You may have heard of the supposed ‘Mozart Effect’, claiming that listening to classical music, or specifically Mozart, will make you smarter. Over the last years many studies seem to have debunked this myth, saying that if you hate Mozart then listening to Mozart won’t do anything for you! While some researchers claim that all music during studying is bad, others say that music can help create the perfect mindset for studying – so listening to music just prior to studying, or while doing ‘easy’ homework, can be a big boost! So, what specifically is that music? Let’s check out some of the main features. Stay until the end to see our recommendation of the type of music that checks all of the following boxes!
Consistency or Repetition
According to the following study, the musical genre that you listen to while studying has very little effect on your ability to focus. The key feature that contributes to higher levels of focus and concentration, though, is music with a steady beat and repetitive pulse. Stay away from overly complex music that changes up rhythms every 5 seconds in favour of slightly more ‘consistent’ beats.
Additionally, the volume of the music plays a big part in how easily it allows you to concentrate! Ideally your music should be at around ‘coffee-shop’ levels, where you can theoretically have conversations with another person over it. This will allow you to hear your own thoughts as you’re writing that essay.
When we sit down to study many of us typically feel demotivated, lacking the drive to work with any real passion. Music can dramatically change our mood, inspiring us to achieve greatness! That’s why most pro athletes listen to music right before they go out onto the field. Similarly, listening to inspiring music can pump us up before, or during, a study session giving us that extra push!
So, although your favourite music might be low-tempo, acoustic covers, or Billie Eilish-esque sad tunes that make you want to cry, your best bet is sticking to slightly more upbeat, energetic music. Think along the lines of house or electronic music, or even movie scores! Both of these have the power of building up tension, making you excited for the ‘drop’.
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Consider the Tempo
When you’re out running you typically want a song at around 100-130bpm (beats per minute), depending on how quick your steps are. The reason we like these tempos is it allows you to directly match the beat to your steps. Similarly to how you match the beat to your steps when out running, we want to match the beat to the type of assignment you’re working on. Of course it’s not quite as easy to match music to your mind as it is music to your steps, as your brain doesn’t take steps in the same way that your legs do, but we mean that when working on certain assignments you want quicker beats than others!
If you’re listening to a song at an extremely high tempo, say 160, while doing a math problem, you’re undoubtedly going to become stressed. It will feel like your brain should be rushing at 100 miles a minute to finish that problem, when in fact we usually best understand math when we take a step back and allow our brains to take their time. So, when doing difficult math homework, we might want to bring that tempo right down. On the other hand, when doing an easy task that you want to get over with as soon as possible, upping the tempo may allow you to work, think, and act quicker!
Songs without Lyrics
The one agreed-upon feature of songs that consistently seem to impede academic performance for students seems to be the content of lyrics. If a song is dense with lyrics, or even has any lyrics at all, your brain will naturally want to listen to those. If you happen to be working on an essay, or any word-based assignment, your brain will be conflicted between the words you’re trying to write and the words your brain is hearing. How many of us have had that experience where we find ourselves writing out the lyrics to the song we’re listening to rather than the words we actually mean to write!?
Stick to instrumental tracks. Don’t even venture into the world of instrumental covers of famous songs, because you will still undoubtedly be singing the lyrics in your head. This will allow your brain to easily focus on the words you’re trying to read/write, and the music will simply serve as a mood-setter, rather than a dominant sound.
So, what is the ideal music to study to according to these key features? Well, we asked our expert graduates at Lanterna (who all absolutely smashed the IB) what their go-to music is, and the overwhelming favourite was lo-fi study beats. This musical genre has crept up over the last 10 years as the perfect studying music. It combines most of the features mentioned in that it’s typically instrumental, consistent beats and mid-tempo. It serves as perfect background music for you to get into that meditative trance of studying. Check out our favourite 3 playlists from Spotify full of some great lo-fi study beats!