Key to Success: What music is best for studying?

     Imagine this: it’s late at night, you’ve been studying for hours and nothing is working. One more look at your notebook and you might go crazy. Believe it or not, putting on a certain kind of music could reawaken your brain and help you focus.

     Listening to music has proven to relax the mind, increase concentration and even improve performance in high-pressure situations, like studying at the last minute. While everyone has different tastes in music, there are certain genres that can help you study.

     One of the most popular classical music composers, Mozart, may not be your style, but his music has been linked with an increase in cognitive function known as the “Mozart Effect.” The first study conducted in 1993 by psychologist Francis Rauscher tested 36 college students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart’s music before taking a test on mentally manipulating objects and imagining them in different locations. Those who listened to classical music scored significantly higher than those who didn’t listen to anything before the test, proving listening to classical music improved cognitive ability and retention of information.

     “I used to dislike classical music, but then I tried it one day and I felt a lot more focused when I was studying,” senior Aldiyar Seitov said. “It helps a lot to remember math actually, which I didn’t expect.”

     While his music has not been directly linked to making you smarter, other studies conducted by psychologists Lois Hetland and Voracek Pietschnig in 2010 showed that listening to Mozart can cause a temporary enhancement in abstract and long-term thinking. Other classical composers like Bach and Vivaldi created music composed of 60 beats-per-minute, which has been shown to reduce stress and increase relaxation.

     Listening to sounds of nature has been found to physically alter our brains’ connections, reducing our adrenaline and helping us study better, according to a Scientific Reports’ study from March 2017. This study was one of the first to use brain scans and heart-rate monitors to prove the physiological effects of listening to nature sounds. Differences in heart rate were detected in the study, as the sounds decreased the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. Author Cassandra Gould van Praag, PhD, noted that listening to a particular sound of nature that you like could help improve focus and concentration. 

     Another option for music that helps with studying is low-fidelity, or low-fi, often represented by environmental noise, low hum and even audio imperfections. Slower, calm music can improve moods by increasing serotonin and dopamine. Montreal’s McGill University 2011 study found that low-fi listeners received a 9 percent boost in dopamine levels compared to people who didn’t listen to it, which kept students relaxed and calm. In order to be good for studying, the music itself cannot be distracting, so by emphasizing calm beats and slow rhythm, low-fi drowns out any distracting noises.  

     No matter the genre, music can help a lot of us complete everyday tasks better. While bringing yourself to study can be difficult, certain genres can help in focus and concentration, maybe even improving your grades.