What is Music and Dopamine

Dopamine and the power of music is not widely known. According to Merriam Webster, music is “vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.” However, this definition only scratches the surface of what music really is. 

Everyone at some point in their life has listened to or made music; the only other things I can say that about are eating, drinking, and pooping (unless you’re Kim Jong Un). Music, a timeless art emotionally filled with culture. Expressing itself through rhythmic beats and vocals. It leaves listeners with a strong sense of emotion and solidarity.

Music is more than just a rhythm, melody, or harmony; a tool used to make yourself happy, sad, angry, or unified. Additionally, The power of music isn’t in the construction, it’s in the outcome and the feeling that listeners get throughout.

A Brief History of Music

The art of making rhythmic beats and melodies dates back to before our history even begins. Before humans started writing and making other art forms, we were making music. Anthropologists believe that prehistoric humans used their voices to create sounds such as humming, whistling, and even singing. After that, this evolved into their use of materials such as wood and leather to reproduce sounds they heard in nature. This, along with repetition and pattern, became the first form of music for the prehistoric man. 

Native Americans made drums using buffalo hides and other animals for singing and dancing. These original forms of music are examples of art imitating nature. Many Native American sounds and vocals mimicked birds, thunder, and other natural phenomena. 

The people that lived in what is modern day Germany and Ireland also began using bones to create some of the first known woodwind instruments, which introduced a whole new complexity to the art form at the time. The oldest musical instrument ever found is a bone flute discovered in Ulm, Germany. This vulture wing bone is over 35,000 years old. 

These prehistoric art forms have evolved and been reshaped over time, as humans evolved and reshaped as well. We even associate certain time periods with the music of that generation. You can’t talk about music in the 19th century without mentioning classical composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig Van Beethoven. You can’t talk about the 1980s without mentioning Aerosmith or Journey. As a result, these are all household names, even if you’ve never listened to their art.

Music is Everywhere and Unites Cultures

In this age, it’s hard to go any amount of time without hearing or listening to music. Whether it’s a concert, someone next to you blasting Da Baby, or even in TV shows and movies, music is everywhere. As a pizza delivery driver, I literally listen to music 8 hours a day and I can say I rarely get tired of it. I can’t sit down and watch movies 8 hours a day, or even go to school that long anymore, but I can sit down and listen to music at length and never get tired of it. There’s just something about the beats and melodies that acts as a sort of escape for me. From J Cole, to Kanye, to Travis Scott, I find myself getting lost in the world that creators make and portray through their music. Behind each note or drum line is a story they portray. 

Music brings people together. Whether it be hippies protesting the Vietnam War, or rappers using their voices during the Black Lives Matter movement, music is a powerful tool to help bring communities of people together. Similarly, every branch of the military has their own war song, which helps each branch to unify with their brothers in arms. 

Dopamine and the Effect of Music

A study conducted in 2019 at the University of Barcelona showed that listening to music increases the release of dopamine in your brain (Ferreri et al., 2019). Dopamine is a chemical responsible for modulating rewards in your brain. Therefore, this means that listening to music increases your mood and overall happiness for a time. 

Creating music, however, has an even greater response in the brain. According to Michelon (2008), a study conducted by Gaser and Schlaug looked at the brains of professional musicians, amateur musicians, and people with no musical background. Above all, they found that the grey matter in both professional and amateur musicians had a greater volume than that of the non-musician. This means that actively producing and creating music increases your brain’s capacity for learning and increases the brain’s plasticity (brain plasticity is the ability of your brain to change while learning). This is amazing to think about that something as archaic and simple as music can have such a major impact on your brain and its chemistry. Pick up a guitar and start developing your grey matter!

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Final Thoughts

In conclusion, dopamine and the power of music is incredible. If you’re ever feeling down or need a good brain boost, go listen to music! It’s a fantastic way to relieve stress and keep those dopamine levels up. And for a little brain workout, create your own music. Finally, share with SoulSpeak if you make music. We would love to hear what you come up with. 


Ferreri, L., Mas-Herrero, E., Zatorre, R.J., Ripollés, P., Gomez-Andres, A., Alicart, H., Olivé, G., Marco-Pallarés, J. Antonijoan, R.M., Valle, M., Riba, J., and Rodriguez-Fornells, A. Dopamine modulates the reward experiences elicited by music. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201811878 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1811878116 Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190124110958.htm

Michelon, P. (2008, February 26). Brain Plasticity: How learning changes your brain. Retrieved from: https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/02/26/brain-plasticity-how-learning-changes-your-brain/

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