In order to examine the mechanisms through which music might alleviate psychological stress, a study of the effects of music listening following induced stress was conducted. Female music education students (N = 200) were randomly assigned to eight groups, after experiencing induced stress via a mental arithmetic test. Individuals in each group listened through headphones to one piece of music classified in terms of the levels of arousal and valence of music, and familiarity. Participants rated their tension and state anxiety levels before and after music listening, as well as their levels of valence and arousal for music, music preference, and familiarity, after listening. The results revealed that the levels of arousal and valence, and the degree of music preference predicted tension and state anxiety levels, and the effects of music valence and arousal on stress reduction were partially mediated by music preference. The most important factor in reducing stress was the degree of liking for the music, but not the degree of familiarity with the music. Our findings have important implications for individuals, and clinicians, who use music to reduce stress.