Perception and Emotional Effect of Fade-outs in Song Endings in Popular Music

Hauke Egermann, Myles Gaulin, Stephen McAdams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Background: The fade-out, an editing technique in which sound levels are gradually diminished to mark the end of a musical piece, has become a common way to end songs in the context of Western popular music. However, to date, no empirical studies have explained and explored the effects of this technique on listeners. Aims: This study examines several hypothetical perceptual and emotional effects of fade-outs along several dimensions: illusory recession of the sound source, in which fade-outs create the impression that the musicians are playing at constant intensity, but moving away; a related imagination effect, in which listeners imagine the song continuing after the end of the recording (leading also to longer induced emotions after the song ending); and decreased musical closure. Furthermore, it also analyzes effects on listeners' induced emotions. Methods: 50 participants who were randomly assigned to one of two behavioral tasks rated 36 song excerpts presented in random order. 18 ended with fades and 18 on cold endings (without fades). Half of participants listened to musical excerpts, then made retrospective ratings on the hypothesized dimensions of fade-out perception on seven-point Likert scales. For the other half of participants, musical excerpts played automatically while they made continuous ratings of arousal and valence on a two-dimensional touch screen interface throughout the entire experiment (during listening to excerpts and an extra 10 second long period of silence between presentation of excerpt). Results and Conclusions: Song endings with fade-outs were more likely to evoke a sensation of recession, imagined continuation, and reduced musical closure compared to song endings without fade-outs. Whereas fade-outs in general did not increase predictability of excerpt endings, longer fade-outs did increase predictability. No difference was found for arousal and valence ratings ��� between fade-out and cold ending conditions, however there was a general tendency for arousal to decrease after the ends of all excerpts. Summarizing those results, all hypotheses could be corroborated (except for those related to induced emotions), allowing to explain the psychological effects of the ubiquitous used fade-outs at song endings in popular music.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationTagungsband der Jahrestagung der deutschen Gesellschaft für Musikpsychologie
Place of PublicationBremen, Germany
PublisherDeutsche Gesellschaft für Musikpsychologie
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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