V.com weekend vote: How frequently do you get an 'ear worm'?

March 6, 2015, 11:27 AM · Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Or maybe a symphony?

I suspect it's a common occurrence in musicians -- or call it a common ailment. When someone says, "I've got this music stuck in my head," often the next thing they say is, "...and it's driving me crazy!"

Such a phenomenon is called an ear worm (which comes from German "ohrwurm"). It's been the subject of short stories, Seinfeld episodes and even blamed semi-seriously for causing madness. I'd also venture to say that the "earworm" also helps most children learn their alphabets and can have other beneficial effects.

I have one going pretty much all the time, and sometimes several. When I wake up, nearly every morning my brain treats me to music I used to listen to early in the mornings as a toddler, with my grandmother. It's completely unconscious and I find it quite incredible that this would come to me; I often don't notice it until I find myself humming it, and then I shake my head. How? Why? I've stopped fighting it and simply decided it's her way of saying hello!

How often do you get an "earworm"? Do you have any recurring ones? What are they?

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Replies

March 6, 2015 at 06:03 PM · Best book I've ever read about this is named Musicophilia (2008) by Dr. Oliver Sacks, a psychiatrist. For many people it's a syndrome that requires treatment. Some individuals will start a symphony in their minds and not be able to stop "listening" to it until is completed. I can tune into different instruments when I'm "listening" to a symphony or concerto, then move around the orchestra; it's like dissecting the score in your head. It is not fun to have, if you can't turn it off.

Dr. Sacks talks about the different treatments that he has successfully applied to his patients.

Very interesting topic.

March 6, 2015 at 06:09 PM · Here is another instance of an ear worm, listen at your own peril:

March 6, 2015 at 06:24 PM · LET IT GO ... LET IT GO ...

gotcha!

March 6, 2015 at 07:20 PM · Someone in my house is always humming something! Whatever I'm playing in orchestra sticks in my head, which is good for practice. This week I'm alternating between Beethoven's 5th, Rossini's Barber of Seville, and last week's Dvorak 8th. :)

March 6, 2015 at 07:27 PM · Once I had a tune going in my head. I couldn't remember what tune it was, so I was wondering: "What is this melody? Wonder who composed it". Suddenly I realized it was one that I had made myself in the past. I am a composer of music, so I have made many pieces, but it was a strange experience to hum a tune without knowning it was my own.

March 6, 2015 at 07:45 PM · Lars, you're in good company. Bach gave himself ear worms and, as a result, recycled at least one phrase that I found. It's at the end of the first half of the D-minor Allemande and again (shifted by a half step) toward the end of the E Major Gavotte en Rondeau. I think a lot of unwitting "plagiarism" happens this way, and not only in music.

March 7, 2015 at 11:57 AM · Some ear-worms come unbidden and can be hard to dislodge. Others (which may not be strictly 'ear-worms') can be self-induced. I used to enliven boring business meetings by 'playing through' in my head a Beethoven quartet or a Bruckner symphony etc. Much more interesting that the rest of the meeting, and, of course, wonderful interpretations!

March 7, 2015 at 01:49 PM · I woke up with one this morning:

Christina Aguilaria:

Underappreciated:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-vfw7zRf1o

And I didn't even listen to her once yesterday. She's completely utterly awesome though. I think that's what causes it.

March 8, 2015 at 12:09 AM · My 'ear-worms' are often a guide to how I'm feeling when I'm thinking about something else. I can generally replace one tune with another, but I wouldn't want to shut them off (if I even knew how) because there's a balance to the heartbeat in the music running through my blood.

March 8, 2015 at 01:18 AM · I have my etudes stuck in my head. :(

March 8, 2015 at 12:02 PM · You should help that by listening to good music. A drawback to the same mental process is being plagued by musac or even names that you don`t know. I had the name Thomas Berditch in my head for some time before I learned he was a tennis player.It`s spelled Tomas Berdych properly but It`s just a name my ears had recorded. I don`t pay much attention to tennis . When I was young I would guess a racehorse winner and the familiar names recited on the news sometimes gave me a good prediction .

Sometimes I would whistle a Classical piece and accidentally end up in a Jazz piece. Memories of someone you were close to will pop into your head 25 years after you have seen them . That`s about Romance though . Don`t try to restrict it .

March 8, 2015 at 01:48 PM · Sometimes my daughter and I discover that we're stuck with the same ear worm. And it's not because we were just listening to the same music. Sometimes my ear worm is acting as a musical backdrop to how I'm feeling at the moment.

March 9, 2015 at 02:15 PM · Currently playing in the pit-orchestra for a Gilbert & Sullivan production. 'Nuff said.

March 9, 2015 at 07:46 PM · Yes, I do get them. And sometimes what I hear is exactly what my students produce, which is not always for the best. :)

March 10, 2015 at 06:30 PM · Sometimes my wife and I will fight by giving each other an earworm that we hate - some insipid piece of elevator music, for instance. We don't do that very often, though - it's just too cruel.

I'll often find that a symphonic piece I'm working on will turn into an earworm. That's OK if it helps practice, but not when it won't let me sleep.

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