Radiolab

Navigate
Return Home

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.

 

Tags:

More in:

Comments [11]

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

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Supported by

Feeds