Song Appeal: Why Do We Like The Music We Like?

Hunter Farris has been interested in music for most of his life.

A native of Gilbert, Arizona, from the Calendar Vista Stake, Farris learned guitar at 14 and started playing the organ at 17. Farris has also sung in choirs for years, including Highland High School’s Concert Choir. It was there he received his introduction to music theory—and from there, SongAppeal, a podcast which analyzes why listeners like the music they do, was born.

How did you get into music?

I like all kinds of music, including alternative rock and pop punk, such as Matchbox Twenty/Rob Thomas, Fall Out Boy and Bowling for Soup. I’ve learned music theory through a variety of media: YouTube, podcasts, blogs, Twitter, Reddit, and even interviewing professional music theorists.

How did you get started with Song Appeal?

Hunter Farris at the mic. Photo courtesy of Hunter Farris

Hunter Farris at the mic. Photo courtesy of Hunter Farris

I decided to start Song Appeal partly because I loved the video essays I was watching from Lessons from the Screenplay, JustWrite, Every Frame a Painting, and other wonderful YouTube content creators. I wanted to get in on that scene, so I decided to make some kind of channel about music. I knew there were plenty of people who hated music theory (I later found an entire Twitter account dedicated solely to retweeting complaints about music theory!). I also knew that I didn’t just want to talk about my own personal thoughts about the song or how it affected me personally. I wanted to talk about something more universal. So precisely one year ago, I released my first 3 episodes, each about why you like your favorite songs, based in music theory and psychology.

Can you give an example?
Let’s take ‘Rewrite the Stars’, for instance, from The Greatest Showman. Since change grabs our attention, ‘Rewrite the Stars’ goes a step further by changing the speed of the song. I’m not talking the number of beats per minute, I’m talking about the number of notes per second. The beats-per-minute, or tempo, stays the same. You would still dance to it at the same speed. But there are simply more notes in every second. Each second is just more dense with notes.

At any given second, the verse might have anywhere from 0 notes to 4 notes. And that change is huge, with the jump being almost always at least 2 notes per second. That’s more change than most people put into their voices. Almost every second of the melody has a different speed and, with that much change, you can bet that the song catches our attention over and over, and really holds onto it.

I care about helping other people enjoy what they’re doing, so I wanted to create this video essay channel that would help other people enjoy music theory more.

If you’ve had a favorite song that comes to mind, Brother Farris welcomes contributors’ suggestions. You can find him at, on Facebook at Song Appeal or @SongAppeal  on Twitter and Instagram.

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