Music Psychologist Reveals The Formula For The Happiest Song Ever


On a lighter note: scientific formula for what makes a happy song revealed by music expert

  • Ever wondered why some songs put a spring in your step and a smile on your face? Now we have the answer – as a formula reveals what makes the nation’s happiest tracks
  • Science says they include a speed of 137 BPM and are in major key – with Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys found to be amongst the songs that fit the bill the most 
  • To brighten up the gloomy winter months, Müllerlight has also turned the formula into a real track HERE
  • Findings come as 71% of UK adults say music is their biggest mood booster – taking 14 seconds to make them feel happier on average

To lighten up the colder winter months, Müllerlight has partnered with music psychologist, Dr Michael Bonshor, to unveil the formula for what makes the happiest song ever.

The cheery song comes as new research – commissioned by fat free yogurt brand, Müllerlight – found that 71% of those surveyed say music is one of the most powerful influences on their mood. Two thirds (64%) of the nation said they listen to music to cheer them up, most often when they are lonely (43%), sad (42%) or when it’s cold and dark outside (40%). 

Sure to make people smile, the happy formula has also been turned into a pitch-perfect track, called The Lighter Note, and is bursting with upbeat notes, peppy chords and feel-good musical breaks.

The scientific formula devised by Dr Bonshor has also been used to reveal the songs that are scientifically proven to sweeten us up the most – with Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys being the song that takes the top spot. 

According to the formula, uplifting songs include a tempo of 137 BPM, verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure and combine reliable predictability with elements of surprise – such as a key change or unexpected set of notes.

The happy song formula:Major key + 137 BPM + 7th chords + strong beat + 4 beats in every bar + short intro + (verse+chorus)2 + repeated riffs + high volume + bright tone + (predictability*surprise).

Through his research, Dr Michael Bonshor identified that: “Previous studies have found that songs are perceived as happy if they are in a major key, with a sweet spot of approximately 137 beats per minute. We like ‘7th chords’ as they add interest; regular chords use three notes, whereas ‘7th chords’ add an extra note which provides a sense of musical ‘tension’ and ‘relief’. Alongside this, cheery songs usually have a strong 1-2-1-2 beat to them, so that you can dance along. 

“A short introduction means that the song kicks off with a bang straight away, and there’s not a long build up. We like high volume when it comes to how our happy songs are made, with notes played in a bright and bouncy way by instruments such as trumpets or electric guitars instead of mellower instruments. Finally, a repetitive rhythm or guitar riff that people can latch onto and becomes memorable is the cherry on the cake.

According to the formula, the top 10 scientifically happy songs are: 

  1. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys
  2. I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown
  3. House of Fun by Madness
  4. Get the Party Started by P!nk
  5. Uptown Girl by Billy Joel
  6. Sun Is Shining by Bob Marley
  7. I Get Around by The Beach Boys
  8. YMCA by Village People
  9. Waterloo by ABBA
  10. September by Earth, Wind & Fire

The survey of 2,000 people also found that 18 to 34 year olds are the generation who said they are turning to music to cheer them up more than any other age group (56%). 

On average, we have eight particular songs that make us feel happy, with 58% of those surveyed saying these songs have an upbeat feel to them and the same percentage again saying they remind them of good memories. 

We consider the happiest genres of music to be pop (49%), rock (25%), dance (17%), R&B (13%) and classical (12%), whilst two thirds of respondents (69%) prefer to listen to a variety of genres, artists or songs. It only takes 14 seconds, on average, for music to improve the nation’s mood.

Müllerlight’s track – The Lighter Note, written and produced by Jamie P & Oliver Price – is available to listen on Soundcloud here:

Toby Bevans, strategy and marketing director at Müller Yogurt & Desserts, comments: “Music is one of the most powerful ways to put a smile on your face, especially during these first few months of the year – I know that a good playlist energises me when I’m putting off going for a run when it’s cold and rainy outside. We’re going one step further by looking at exactly what about music makes us happy, so that we can create the ultimate feel-good track. We hope everyone gets a spring in their step when they listen to The Lighter Note!”


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