If you like to listen to music while you study, choosing the right type can be vital to your overall productivity level.
Listening to music can calm you down, leading to more conscientious studying, elevating your mood, motivating you to stay focused and studying for longer periods of time.
While it can be a challenge to stay away from the hottest hits, selecting the wrong type of music can distract you from your studies and become counterproductive.
So, what type of music is considered “music for the mind?”
The following types of music are recommended for studying, along with tips to help you choose which genre will keep you most focused on your objective – studying.
Below each genre there’s a recommendation so that you can test out the genre and discover which type of music works best for you.
1. Never underestimate the power of classical.
Classical music is known for being both peaceful and harmonious, creating a calm and serene study environment for the listen.
It’s recommended as one of the best studying genres for students, because listeners report side effects like better mood and increased productivity. As far as side effects go, those aren’t too shabby!
Recommendation: Brandenburg Concerto #3 – Bach
2. Timed Tempos
Studies have shown that music timed at 60 beats-per-minute can help put people’s minds into ease; putting brains into a more productive mode where thinking are creativity are easier.
Recommendation: Concertos for Recorder – Telemann & Vivaldi
3. Instrumental Ambient Sounds
If you prefer a more modern flair, this may be the perfect option for you. Relaxing sounds of instruments can be paired with modern tunes to get the best of both worlds – so you don’t have to sacrifice a thing.
Recommendation: VSQ Performs the Hits of 2013, Volume 2 – Vitamin String Quartet
4. Nature Sounds
This type of “music” is perfect for those not so into classical music. It’s known for increasing concentration levels and keeps the listener’s mind engaged at a more subconscious level.
It also can be very calming, which is why many use it to help with meditations and to fall asleep.
What falls into this category are soundtracks of nature like waterfalls, rain or the sounds of the seashore rolling in.
5. Modern Electronic
Modern electronic is also commonly referred to as “chill out” music. The genres include Ambient House, Ambient Trance, New Age and Trip Hop.
They are known to relax the mind, encouraging it to roam. Be careful not to let it roam too much, however – you want to stay focused on the task at hand!
Recommendation: Music for Airports – Eno
6. Volume control.
Make sure that your background music is, indeed, in the background and is not distracting you or any of the students around you.
Think about it: it’s nearly impossible for you to be completely focused if your head is about to, um, explode. Keep the noise level to a minimum so that the study level is at a maximum.
7. Plan out your playlist.
Don’t wait until the time you’ve set aside for studying to create a playlist. Create it on your downtime so that, when it’s time to study, studying is the only task at hand and all you need to do as far as music is concerned is press play.
That way, you’ll be able to stay focused and won’t take any time away from what you should be accomplishing.
If you forget to plan ahead or don’t want to create your own playlist, don’t sweat it! There are some great resources that will do it for you, like the Study Music Project, which gives you a playlist of free study music each time you press play for more than an hour.
8. Break it up.
Plan your playlist so that, when it ends, it will be an indication that it’s your break time.
It’s helpful for you to not have to shift modes and have to worry about changing your music and you have the added benefit of never having to look at the clock because your playlist will function as a built in timer.
9. Studying is more important than music.
Avoid spending hours creating your playlist. After all, it should essentially just become background noise. What you should ultimately focus on is your studies.
You can spend hours on playlists for your road trips in the summertime when school is out!
10. The bottom line.
Whether you listen to any of these recommendations, Miley Cyrus, Tupac, or whatever else, it really doesn’t make a difference – as long as it works.
Remember: what’s most important – what actually matters is that whatever you’re listening to doesn’t distract you, calms you and truly puts your mind into study mode so that you can be productive and retain as much information as possible.
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Anytime you walk into a school library, you’re sure to see countless students with their noses buried in textbooks, some intensely cramming for tests, some more relaxed. But practically all share one thing in common: earphones, because, of course, they are listening to music.
Now, you have to wonder, “Does listening to music actually help us study?” Are all those students aware of the effects of music on learning, or are they just secretly jamming out in a library? And what should they be listening to anyway?
Well, let’s find out.
Dive into classics: the Mozart Effect
The widely accepted belief that music helps students perform better academically is known as the “Mozart Effect.” This famous phrase was coined by a French researcher named Alfred A. Tomatis in 1991, in his book Pourquoi Mozart. After only seven years, it received considerable support in the United States with the publication of Don Campbell’s The Mozart Effect.
So how does music aid us in our studies? According to Dr. Campbell, music “raises performance levels and productivity by reducing stress and tension, masking irritating sounds, and contributing to a sense of privacy.” Listening to music puts your mind at ease and allows you to relax in your own private thought bubble. Pleasant tunes will mute out the background noises and create a serene, undisturbed learning environment—ah, so peaceful. You will want to study in an environment like that.
But why is such a wonderful phenomenon called “the Mozart Effect”? Why not Beethoven, Bach, or Chopin? The initial theory was that only certain Mozart sonatas can produce the desired effect, that Mozart’s compositions are somehow special. Further research, however, refuted the original claim. As a matter of fact, acclaimed Bulgarian psychologist Dr. Georgi Lozanov discovered that the Mozart Effect actually works particularly well with Baroque pieces. Even though Mozart lived during the Classical era, not Baroque. Oh, the irony!
The phenomenon may not be entirely true to its name, but its wondrous results remain much the same. After evaluating thousands of students over several years, the Center for New Discoveries in Learning concluded that slow-tempo Baroque pieces allow students to feel calmer, study longer, and retain more of their learning material.
But there is a catch! Make sure to stay away from dynamic orchestral pieces, as recommended by KUSC producer Alan Chapman. Those can become too engaging and, thus, distracting.
Pop your preference? Resist the urge
Maybe eight-minute-long, soporific orchestral pieces are not exactly your jam. (Give it up for music puns!) Like so many, you might be more a fan of modern lyrical music, such as rock, rap, reggae, country, or pop. Unfortunately, songs with lyrics are a risky choice when you are trying to concentrate and study. Surely there have been times when you turned up your favorite Hozier song, thinking that it will help you focus, but instead, you ended up having a sing-along concert by yourself. The urge is almost unstoppable.
“Music with lyrics is very likely to have a problematic effect when you’re writing or reading,” warned Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University. Listening to songs while reading would be like trying to decipher two people talking at once. What you see differs from what you hear, so the thoughts in your mind get easily jumbled up.
Music itself can help boost your concentration, but the words can challenge multitasking abilities and frustrate your attempts to focus.
Related:Study Playlists for All Your Classes
Choose your favorite
If you absolutely cannot bear the thought of abandoning popular music while doing your homework, don’t worry. For Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift fans out there, hope still exists.
In her article “Music Helps You Focus on Your Own Thoughts, but Only If You Like It,” Rachel Feltman points out that listening to preferred genre of music can increase concentration better than disliked classical selections can. Simply put, One Direction songs can produce the same Mozart Effect as Mozart compositions!
A study conducted by R.W. Wilkins and other experts shows the neurological process that takes place. The default mode network (DMN) provides connection among different regions of the brain that enables you to focus inward. When the DMN is active, your surroundings fade out, and you become completely submersed in your inner thoughts. Internal stimuli, such as memory and imagination, begin to take over. Now the argument is that the DMN lights up only when you listen to music that you actually like. Even classical music cannot elicit this reaction if you do not like the piece.
This claim is not yet fully corroborated, but it does give you an excuse to continue listening to The Weekend as you pore over your chemistry notes. So whatever music you prefer, go ahead and listen to it when you study. Classical or pop, who cares? As long as you enjoy it, all music is good music.
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