Understanding Emotions
Through Sound

By May Bleeker-Phelan, updated 24 Feb 2022

I thought it might be interesting to explore understanding emotions by accessing them through the five senses.

Your senses continually bring you information about your external world, why not use these same senses to explore your inner world as well?

This page offers an exercise for increasing self awareness by exploring feelings through the sense of hearing.

Sounds can evoke strong emotions - why else would you enjoy listening to your favorite songs? We also tend to build strong associations to sound.

In movies, ordinary scenes, like walking through a carpark, can be made horribly scary by the addition of a creepy soundtrack (think screechy violins).

And when you hear the dreamy violins you know that things are about to get romantic. In this way sounds almost become like a kind of 'code' that help you understand what is happening in the movie.

In this exercise you have an opportunity to identify what your own 'sound codes' are as they relate to your feelings - which may then be helpful to you understanding emotions or seeing them in a different light.

By associating feelings with sounds you think are similar in some way, you might come up with some useful and unexpected insights about your emotional life.

What is your dominant sense?

When it comes to learning it is well known that people tend to have a dominant 'sense'. 

Some people learn best through watching others or reading, others may learn more easily through hearing someone speak, or actually doing an activity themselves. When working with your dominant sense, information just seems to 'sink in more easily'. 

In exploring emotions, if you find that one of the senses do not 'appeal' as much as another, work with the one you feel most interested in. This may be your 'dominant' sense. 

Use it as a doorway to explore your own experience of your emotions. In the column on the right you will find worksheets for each of the five senses. Have fun trying them out!

What you will need for this exercise:

  • The Understanding Emotions Through Sounds Worksheet (downloadable pdf - updated version. Please refresh your browser if it doesn't automatically download.)
  • Something to write with
  • 20 minutes (10 minutes for the exercise, 10 minutes for reflection) - allow 30 minutes if you are doing the exercise with someone else.

Use the 'Sounds' worksheet provided above and follow the steps.

1. Choose the emotion you want to explore.

I FEEL:____________________________

2. If your feeling could make only one sound. What would it sound like? (e.g. 'popcorn popping', or 'birds singing'. Make one up that fits.)

3. If your feeling had a soundrack, what kind of music would it be?

4. What song does this feeling remind you of?

5. What is this song about?

6. If your feeling was a musical instrument, what instrument would it be?

7. What made you choose this instrument?

8. Sounds have certain qualities, listed below. Thinking about the emotion you are exploring, which of these qualities does it have?

Volume - is it loud or soft?

Tempo - is it quick or slow?

Pitch - is it high or low?

Rhythm & beat - is it regular/measured or irregular/chaotic?

9. Do you like the sound this emotion makes?

10. What have you learnt about this emotion?

Home - 5 Ways to Explore Emotions - Understanding Emotions through Sound (you are here)

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