The Expected Effect On Players
As a musician of 50 years, I have had many questions about the music composed and orchestrated for slot machines. What effect does it have on the player? and is there a scientific basis for the music and sounds filling up the casino from these “one-armed bandits?” So let’s look at Casino Sounds and Music.
Has Sound Always Been Important for Slots?
“Wheel of Fortune” always catches your attention!
A casino floor has a veritable cornucopia of various sounds.
- Wheels spinning
- Coins dropping (without the actual coins)
- Machines whirring
- Dice rolling
- And the sounds of winning from both humans and machines.
Sound has always been an integral component of slot machine play. Since the early 1900s, the reasons slot machine sounds stood for winning combinations have accompanied a ringing bell, still present in most machines today.
Until about the early 1990s, Slot Machine Sounds and Casino Music changed very little from the early days. On average, slot machines only used about fifteen sound effects. Today slot machines average about 400 songs, snippets, and sound effects.
This sound is everywhere in the casino!
The Influence of Sound on the Slot Player
Research has shown that sound is essential in positive reinforcement within the last ten years.
- Sounds induce gamers to spend more.
- Slot machines incorporate sounds paired with images.
- Symbols responsible for the wins are often animated
- Snippets of music accompany symbols to reinforce the win.
- The sights and sounds of winning on a slot machine may increase your desire to play — and sway your memories of winning
- sounds are meant to both draw players as well as keep them playing.
The Influence of Casino Music
A friend of mine recently told me about a particular casino addiction. He said it wasn’t a gambling addiction but a “casino” addiction. He said, “by the time I reach the dazzling colossus of a casino set against a wasted industrial sky and hear the first sounds of the slot machines, I am bordering on ecstasy.”
The truth is, he spent more on gas than gambling. Instead, he craved the casino’s “sonic” ambiance. That’s how powerful Slot Machine Sounds and Casino Music can be!
Most of us love the sights and sounds of a busy casino. All of the sounds reinforce those playing games on the floor. When they hear the sounds of winning, they may feel hopeful that they will be the next big winner. That keeps them on the floor for more extended periods. We are well aware of the happiness that those bells and whistles accompany. Been there – heard that.
More About Slot Machine Sounds and Casino Music
Background music (or should I say “Muzak”) is constant. It changes throughout the day. Sometimes it follows the time of day. Calmer music barely fills the casino early. The music gets louder and heavier as time passes, with beat-driven music appearing at night to energize players. A casino’s playlist changes drastically from moldy oldies to classic rock to EDM, depending on the patrons, the space, and the time.
In a Journal of Behavioral Addictions study, researchers found that playing music with a slow tempo can entice people to stay within a game for longer. As a result, they placed more bets overall, and they wanted to keep playing for longer than people listening to music at a faster pace.
Best Music to Gamble By
Nearly every casino plays music on the gambling floor, and research shows the music played tends to be similar from casino to casino. The music fades into the background and plays without a break. A significant gap in the music could work as a time clock for players, helping them understand how long they have been spending money. That realization could prompt them to leave when the next song is over.
Similar music could also help to soothe and lull players. Switching from genre to genre during each song could also help customers keep time, as they will know when the song has changed. When each song is similar, it is difficult to tell when one ends and another begins.
The Dreaded “LDW” – Slot Machine Sounds
“LDW’s” or “losses disguised as wins” are also called the “Awww Shucks Effect.” These aren’t tricks or cheating by the casino or slot manufacturer. Instead, LDWs are flashing lights and exciting sounds on a loss, a tricky little nuance of the gaming industry. If guests aren’t mindful of their play, the sounds might make them feel like they are winning more than they are.
How Do LDWs Work?
You might bet $1 and only earn back $0.30. However, celebratory noises from the machine may convince you that you’re truly a winner. Moreover, LDWs convince players that they’re winners even when they lose money.
Here’s an example of an LDW:
- You bet $0.50
- You spin the reels and win $0.10
- ($0.50) – ($0.10) = $0.40 net loss
- Music begins playing, and the machine flashes
- You feel like a winner, but you still lost $0.40
Konomi’s “China Shores.” When making $.75 on a $1.20 bet, below is what you hear:
Studies have shown that LDW’s “sounds cause players to overestimate the number of times they won significantly.
Audio snippet of Aristocrat’s “Gold Bananza” below.
Slot Sounds and Pitch
Pitch in music refers to the highness and lowness of sound. Music is a language of emotion with structure, progression, and syntax — just like language. We process music and language syntax in the same brain region. The characteristics of speech and music are very similar: fast, loud, and high for excitement and happiness, and slower and softer for melancholy and calm.
So the rising pitch on a slot machine often indicates the possibility of a bonus. The brain processes those sounds as anticipation, happiness, and excitement.
Below is an audio example of a rising pitch on Aristocrat’s “Luxury Line” for three bonus symbols. The rising pitch heightens the anticipation of a win.
The above example uses the first three scale notes – “doh, re, mi” – like the same-named song name in the “Sound of Music.”
Different Scales for Different Uses
I believe most slot machines use a C major scale, which is supposed to be psychologically pleasurable. Whether that musical scale is truly the preferable scale, there’s plenty of good reason for everyone to standardize. If all the slot machines used different keys, the cacophony would be painful for many folks to listen to, driving customers away.
However, I was skeptical of this claim and contacted IGT, a gaming machine manufacturer. The IGT representative said:
The original….sounds were centered in the key of C – Once we began creating theme specific content that went away, and pretty much all the key centers of western music I (sic) available on any given slot floor. The Key of C still makes appearances regularly, though, and lives on in a lot of legacy products.
Peter Inouye, Audio Composer at Scientific Games, agreed with IGT and took it one step further:
Slot machine composer here. I write music in all keys for slot machines! Some of the old vintage machines that played random notes (“Double Diamonds,” for example) were often playing in the key of C. Programmers at the time just selected a few notes from the scale and told the machine to play them at random during the spin.
Games now are more like video games, so we create music and sounds for a specific game. I will say that if I know two games are next to each other, I won’t do C and C#. But if one is in C and one in D, F, or G, I don’t worry about it too much!Slot Music Composer
Musically speaking, music keys like C, D, F, or G use many of the same notes, so two machines side by side using C and one of the other three wouldn’t through the constant hum of C Major out of wack.
Finally, many ethnic-based themed, specifically Asian, use a pentatonic scale. It can easily fit into the music mentioned above with only five notes.
The world’s slot manufacturers know music is exceptionally good at provoking emotion. And while whales use songs of a different pitch for similar communication, I don’t think you’ll see a whale sitting beside you playing Ultimate Fire Link! It’s a human thing. The main concern is to be mindful of the tricks these sounds can play with your emotions – and your bankroll!
The Big Win theme that Aristocrat has been using since Cashman slot machines. May you hear lots of these!