Why we love some songs more than others - study

The reason why some songs sound better than others is the element of surprise, according to new research from Germany.

Researchers from Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences analysed 80,000 chords from 745 classic US pop bangers to find out why some songs strike the right chord in our hearts.

The evidence revealed when people are expecting one chord and hear another which they were not expecting, they found that song more pleasant.

To avoid contaminating the research with other associations people might have with certain songs researchers stripped all the music of its lyrics and melody leaving just the chord progressions. 

"Songs that we find pleasant are likely those which strike a good balance between what is going to happen next and surprising us with something we did not expect," said scientist Vincent Cheung.

Cheung says understanding how music activates the pleasure centres in our brain could explain why music can cheer people up when they're feeling upset or stressed.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers found the experience of musical pleasure is reflected in three regions of the brain - the amygdala, the hippocampus and the auditory cortex. 

These regions play a role in processing emotion, learning and memory and processing sound. 

"It is fascinating that humans can derive pleasure from a piece of music just by how sounds are ordered over time," said Cheung in a statement on Friday

The study could be used to enhance artificial music generation algorithms, help composers write new music or even to predict future musical trends.

But the work isn't over - the next step is to find out why and how some music will give people goosebumps.

"We think there is great potential in combining computational modeling and brain imaging to further understand not only why we enjoy music, but also what it means to be human," said Cheung.