PAB Newsletter #20 – Music for athletes: a useful tool, not just a source of enjoyment

Jan 8, 2024 | Home News, Media, News, Performance

Authors: Igor Jukic, Tamara Despot, Branimir Mihaljevic, Niksa Svilicic, Francesco Cuzzolin, Julio Calleja-Gonzalez, Baris Kocaoglu, Jaime Sampaio, Mar Rovira, Antonio Santo 

About music in sport

The purpose of science in basketball is to search for the limits of players performance. Therefore, many researchers are investigating the ergogenic potential of various means (ergogenic aids) that can contribute to improving the basketball performance of players (1). Among these sources, music is classified as a psychological ergogenic aid (2) and has attracted interest mainly because of its effects found in studies focusing on performance during training (3), pre-task (4), and post-task (4).

Every piece of music requires the organization of several primary elements: melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo and dynamics (5). A melody is the tune of a piece of music, the part you can hum or whistle along to (in this paper shown as continuous or intermittent melody). Harmony involves a combination of notes, which affects the mood of the listener based on music frequency (in this paper shown in Hz (432 or 440 Hz)). The “sound tapestry” created when different notes are combined can make you feel happy, sad, relaxed or nervous. Rhythm includes the distribution of notes over time and how they are stressed (in this paper shown as simple or complex rhythm). Tempo is the speed at which music is played, usually measured in beats per minute (bpm). Dynamics reflects the energy that the musician transmits with his touch or breath to affect the volume of the instrument (in this paper shown as low, mid or high expressed energy). (5).

Effects of music in sport

There are psychological, psychophysical, psychophysiological and ergogenic potential effects of music (5, 6). Psychological effects refer to how music impacts mood, affects emotions, attitudes, cognition and behavior (7). Psychophysical effects of music include sensory reactions to physiological processes. In music-related research, the perception of physical effort is of particular interest and is most commonly assessed using ratings of perceived exertion (RPE). The psychophysiological effects of music refer to the influence of music on a number of physiological parameters (eg blood lactate, heart rate, breathing rate). Music has an ergogenic effect when it improves physical performance by delaying fatigue or increasing work capacity (5, 6). Usually results are shown in higher than expected levels of endurance, strength, productivity or power. Generally speaking, rhythm and tempo have been shown to be the elements of music most likely to induce a physical reaction in listeners (8).

Uses of music in sport

In a sports context, music is usually used in one of four ways. First, asynchronous music is played in the background to make the environment more pleasant or as a planned distraction (5). Second, synchronous music is characterized by athletes or exercisers using the rhythmic or temporal aspects of music as a kind of metronome that regulates their movement patterns (6). Third, pre-task music is applied immediately before a physical task or sporting event; this implies the use of a musical stimulus to wake up, relax or regulate the mood of an athlete or a team (6, 7, 9). Pre-task music is also used to create task-relevant imagery or to facilitate mental rehearsal (6). Fourth, music can also be used as part of the recovery process after competition or strenuous training (6, 10).

Practical advices for players

Players use music in their daily life according to the geographical and cultural characteristics of their domicile environments, current global and local music trends, but also based on the influence of the micro environments of their clubs and/or national teams. These mentioned influences should be aligned with musical expertise and scientific evidence in sports, but always respecting personal experience. In table 1, appropriate musical parameters are proposed for certain types of training and training parts.

Table 1: Proposed music parameters for different training goals (Melody – continous or intermittent, Harmony – frequency of 432 or 440 Hz), Rhythm – simple or complex, Tempo – <100, beats per minute (bpm), Dynamic – low or mid or high energy). By clicking here, you can find examples of songs from pop-rock genre for all parameters.

It is important to note that, in addition to the stated parameters of music and training goals, players should also choose the type of music according to their preferences and habits. Finally, the most important is that the player chooses music that simultaneously has a psycho-physiological foundation, but also evokes a feeling of subjective pleasure.

It is advisable for players and coaches to experiment with different musical parameters for different types of training for each individual player. The same applies to the music that the whole team listens to (e.g. on the bus or in the locker room before the game). There are other situations related to the professional and private life of athletes (free time, travel, social life…), in which athletes should choose adequate music that will provide them with comfort, relaxation, focus or emotional stimulation. In these situations, while respecting expert and scientific information, players choose music according to their own affinity and positive experience.

Music is a useful ergogenic tool in sports training, but its presence in some cases is not advisable because it causes distraction to focus or nervousness. This especially applies to complex types of training in which the informational (technical-tactical) component is emphasized. That is why it is extremely important to carefully choose the type of music whose musical parameters correspond to the training characteristics and the personal characteristics of the athletes and the team.




  1. Tokish JM, Kocher M S, Hawkins RJ. (2004). Ergogenic aids: a review of basic science, perfor- mance, side effects, and status in sports. Am J Sports Med. 32:1543-53.
  2. Bernstein A, Safirstein J, Rosen JE. (2003). Athletic ergogenic aids. Bull Hosp Joint Dis. 61:164-71.
  3. Terry, P. C., Karageorghis, C. I., Curran, M. L., Martin, O. V., & Parsons-Smith, R. L. (2019). Effects of Music in Exercise and Sport: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication.
  4. Karageorghis, C. I., Bruce, A. C., Pottratz, S. T., Stevens, R. C., Bigliassi, M., & Hamer, M. (2018). Psychological and psychophysiological effects of recuperative music post-exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50, 739 –746. 000001497
  5. Terry, P. C., & Karageorghis, C. I. (2011). Music in sport and exercise. In T. Morris & P. C. Terry (Eds.), The new sport and exercise psychology companion (pp. 359–380). Fitness Information Technology.
  6. Terry, P. C., Karageorghis, C. I., Curran, M. L., Martin, O. V., & Parsons-Smith, R. L. (2020). Effects of music in exercise and sport: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 146(2), 91–117.
  7. Karageorghis, C. I., Kuan, G., & Schiphof-Godart, L. (2021). Music in sport: From conceptual underpinnings to applications. In Z. Zenko & L. Jones (Eds.), Essentials of exercise and sport psychology: An open access textbook (pp. 530–564). Society for Transparency, Openness, and Replication in Kinesiology.
  8. Karageorghis, C. I., Terry, P. C., & Lane, A. M. (1999). Development and initial validation of an instrument to assess the motivational qualities of music in exercise and sport: The Brunel Music Rating Inventory. Journal of Sports Sciences, 17, 713–724. 026404199365579
  9. Lanzillo, J. J., Burke, K. L., Joyner, A. B., & Hardy, C. J. (2001). The effects of music on the intensity and direction of pre-competitive cognitive and somatic state anxiety and state self-confidence in collegiate athletes. International Sports Journal, 5, 101-110.
  10. Priest, D. L., & Karageorghis, C. I. (2008). A qualitative investigation into the characteristics and effects of music accompanying exercise. European Physical Education Review, 14, 347-366.


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