Image by: Alvimann

We all know someone who loves there to be a lot of bass frequencies in their music. There is something about that particular range of vibration frequencies that make these people’s feet move and their spines tingle.

In fact, there is a whole portion of modern dance music that is more about the bass and the rhythm of the song then about anything else, but must songs that we hear these days have bass as an active ingredient in the mix.

So what is the appeal of bass frequencies for humans and why do they make some of us go crazy? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly there is no agreed answer but there are a number of interesting theories:

Bass as a link to our common past I: Tribes

Back before we had modern speakers, instruments and the concept of going to a rave, scientists think it most likely that our ancient ancestors lived in small tribal groups.

These same scientists also think that a large part of the tribe’s entertainment, rituals, superstitions and long range communication revolved around the use of big, bass heavy drums. When you take into account that the whole of modern human evolution encompasses only around  400,000 to 250,000 years (as opposed to the whopping 400 million years that sharks have been around), it is perhaps not surprising that loud bass seems to make some people so excited.

Bass as a link to our common past II: Being in the womb

Another theory as to why bass has certain effects on all humans is linked to the common experience we share as we grow inside our mothers’ wombs.

During this period of our existence, the only sense that is really constant is that of feeling, and most of the stimulations that we experience are in the form of vibrations. From the constant rhythmic pulse of our mothers’ heartbeat to the noisy hustle and bustle of the world outside, these vibrations are felt through our whole developing bodies.

So the theory goes, when you hear and feel a loud and low down bass frequency that seems to make your insides shudder in some form of rhythm, our subconscious is reminded of a calming time before rational thought that it actually can’t really remember. Deep.

Bass as a multi-sensory experience

This is the theory that makes most sense to me, but I would hope that the true answer to our question is a little bit of all three of these theories.

The theory is relatively straight forward: we experience bass not just through our ears but also through the vibrations it causes in our bodies and the myriad of different physical effects that result from those vibrations. This in turn has the effect of forming a much deeper connection to the music (if we like it) than we would if it was just our eardrums that had vibrated. Simple.

It is perhaps surprising that there has not been more research done in this area, or perhaps there has, I don’t know. If you have any can your point it in my direction please?

So the next time you are walking down the road and someone drives past blaring music from their car subwoofers, don’t get annoyed and consider them to be inconsiderate. Instead appreciate the sounds you hear for the multi-sensory experience that human beings have been enjoying that they are.

Author Byline: James Duval is a technology geek who has loved loud music for as long as he can remember. When not working or writing blogs for partners such as the Car Audio Centre, James likes to don some leather and rock out.