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Earworms

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 01:01 AM

Worm plus ear Worm plus ear (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons/Wikimedia Commons)

First, we asked you to tell us what song gets stuck in your head. Then, we asked you how you got it out. Finally, we made a podcast. Thank you to everyone who called in, shared their secret techniques, and sang without shame.

Your suggestions ranged from the hilarious (Darth Vader breathing) to the malicious (give it to some one else) to the oddly-aligned (multiple people called in suggesting 'Girl from Ipanema' as a cure-all earworm). And now, we release your wisdom to the masses. We hope that this will be of help to earworm-sufferers, but be forewarned, it might just plague you with Journey.

 

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Comments [22]

Asimov M. Gandalf from Orlando

Earworms can be really frustrated. I have found the second method, the method of learning the song inside and out, is the best way to expel an earworm for me.

Apr. 12 2015 05:28 PM
Antonia Neruda from Florida

Earworms are songs that get stuck in people's heads. Listening to music all the time, I get plenty of earworms. From country classics to hip-hop essentials, my earworms vary day to day. This topic is very interesting considering the word 'earworms' sounds like a disgusting disease. Earworms can be unstuck by several techniques, such as replacing the song. Earworms aren't necessarily a bad thing, just a nuissance to the human mind.

Apr. 12 2015 01:57 AM
Gertrude G. Goethe from Florida

I'm incredibly glad that there are some methods on how to get these songs out of my head! Sometimes it's just so distracting that it messes with my focus, especially when writing essays. I'll be deep in concentration, in the zone. Then, right when I'm about to metaphorically body slam an analyzation of the communist manifesto, Journeys "Don't stop believing" begins to ring in my ears. Naturally, it sort of kills the mood. (I mean, the whole communism thing probably left the mood lifeless anyways.) But now I'm glad that I can waste the rest of my essay writing time by hosting a song battle between Journey and Fall out Boy to clear my thoughts.

Apr. 06 2015 11:14 PM
Upton D. Wilder

The things that people think about are quite interesting. I've gotten songs stuck in my head many times. But I never actually thought of a specific way to get them out of my head. I think that next a catchy tune gets stuck in my head I'm going to test one of the methods described in this podcast and see if they work. I found this podcast very entertaining. Procedures for getting rid of catchy tunes is something you never really think of. I'm always very entertained by the topics that these npr podcasts are on.

Apr. 06 2015 11:10 PM
Dante Lovecraft from Florida

This was a very entertaining podcast, I can relate to many of the songs others have gotten stuck in their heads. For me, whenever I get a song stuck in my head I hum it, sooner or later somebody else will overhear and the ear worm will jump hosts making me free.

Apr. 06 2015 10:37 PM
Gandalf G. Bond from Florida

I thought this podcast was fun to listen to. I would consider myself lucky to have most of these songs stuck in my head though because I usually end up with something much worse stuck in my head like Katy Perry type crap.

Apr. 06 2015 09:31 PM
Lyra K. Christie

I swear I constantly have the theme song for The Big Bang Theory in my head. At least twice a day, usually during school, I can't seem to get rid of it. I think I'll try the technique of transferring the song to someone else. That could be interesting. The new song approach doesn't really work for me because that one ends up stuck in my head as well.

Apr. 06 2015 09:19 PM
Edgar M. Gatsby from Ears

Earworms can be really annoying. As a swimmer my head is always in the water so I need something to think about. Most of the time its the same song no matter how long I have to swim. I found it rather interesting that most of the songs brought up were songs that I myself have gotten stuck in my head. But now with these new ways of getting them out of my head I hope I can use them to get bad songs out.

Apr. 06 2015 07:40 PM
Archimbold S Hannibal

This is definitely an interesting topic. Although not groundbreaking new discoveries, these solutions can definitely help rid the mind of those pesky notes. I personally find the new song approach most helpful, albeit most risky for the new song has a chance of getting stuck. I have found that giving the song in your head to someone else does often help, is could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Apr. 06 2015 07:11 PM
Sherlock D. Whiler from United States

This has happened to me so many times that I could not have kept track (ha), although the song does not stay in my mind for more then an hour. Any song from "Don't stop believing" to "Uptown funk" would get stuck in my mind. For me, I don't really try to forget the song, It just leaves my mind. When I am focusing during my day, I just simply forget it, no matter how catchy or interesting it may be. However, If I in fact do find myself with a song stuck in my head, say, during an exam or something important, I'll just sing the first line of another song, then just refocus on the issue at hand. This works for me every time. I have never had a single song stuck in my head for more than twelve hours. I may listen to it over and over again, but it would never get stuck in my head. I don't know if I'm lucky or music deaf, but I don't mind.

Apr. 05 2015 08:47 PM
Catniss J. Moore

Nothing is more aggravating than a song constantly being played over and over in your head. I loved hearing everyone's "earworm." I think replacing the song is the best solution for me.

Apr. 04 2015 10:15 AM
Hermione Grisham

This radio lab will come in handy. I personally love to listen to music and it helps me when I'm at a low. However the songs I listen to have a repetitive and catchy tune that keeps it in my head. I will be sure to try out these techniques!

Mar. 31 2015 12:14 AM
Harriet S. from FL

Because of the sheer amount of music I'm around everyday, (three classes in school!) I tend to have earworms constantly. Unfortunately, I usually have to ride them out as few things work in getting rid of them. One of my friends suggested use the lyrics of the song stuck in my head and put them to another tune. It only works when there are lyrics to the song stuck in my head, however.

Mar. 30 2015 11:29 PM
Loreli C. Whitman

Eagworms can be the worst and mostly happen to me at the most inconvenient time such as taking a very important exam. I have never been able to get these songs out of my head and if I do another just replaces it. I enjoyed listening to the four techniques which are as followed : 1. To replace the song 2. Embrace the song 3. sing the note of a song until the song disappears and 4. get the song stuck in someone else's head. So far I have heard only two of these solutions before. It was interesting to find out about singing a note in the song and will one day try that in the future. But I do agree that listening to another catchy song will get the last one out of your head. But this leads to the same problem and doesn't really end up curing the root of the issue. Embracing the song is very unique because usually I do this with music that I enjoy until I end up hating it. I have never tried to do this with earworms but if I can get sick of my all time favorite song this way,I believe that it can help with this problem. The solution that seems funny is to get the song in someone else's head. This mysteriously works because I end up laughing at my friends that get it in their head getting my mind off of the initial idea. I will be trying the different solutions in the near future!

Mar. 29 2015 10:03 PM
yasmi19 from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Sometimes if a song gets stuck in my head, it has a message for me, so I look for the lyrics to see if it is my subconscious trying to tell me something.
Sometimes when a song gets stuck in my head it is because I don't know the ending, when I know the ending, it ends.

Dec. 30 2014 05:52 PM
ct182

This is really interesting. My Earworm is different every day. It kind of depends on my mood and such. But, usually to get rid of my Earworm I'll sing the song until I get sick of it. A lot of people suggest singing other songs and it never ever helps me, that song just gets stuck in my head and it goes in a constant circle.

Apr. 25 2014 09:27 PM

Was a fault from RadioLab don't write the description of the songs they use in this PodCast, I personally would like to listen some of them because they are really good, but some people don't describe well the tittle and the singer.
That's sucks (but RadioLab should describe it) because they put in to the PodCast.
Meaning (Incomplete work)

Jul. 24 2012 09:55 AM
Evan

The most fascinating thing about this podcast is a little aside where the song stuck in each persons head more often than not is in the correct key, as if the person had perfect pitch when recalling the song. I'm a musician and there was a point when I was a teenager where I sort of realized that you could do this. You can remember a couple of favorite songs and figure out what the tonic note is and remember that note, and sometimes that can be condensed down to just the note on guitar or piano or a brass instrument.

It's probably nowhere near as good as being born with absolute pitch, but I was able to fake it to a couple of my classmates and professors, and the whole time it was really just flipping through the earworms I had memorized until I found a pitch that matched whatever pitch they were playing. Usually the more I worked on it, the more accurate I was. It makes me think that perfect pitch is actually a little more common than we think it is, and not necessarily something you have to be born with.

By the way the kermit the frog suggestion by one of the commenters above is AWESOME. Ha.

Jun. 24 2012 02:26 PM
Batshua

The one trick that a friend of mine swears by is imagine the song being sung by Kermit the Frog.

That works great when you know the lyrics, similar to embracing the song. When you don't know the lyrics or the song is a musical piece without lyrics, I guess I'm still stuck with forcing it out with "stronger" music.

Dec. 13 2011 04:27 PM

Hi Jad - Did you hear this recent story from NPR music? I thought of you immediately
http://n.pr/gKkQBA

Mar. 18 2011 12:07 AM
Nate from New Haven

Wow, one of your listeners mentioned using the inspector gadget theme song to get rid of his earworms. I too have used that very successfully for the last fifteen years.

Interestingly, I started using that song the same year that I cured myself of the hiccups forever.

Mar. 11 2011 05:40 PM
Grendel from Finger Lakes NY

I love your show. Didn't know earworm program was on. Sporadic listener to radio due to....no radio in house! But NOW, INTERNET connection and WIRELESS!
So, as a music teacher (middle school), I know some musicals we study have the dreaded "earworm." Solution: Do mental math.
Try it. It works. Hopefully email may let me know what programs you have "in the works...." .....if I check email.

Nov. 04 2010 10:22 PM

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