Sounds Tasty – How Music Can Alter Taste

Ever wonder if the classical piano music they play at fancy restaurants actually makes the food taste better? What if that louder music at the local pub actually makes your food less flavourful?

In a study conducted by Professor Charles Spence of Oxford University, participants were fed cinder toffee while researchers played both high and low-frequency sounds. As a result, the participants noted that the high notes actually enhanced the sweetness of the cinder toffee, while low notes resulted in a bitter taste.

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Photo by @faerienight

“When people think about flavor, they might think about taste, they might think about smell, they might think about what [the food] looks like, they might think about the texture and the mouth-feel—but they never think about the sound,” Spence says.


In another study, participants found flavours such as peppermint to pair well with piano music, whereas flavours such as citric acid and caffeine were especially pronounced with brass instruments. That might explain why that hot coffee and smooth jazz just go so well together.


Moreover, Food Quality and Preference conducted a study in 2010, where researchers tested the volume of sound against the perceived saltiness and sweetness of foods. Participants ate chips and cookies while listening to white noise at high and low volumes. They concluded that the saltiness and sweetness of these foods were less intense as opposed to when they ate in a quieter environment.

Based off of this research, it’s clear that our senses are definitely not separate. Perhaps the loud music in most restaurants is actually suppressing the distinct flavours we should be experiencing…or maybe it’s the opposite.

So, next time you’re in a restaurant, pay attention to the music and give this experiment a try. You might just have a completely different dining experience.

Check out this hilarious video all about music and taste by Rhett and Link of the YouTube channel – Good Mythical Morning featuring Linkin Park (we sure do miss Chester Bennington)

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Sanah is a self-proclaimed foodie, avid baker and a serious music junkie with a Bachelor's of Business Administration from the University of Guelph-Humber. Her work involves writing for various entertainment and fashion blogs such as On The Scene Network and Toronto Men's Fashion Week.

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