4 Ways Music Can Strengthen Social Bonds in a Community

Jan 10, 2024

Music is not only fun, it seems to play a role in overall well-being. But more than that, it plays an important role in building and strengthening social bonds, in both small groups and larger communities. Although music can easily be played or listened to alone, it’s a powerful social magnet. Just consider the last concert you went to. Hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of people probably gathered together to enjoy the shared experience. There’s just something about listening to music or playing it with other people, that creates its own social buzz. It makes us feel connected with those around us. Here are a few ways scientists believe music helps to strengthen social bonds.

Contact, Coordination, & Cooperation

For the vast majority of human history, music could only be experienced live. Recording technology is a recent invention, so there simply was no way to share music beyond its performance. Because this meant music required contact with others, it created a physical and psychological safety net that may have helped our distant ancestors survive; and may do the same for many of us today.

What’s more, performing music makes us coordinate with others. According to research, when we make an effort to sync with others musically – like keeping the same beat or harmonizing – we start to have positive feelings toward those people. Amazingly, this is true even when we can’t see them, like if they’re in another room or place entirely! Although scientists aren’t completely sure why this happens, it is linked to the release of pleasure chemicals, known as endorphins, in the brain. This explains why it feels so good to make music together!

Finally, playing music in a group, like a band or choir, requires cooperation between all the members. This is true for both preparing for a performance and during the performance itself. There’s no denying that cooperation improves trust between people and helps reinforce cooperation with others in the future.

The Bonding Hormone

The brain produces a bunch of different chemicals. But one in particular – oxytocin – is known to play an important role in forming strong bonds and trust between people. And now, researchers have discovered that music may have a strong impact on the levels of oxytocin the brain creates.

A recent study in which people sang for 30 minutes showed a significant increase in the oxytocin levels of both amateur and professional singers. More interestingly, this happened regardless of how happy the experience of singing made them feel.


One unique effect music has on the brain is its ability to stimulate the circuits that help us understand what other people might be thinking and feeling. This allows us to predict how they might behave based on what they’re thinking and feeling. This, a social skill often called “theory of mind,” is strongly linked to empathy.

In one study, researchers put participants into an fMRI machine and played a piece of music for them. The participants were told the music was composed by either a human or a computer – even though the same music was always played. When people thought they were listening to a human’s music, their “theory of mind” circuits lit up; but did not when they thought it was computer-created music. This suggests that we don’t just listen to music, but try to understand what the music means, and what the artist is trying to communicate.

Feelings of Community

Think about your children’s favourite songs to sing together, or the crowds that sing the national anthem together at a sporting event. Music is one way people can feel a sense of togetherness, belonging, and safety.

When we find out that someone likes the same kind of music as us, we tend to think better of them. In fact, studies have shown that people associate musical taste with holding certain values; and that this connection influences how we think we’ll like people based on their musical tastes.

On the flip side of this, studies have found that families and peer groups that listen to the same music have a higher level of social cohesion. That means they tend to get along better. Furthermore, this is even true in different cultures, where group interdependence is less valued. Music acts as a powerful “social glue” to bring people together in common community.

Social Bonds

Music can help us all – especially children – feel connected with one another. The more we use music to come together, both literally and emotionally, the more potential we and our children have to build empathy, social connections, cooperation, and strong social bonds.

And the good news is, it’s never too early – or too late – to start! These are, of course, only a small fraction of the kinds of benefits learning to play an instrument can bring to any person! Not much can be compared to the joy you get from sitting down with your instrument and letting your emotions flow through your fingertips and out across the notes and chords of a piece of music. And that’s what makes every benefit of learning to play an instrument worth the long journey: it’s fun! And if it’s fun, chances are higher you’ll stick with it!

If you’re looking to help your kids start their journey, or if you’re already on it but need a new guide, check out all the programs, classes, and ensembles that The Music Studio has to offer for children and adults!