By Marshall Chasin, AuD

Working in audiology requires an understanding of sound and hearing that is usually applied to helping people hear better. Sometimes that knowledge can be used to create experiences that communicate the wonders and joys of sound in our world. Such is the case with musical roads and pathways. 

Musical roads, as the name suggests, are roads that can “play” a song while you are driving on them. The first report of a musical road was in 1995 in Denmark. Called the Asphaltophone, it was an artistic installation piece that used raised (mini-speed) bumps in the road to play a song. 

Melody Roads

In 2007, a Japanese construction worker noted that after scraping up a part of the road with his bulldozer and then driving over the scraps, he was able to hear an almost musical sound. Since 2007, Japan has created three “melody roads” which were designed to attract tourists and keep drivers from speeding. They were designed to be heard optimally at exactly the speed limit. Unlike the Danish road, these roads had grooves cut into the asphalt at precise distances from each other and of appropriate depths. The distance spacing defined the pitch and the depth defined the sound level. 

Singing Road

South Korea followed suit and created a “singing road” using the same groovey technology. However, the intent in South Korea was for safety. Statistics show that about 68% of traffic accidents occur because of driver inattentiveness or falling asleep at the wheel. At the proper speed, a vehicle driving down the road would play the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” 

Road Music of Choice 

And in 2008, the city of Lancaster, California built its first musical road. Lancaster is about a one-hour drive north of downtown Los Angeles. The town selected the finale from the William Tell Overture, best known as the theme music from the old Lone Ranger radio and TV program. That was an unfortunate choice of song since the faster you drive, the better it sounds. At least it’s not as bad as the Brahms Lullaby, which would put drivers to sleep. Initially there were complaints from local residents, so the portion of the road that was musical was moved away from residential areas. This road is named after the Honda Civic and was used in a Honda commercial. Here is a YouTube video of someone driving on the road. Personally I could not identify it as the William Tell Overture… I suspect that the road engineers made some calculation errors.

It is interesting to think about what songs and melodies would be a good choice for the highway. Some melodies may sound odd if played off tempo; others, like the William Tell Overture, might be the subject of a legal battle if someone, ticketed for speeding, complained that he was entrapped into going too fast by the local municipality and that the musical road was a trick to encourage people to speed in order to fill the city coffers.

It is also interesting to calculate the exact distances necessary for any particular tune. And since it only involves multiplication and division, even a junior high school student should be able to do the calculations. Indeed, next time, I will draft the local junior high school students for their assistance. For the process, click on a blog post I wrote for about a decade ago at Musical roads, part 2 | Marshall Chasin |

New SoundTrack Evokes Spirit of Oktoberfest

Over the years I have been involved with several musical roads in Turkey, Colombia, and most recently, the Paulaner SoundTrack at the Munich Airport in Germany… just in time for Oktoberfest. I was contacted by the Thjnk Group in Germany and their idea was to have a musical pathway created with well-spaced grooves such that, as arriving passengers rolled their suitcases behind them, the suitcase wheels would play the famous beer drinking song Ein Prosit. Of course, traveling 60 mph (or 100 km/hour) is different than walking speed, but all one needs to do is divide by 20 (ish). I walk at 5 km/hour or around 3 mph. To make this work, the spacings need to be 20 times closer than for highway speeds.

The folks at Thjnk shared how this popup experience resonated with travelers through posts on social media, like this one:

From the approximately six million guests who visit the world’s largest folk festival every year, around 20% of them travel from abroad. In order to become the favorite beer brand of international Oktoberfest visitors, Paulaner, in collaboration with the creative agency Thjnk, kicked off Octoberfest 2023 in a very special way—with the Paulaner SoundTrack. The Paulaner SoundTrack is a walkable path made of acrylic glass into which precise grooves have been carved. If a person walks along this path with his rolling suitcase at the speed set by a beam of light, the famous melody of “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” can be heard. The song is an Oktoberfest classic; it stands like no other for the love of beer—and it is played everywhere. So, after a long journey, this melody gets visitors straight into the Oktoberfest mood. Everyone was able to experience the publicly accessible installation at Munich Airport during Oktoberfest season. All experiences were shared under #celebratetheprost

A video of the SoundTrack at Munich Airport can be found at

Marshall Chasin, AuD, is an audiologist and the director of auditory research at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada, adjunct professor at the University of Toronto, and adjunct associate professor at Western University. You can contact him at [email protected]