5 Classical Music Earworms-The Good, the Bad and the Fun

Sep 30, 2015

What is an earworm? To be honest this is a quite misleading word. Of course it’s not a worm with ears or a worm in one’s ear. It’s a musical piece that gets stuck in your head and stays there for a while, creating some sort of music playback effect in such a way that you keep hearing that particular excerpt long after it has stopped playing.

The why

It happens to all of us while listening to a catchy piece of music many times or when practicing our instruments for long periods of time. So what makes an earworm? Well, scientists have conducted various experiments, tests and what not, but the actual way it forms is still a bit of a mystery. It has something to do with the brain and since the brain is still one of the most complex and encrypted parts of the human body then it’s just normal to not know everything that happens in there. But what can actually be observed is the characteristics of that particular part of a musical piece that gets stuck in your head.

The earworm usually appears when we are dealing with an emotional experience. It’s very subjective and we all come across it in different ways. For example you are practicing Bach’s “Cello Suite No.1 - Prelude” for your next audition, and it is simply unavoidable to not get the intro stuck in your head. But not all or whole musical pieces become earworms. Actually, it’s only around 15 to 30 seconds from a piece that get memorised involuntarily. Usually it is the excerpt that contains repetition of either lyrics or musical notes. Add to this, the fact that the average human auditory short-term memory is around 30 seconds long and you got yourself an earworm.

Our top 5 earworms

Here at the office, we have shared some of our classical music earworms and set up this top 5 most frequent ones: 

1. Bach Cello Suite No.1 - Prelude

2. Grieg - In the Hall of the Mountain King

3. Ravel - Bolero

4. Richard Wagner -Flight of the Valkyries

5. Lakme - The flower duet

The good the bad and the earworm

After reading about earworms on the internet, it seems that for most people, it is just another of those annoying things that you need to get rid off. What is really surprising, is that earworms can become chronicle and some people can hear them constantly. This may become a distraction which affects their ability to focus. But hey, let’s not think about the disturbing facts and try to remember those times when you were with your friends, for example, and had a simultaneous earworm. It was fun right? To sing or hum the same music fragment together.


Here is a fun fact. You might think that only pop music has these repetitive notes and a simple melody which favors the earworms. Actually no, the secret of making memorable pieces of music dates way back. Just think about Baroque and Classical music and those 5 to 15 repetitive notes that you remember from some of the pieces. As a matter of fact, if we think more about it, this could be related to a previous blog post we had about Classical Music in Commercials and Movies.

by Felicia Gheorghe


Leave a comment