My Study on Hip Hop and Rock Music

Coming in to my Music 140 class, I had always loved all different types of music. That was part of my reasoning for taking the course. Before the class, however, I had never put any thought to the idea that different types of music genres are actually louder than others. Through the knowledge of volume and loudness I gained from this course, I began to think about how the different genres of music may sound at the same volume.

This is something the normal person may not think about going through their daily music listening, but I believe that through a quick observation one may actually notice a difference in loudness between genres.

Hopefully by determining if the perception of loudness is higher for a particular genre, we will be able to then make way for more research into how this affects our hearing over time. As this observation goes on, I believe we will find that one of the two genres I have picked to study has a higher perception of loudness at the same volume. I chose Hip Hop and Rock as my two genres because these are both two popular genres in modern culture.

Leading up to my observations, I had to make sure I knew what I was looking for and exactly why I wanted to conduct this research. All my life I had been a little concerned about how the loudness of music may affect our hearing. I was never the type of kid who would sit and blast my music as loud as I could, for fear that hearing impairment was soon to follow.

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After doing some research on the subject throughout the course, I came to find that, “people should listen to music of 100 decibels for no longer than 15 minutes,” (Reddy, 2015.) This analysis made me wonder just how loud our music is? A study conducted based on that statistic performed by Sumathi Reddy, concluded that, “16% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 examined listened to music at volumes that could cause hearing loss”.

After hearing that shocking statistic, I began to wonder if there were any variations on the loudness of music between different genres, and wanted to know what role these could play in later hearing loss.

After doing more research based on what I had found, I came across a website that talked about exactly what I was curious about. The website article was written by Paul Lamer, and it was an analysis of the loudness in decibels of different genres of music. Using a mix of human hearing and computer generated software, Paul made an analysis of many different songs and genres based on their range of decibels and average loudness. The study concluded that Hip Hop and Rock music hold the highest average loudness, with the smallest change in decibel range, even noting that, “It is interesting to see that Avril Lavigne is louder than Metallica and Katy Perry is louder than Megadeth” (Lamer, 2009.)

This was a pretty interesting find because when I was coming into my research, I would have assumed that Rock music would be the loudest genre by a landslide when in fact, Hip Hop took the top seat. Knowing that this was the case, I decided for times sake to limit my research to see if there were any noticeable differences in the perception of loudness between the top two choices, Rock and Hip Hop.

In order to find out if there was a significant difference in the perception of loudness in genres by individuals, I would first need to select a few songs from the two genres that would remain constant, and I chose to recruit the help of 3 friends to take part in my observations. Note, this observation is different from the study done by Paul because his study actually measured the decibel reading of the songs. My study is to see if the average individual is able to notice the differences in loudness that Paul proved was there. This is to show that the average person may not be aware of just how loud their music actually is. I also took note of a journal published by Joanna Kantor-Martynuska, in the European Journal of Personality, that analyzed if temperament had anything to do with how loud people perceived music to be.

The study concluded that there is a positive link between temperament and perceived loudness (Kantor-Martynuska, 2009.) Taking that into account for this study, I would need to make sure the participants were in a comfortable environment such as a bedroom or living room where they could relax. The songs I chose came from both Rock and Hip Hop, but I made sure to choose songs that did not sound entirely too similar. My chosen songs were “GOMD” by J. Cole, “Me, Myself, and I” by G-Eazy, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, and “Saturday Night Special” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I made it a point to choose an intense song from each genre, (GOMD & Run to the Hills) and also two chiller songs in, (Me, Myself, and I, & Saturday Night Special.)

This would make sure there was proper variation and enough samples to listen to for the participants. In order for the study to work, I required that each of the three participants listened to all four songs at a set volume of 75%, through the music app Spotify and through the same pair of apple headphones. My reasoning behind choosing 75% as the set volume is in hopes that the music is not blasted too loud to cause hearing damage, but also in hopes that the volume is set in a way that the average person can notice subtle differences in loudness. A study done by Doheon Lee from the University of Sydney concluded in 2012 that, “listening level significantly affects reverberance.” (Lee, 2012.) I wanted to choose a volume that would keep all things constant, including revererance. All of these precautions made sure that the only variable I would be changing would be the songs in order to get accurate data.

After having my participants, X, Y, and Z, listen to the four chosen songs at the same volume, the results were pretty clear. I had the participants rate the songs 1-4 in order of loudness, and these were the results. As you can see, all three participants had the same exact results. The intense Hip Hop song, GOMD, was regarded as the loudest in all three studies, one participant even said it was too loud to be enjoyable. Me, Myself, and I, Run to the Hills, and Saturday Night Special fell in line after that respectfully.

After finding this data in the study, it must also be noted of some observations I had throughout. Two of the participants claimed that there was no significant difference in loudness between the two hip hop songs, but the difference between those and the Rock songs was noticeable. He also stated that there was no noticeable difference between the two Rock songs either. Participant X had an observation that instead of using two songs from each genre, I could have instead used four songs from four different genres. Looking back, it would have been interesting to evaluate the difference in loudness of Rock and Hip hop compared to some of the lower decibel reading genres from Paul Lamere’s study.

So what does this mean for the average music listener? I believe it showcases that even though we may not notice it, listening to certain music or genres may lead to a loudness rise that we are not even aware of. My study concluded that when given the two genres, the Hip Hop will be perceived as louder to the individuals compared to Rock. music. A study done by James Kates for the University of Colorado-Boulder analyzed how Dynamic-Range Compression (DRC) is used in the music industry to achieve a higher loudness.

This a new trend that has gained popularity recently, and may be a reason that has led to the newer genre of Hip Hop to be so loud compared to others. What the study concluded, though, is that, “a small amount of compression was preferred in the un-equalized condition, but the highest levels of compression were generally detrimental to quality, whether loudness was equalized or varied” (Kates, 2012.) This study goes against the grain of the notion, “Louder is better,” and I believe these finding show that even though music is getting louder, that may lead to a decrease in quality of music for the future.

After concluding my research, I believe my experiment was accurate and helps to show that some genres will be louder than others. With that said, I believe there is much more research to be done in the field in order to see just how much of an effect this change in loudness has on an individuals hearing. I think it is important for people to understand that just because a song does not sound louder, it very well may be performing at a decibel level higher than recommended, which was shown in Pauls study as well. With this knowledge, I hope that people can make better decisions of how loud to listen to their music based on my findings.

Moving forward, I think my experiment could benefit greatly from the feedback of my participants, namely the participant who stated that I should have used a lot of different genres. Doing so may have led to a greater frequency of noticing the subtle differences between a high decibel reading song and a low decibel reading song in regard to perceived loudness. Through my research I have personally learned that I should hesitate to turn the volume up, even if the music doesn’t sound as loud as another song.

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My Study on Hip Hop and Rock Music. (2023, Feb 19). Retrieved from

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