Greetings listeners!
I was talking to our podcast maestro Kevin Seal yesterday about these posts, and about the great responses you have all been posting; and Kevin suggested this very cool topic.
It’s about repeat listening, and the effect it has on how you experience music.
In your experience, what’s the difference between listening to a song the first time and listening to it for the second, third, fourth, or fiftieth time?
More questions: have you ever heard something that completely failed to interest you on the first listen, which later ended up being a very important piece of music to you? Have you ever listened to a song so much that you got sick of it? What’s going on there?
And for this week’s bonus round (and a preview of next week’s topic): do you think that the way a song changes with repeated listening is in any way related to where that piece of music might fit into the spectrum that goes from entertainment to art?
My hat is off to you for your great replies. Thanks in advance for this week’s contributions!


  1. Bob Robertson
    September 24, 2007 at 9:46am
    In my experience, when talking about music you'll get as many responses as there are people. However, in my opinion, the perception of it largely depends on our internal state of mind as well as stages of life. While repetitive listening plays a role, it isn't as important. The effect of it is on par with how generally repetitive patterns and habits of our lives are. It's really all about our character. For instance, I'm very obsessively repetitive person. I like everything the same again and again for a long time. This goes for everything. Naturally, I like music the same way. If I hear something I really like, it affects me in a way you'd expect it out of some mild drugs. Something gets released in the brain and it makes you want to experience it for some time. Until you get saturated, that is. Then you want to stop, but only for a while. Once the effect wears of you want it again. As time goes on, the reaction diminishes. However, I think the decay speed largely depends on an individual. I'd have to say that there are exceptionally few songs that I stopped enjoying, if at all. There's also effect by association. There was time in my life when I felt quite depressed. The music I listened at the time resonated with whatever brain mess was going in my head and I listened to it a lot. Now, I don't want to hear it again, even though I like it ? it brings bad memories and has negative effect, literally. In contrast, there is plenty of music, even an entire genre (jazz) that I did not like or did not care much for as I grew up, but heard it anyway. Now, if I don't love it, I like it. It brings a smile, makes me feel good, kind of like a warm cozy blanket that you brought from your happy childhood. In the end, I believe it's all about chemistry. Something in it resonates with us, our brain and body reacts. Associates get formed. A loopback gets formed. The rest is just self stimulation.
  2. Naomi
    September 25, 2007 at 5:49am
    A comment from a stubborn holdout of the "Classic Rock era". I have a huge collection of cd's from that season in time, and so many of those songs have the magical and almost eerie ability to put me in a state of semi-euphoria; the minute a certain song starts playing, there is a flood of remembered sights and emotions and peacefullness. So, for me, I know that my love for my music simply stems from the MEMORY, of what I was doing and experiencing at the time I first began to love that song. By the way, I'm a 60 year old grandmother. I feel like I am the ONLY female left out there who truly loves classic rock music so much. I could listen to Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and others until the CD wears out, and will never tire of it.
  3. Tony
    September 25, 2007 at 10:49am
    Q: In your experience, what's the difference between listening to a song the first time and listening to it for the second, third, fourth, or fiftieth time? For me the difference between the first listen and subsequent listens is my attention to detail. The first time I hear a song I pretty much take it as a whole. There are some things which definitely stand out on the first listen, a particular hook or riff, a particular drum section or some lyrical phrase or delivery. But repeated listens I start to notice the nuances of a song. I also pick up more about the entire structure of various aspects of a song. I start to appreciate the way the rhythm changes throughout the song. I notice the "story" of the song's lyrics, etc... Q: have you ever heard something that completely failed to interest you on the first listen, which later ended up being a very important piece of music to you? I can't say that anything thats come to be an important piece of music to me has failed to interest me on first listen. I'd say that there are songs that didn't interest me much at first, but generally songs that are important to me are fairly important on first listen. Q: Have you ever listened to a song so much that you got sick of it? What's going on there? I have gotten sick of certain songs, but those are generally songs that I was only marginally interested in in the first place. What generally happens to me is that I just get tired of the music or the genre. I used to listen to a lot of electronic music (Walter/Wendy Carlos, Vangellis, Synergy, Tomita, Tangarine Dream, etc...) I really don't choose to listen to any of it these days. I used to absolutely *love* it, but now it just doesn't do it for me. I'm not sick of it, I'm just bored by it for the most part. Sometimes one of the songs off of Tangarine Dream's soundtrack for The Sorcerer will come on and it will spark a fond nostaligic appreciation, but I don't really feel moved to get out my record player and the vinyl to listen to it again. I find that groups that I've loved in the past and listened to a lot tend to fall by the wayside over time. Blondie, Led Zepplin, ELO, ELP, etc... just aren't as interesting to me as they used to be. Some artists like The Beatles and Devo I still absolutely love and I haven't tired of their music. Q: Do you think that the way a song changes with repeated listening is in any way related to where that piece of music might fit into the spectrum that goes from entertainment to art? Not really. When it comes to music the old saying "I don't know art, but I know what I like" is really true for me. I don't care what other people think is artistic, I want to listen to the things that I enjoy.
  4. Valerie
    September 25, 2007 at 3:45pm
    The first time you listen to a song is great because that's when you figure out if it's going to be a song you like or not. however, listening to a song a third, fourth and fifith time is increadible if you like the song because that's when you here the emotions and the actual story behind the lyrics; and you start to pay closer attention to the music like this: 1. music as a whole - general liking 2. Lyrics - what they mean 3. Music - chord progressions and how the song makes you feel Somewhere around the 8th time you listen to it, you appreciate a song for what it truely is... after that - you have a few more times to listen to it before it gets old.
  5. Mike
    October 07, 2007 at 5:44pm
    For me the experience of the first listen vs repeated listening depends on my reaction to the song or piece. This is also connected to your last question, art vs entertainment. If I react to the piece as art, I study the piece on subsequent hearings. With art, I want to learn the lyrics & poetry, understand the simplicity or complexity of the arrangement, learn the solos and background parts for each musician, instrument, voice. If my perception is entertainment, and I like the piece, then I'll enjoy the melody, harmony and rythms without critical study. If I don't like the piece at all, repeat hearings will ususally be avoided at all cost. There is some music that I refuse to listen to because it grinds the listener in negative emotions and socially dysfunctional behavior. Repeat listenings usually painfully reconfirm my initial reaction and are a waste of time. I remember being terribly disappointed at my first listen to 'Love Devotion & Surrender' a collaboration between Carlos Santana & John McGlaughlin. A few years later I gave it a second try only because both artists had previously proved their genius. I was stunned at how badly I mis-judged the first listen. For this reason I'm sometimes open to giving proven artists a second shot. After many years of critical listening I trust my instincts and more so because I have eclectic musical tastes. For the music in my collection and the artists/genres that I search for on Pandora, I can't remember ever loving it first then hating it. The music that I choose to listen to repeatedly, (imho)is art - the best examples of their respective genres, the best cover, the music that changed the direction of the genre/art, the intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, or physically invigorating pieces. Art elevates both the artist and the audience. Often it does so permanently! I may seek a change of pace but I never tire of it because it inspires. One of the great things about Pandora is that it gave me control over my search for more great, inspiring music by new, forgotten and different artists.
  6. Doe
    November 10, 2007 at 6:34am
    Good site! I'll stay reading! Keep improving!
  7. Drew
    February 08, 2008 at 3:08pm
    I think I have a problem and its having effects that are not positive, Its a Song by the chemical brothers ( the test ) not only a song but a very cool video as well, its up on google..... For the last 3-4 days I have repeat listened to this song a few hundred times which scares me a bit.. maybe i need to see a shrink!! no serious, I can not get this out of my mind. We are all different.. i will be lucky to find someone that does or has in the past felt this madness.. maybe a bit of depression can be lifted as well from music.. and every thing else life has to offer.... If you find this very strange or not strange.... please leave a comment here...thanks

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