studies have shown that the bass in music can cause changes in our adrenaline and heart rate. 

Why is bass important to music? 

Music can be divided into 3 major parts: melody, harmony and rhythm. Think of the bass as the skeleton of a song. In rhythm, the bass helps the listener feel the beat of the music. In harmony, the bass helps group the notes of different sounds or instruments together. Lastly, the bassline sets the foundation that the melody hangs upon. When your brain hears multiple notes at the same time, it uses the lowest note it hears as reference point. Which means, with all other notes staying the same, the bass has the ability to determine if the music is happy, exciting, dark or intense. Amazing huh?

So the next time you put on your headset and start nodding your head to a song, remember the importance of bass.  

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