Canadian scientists have gone some way to explaining our madness for “The Drop” in some of our best-loved bass tunes. “The Drop” is that moment we all go mad for when it comes to EDM, usually it’s the point at which the volume gets highest and marks a distinct change from the rest of the song. But until now that change (and the love behind it) remained somewhat a game of guesswork.
Researchers at the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind investigated the relationship between our minds and low-frequency pitches and discovered that our soft spot comes from out of our natural love for rhythm, with bassier lower notes being easier to detect.
The scientists strapped 35 people with an electroencephalogram – commonly known as EEG – those to monitor their brain activity and played them a series of low and high-pitched piano notes at the same time. Sometimes, the notes were played 50 milliseconds too fast, but most people when presented with the change in notation would recognize the offbeat in the lower tone, instead of the higher pitch, or both.
Then, the researchers tested the participants unconscious response to rhythm. The volunteers were asked to tap their fingers to the beat and when the timing change occurred, the researchers discovered that the people involved were more likely to modify their tapping to fall in line with the low-pitched tones. As if the lower notes naturally dominated their listening without them meaning to.
Finally, they played the same sequences with a digital model of the human ear. The computer analysis lead the geeks to believe that this natural affinity for lower notes in rhythm-keeping was a fault of the ear’s and not – as we might think – an animalistic corner of the brain that just loves the chance to crack out a bass-face.
The study “provides a very plausible hypothesis for why bass parts play such a crucial role in rhythm perception,” Dr. Tecumseh Fitch, a University of Vienna cognitive scientist who did not take part in the study, told Nature.
There are no doubt other factors that make us crazy for a revved up bassline that’s characteristic of “The Drop” — the fact that everyone moves near-enough at the same time being one of them. But the study released earlier this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is enough to suggest that it’s our ears, not our heads, that do most of the “loving”.