After hosting A Moment of Science for so long, I’m familiar with our theme song. Those few seconds of gentle music are a great way to start the show. In fact, sometimes the tune spontaneously pops into my head, where it plays over . . . and over . . . and over again.
Okay, I admit: even our theme music gets a little annoying when my brain plays it on repeat. That phenomenon—having a song stuck in your head—is known as an earworm. Like me, if you’re constantly surrounded by music—if you’re a singer, for example, or if your child watches educational television—you may be more likely to catch an earworm.
The tunes that stay with us are often simple snippets, like a distilled essence of the song. That could be the chorus, or a distinctive hook, or just a single line of lyrics. One 2016 study found common themes between earworms. First, they tend to have cheerful, upbeat tempos. Second, the melodies are usually generic, reminding you of other pop songs, for instance. Third, the song occasionally bounces between high and low notes. The bounce is a distinctive bit of melody that differentiates it from the other pop tunes you’re reminded of.Most earworms go away in a matter of minutes or hours, though they sometimes last for days. What can you do to silence an earworm? Try focusing on a specific task, or singing a different song to yourself. But, unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. This is one broken record you might just have to wait out