Does listening to music while you work actually make you more productive? Can you really have a better study session by turning on some background music? Well, it depends.
A variety of studies have been conducted to find a conclusive answer on whether or not music can increase productivity and focus. And unfortunately, the end results are always pretty mixed. In some cases, many people found that music definitely made them more productive, while others found it distracted them from the work they needed to get done.
At some point in time, you may have heard of what’s known as the “Mozart effect.” One of the studies that is most commonly cited when it comes to music’s impact on the brain mentions the Mozart effect. It essentially suggests that listening to certain types of music (specifically, the classical works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) can boost your spatial-temporal reasoning. While this study seemed to conclude that classical music in particular would be great for a work or study session, it’s since been debunked by a variety of other studies.
A study conducted by the University of Illinois had people perform a variety of work tasks while listening to music and they found that their work output was 6.3% higher than that of a control group that wasn’t listening to music. On the other hand, a different study tested 56 employees who were completing basic computer tasks and they were found to be more productive when there wasn’t any music playing in the background. As you can see, the end result these studies receive never seem to match up, meaning there’s no conclusive evidence as to whether it works or not.
Despite this mix of results from various studies, psychologist Francis Rauscher still believes music can have a powerful impact on your brain while working or studying. She ultimately says that the type of music that is effective for you will depend on what you’re personally interested in. If you hate classical music, it’s unlikely to help you focus. If rock music is more your thing, you may find that it helps you tremendously, despite the fact that it may distract other people.
So, the answer to whether or not music can boost your productivity and focus depends on you and the type of music you’re listening to. If you are interested in giving it a go, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best music for studying. Keep in mind that all of these might not work for you. It’s all about finding the right fit, so experiment with a few options to see how it impacts your focus.
While it may not be what you’d listen to while cruising around town in your car, classical music is certainly some of the best music for studying or working. It all comes down to the beats-per-minute in the music. That’s what gets your brain performing at an optimal level, thus making it a great choice for those study sessions.
In fact, a study was conducted that reviewed the impact of classical music on eight radiologists. They were asked to listen to classical music from the Baroque period and then questioned on how they felt. The radiologists mostly reported having a better mood and an increase in productivity.
Now, you may be thinking that you don’t want to listen to classical music from older periods, which is absolutely fine. There are plenty of classical versions of today’s popular songs that you can listen to and receive the same impact. It’s all about finding what works best for you.
The key reason that classical music works is because there aren’t any lyrics to distract you. Instead, it provides you with a peaceful, calm environment that’s ideal for study sessions.
Ambient Sounds & Noise
Ambient sounds are a great option when choosing music for studying because they are designed to keep your brain engaged at a subconscious level without being too “in your face”. When music is too distracting, it’s not good for studying because it prevents you from staying focused on the task at hand. Instead, you need something that keeps your brain engaged, but without directing your attention away from what you’re reading. Ambient sounds are perfect for this because they essentially provide the right amount of background noise.
If ambient noise sounds like your cup of tea, there are plenty of options you can try. In fact, if you’re someone who gets a lot of work done at a coffee shop, it’s likely because of the subtle background noise it provides. Studies have shown it’s helpful for boosting your creativity and increasing your focus.
If you’re a fan of working from the coffee shop, but find you can’t get there as often as you’d like, you can bring those coffee shop vibes to the comfort of your own home. Coffitivity is an app that provides you with the sounds of a coffee shop to give you the right amount of background noise so you can better focus on your work. There are also tons of free ambient noise videos on YouTube, such as the one below.
Instrumentals are another great option to try when studying or working. You may opt for instrumental ambient sounds, which can provide relaxing vibes. Or you might prefer listening to instrumental versions of your favorite songs. This works well because you’re able to listen to familiar music without having lyrics to distract you from the work you’re focusing on. The Vitamin String Quartet is known for performing instrumental versions of some of the latest hits and they’re worth checking out.
While this type of music may work for a lot of people, keep in mind that it’s not for everyone. Unfortunately, some people may find themselves getting distracted by listening to familiar songs. You may be tempted to sing and dance along with the music even though the lyrics are missing. Again, it’s all about what works best for you!
The Same Song on Repeat
For some people, they may find listening to a variety of songs to be a bit distracting. If you were to create a studying playlist of multiple songs, the changing music and beats could actually direct your focus away from what you’re working on. For this reason, it’s a good idea to try listening to the same song on repeat. You’ll become accustomed to hearing the song and it should eventually get to a point where it isn’t distracting you anymore. It will likely start to feel like normal background noise.
Alternatively, if you want to create a playlist with multiple songs, it would be wise to choose songs that are similar in terms of the overall sound and the beat. This way, there won’t be any distraction when one song ends and a new one begins.
Music With a Simple Beat
When studying, the most important thing is obviously that you’re focused on the material that you’re reviewing. If you want music for studying, then you have to choose songs that complement the study session as opposed to taking your focus away from your work. Songs that have a complex beat are going to be more likely to distract you from what you’re reading.
For this reason, it’s key that you choose music that has a simple beat. A simple beat is still enough to get your brain functioning at the optimal level, while also creating the best environment for studying. Music that has been timed at 50 to 80 beats-per-minute are said to help induce an alpha state in the brain where your mind is calm but also alert, creativity is stimulated, and focus is heightened.
Helpful Tips for Choosing the Best Music for Studying
To really optimize your study session, keep these tips in mind when choosing music for studying:
- Pick the music that works best for you. It’s absolutely okay to experiment with different types of music to see what works best for you. If you aren’t sure, take a few ideas from this list and listen to them to see what sounds best to you. The type of music that works for you may be different from what works best for your friend, coworker, or whoever. It’s all about discovering what’s ideal for your brain!
- Keep the volume under control. You may be accustomed to blasting your music when you’re in the car, but this is not the time to make your room feel like a concert. Loud music is going to distract your focus from your work, so keep the volume levels to a minimum. It should literally feel like background music and not be at the volume you’d typically choose for listening to music.
- Create a playlist in advance. Before you sit down for your study session, create a playlist of songs first. Choose the type of music that works best for you and try to compile a playlist of songs that sound similar in terms of the overall music and the beat. This will help to cut down on any distractions from the changing in songs. They should all flow together and be complementary.
- Remember that studying is most important. No matter what kind of music you choose, you need to make sure it’s not taking your attention away from the most important task: studying. The music needs to complement your study session by providing a calm, peaceful atmosphere.
In the end, it all comes down to your personal preference. Experiment with the types of music we’ve shared here and see how it works for you.
If you have Spotify, here is a great playlist of songs that will help keep your study session chugging along.