A new study analyzing the musical preferences of more than 250 college students at the University of Minnesota is getting to the bottom of why certain combinations of notes sound sweeter than others.

There was a strong preference for harmonically related notes, those that are multiples of the same frequency. The appearance of such frequencies is common in Western classical and popular music.

To the researchers’ surprise, the preference for these frequencies also correlated to the length of time a person had played a musical instrument, leading to the idea that how pleasant music sounds may be a learned phenomenon.

Ultimately, the study shows that “the consonance of a musical interval ‚Äî how pleasant it sounds ‚Äî may vary based on a listener‚Äôs level of music training.”