Best Music to Study To

What are you listening to? Photo: majdal

So you’re about to start a study session and you need some tunes to keep you going. What music is the best to improve concentration and keep you awake and alert? Here’s some suggestions of the best music to study to.

  1. Classical music. Studies have shown that classical music, particularly baroque music (think Bach and Vivaldi), activates both sides of the brain, increasing the listener’s learning capacity and the retention of information. Baroque music causes the heart rate slows down for improve concentration.
  2. Music in another language. If you’re like me and get distracted by the lyrics in music when you’re trying to write, opt for music in another language instead.
  3. Jazz. If you hate classical music, jazz is another alternative. And Michael Buble and Norah Jones fall under that category.
  4. Music without repetition. Says Dr. Ballam in a publication called Music and the Mind, “The human mind shuts down after three or four repetitions of a rhythm, or a melody, or a harmonic progression.” That rules out a lot of contemporary music.
  5. No music at all. According to USA Today, a recent study conducted found that complex problems are better solved with no music in the background to distract. Additionally, if you’re studying for a test, it would be wise to duplicate the conditions that will be present in the exam hall. Since you won’t be able to listen to your iPod, no music while studying may not be so bad after all.
  6. Anything you damn well please. Let’s be honest, since when do college students take advice because it’s good for them? Eff it and listen to whatever you want. (Because that’s what you’re going to do anyways.)
  7. “Study? I don’t study!” Never mind then. This post has no inherent value for you.

If you’re not already tuned into it, Grooveshark.com and Spotify.com allow you to listen to virtually any song online.

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About Sarah Ward

Sarah is a social media manager and image consultant originally from Vancouver, Canada. After executing her first makeover in the seventh grade, she has been helping people look and feel their best ever since. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga, shopping on Etsy, and watching Grey's Anatomy.

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23 Comments

  • Thanks! This article was helpful. I think I’ll try some Barouqe…

    Comment by htebazile — May 7, 2011 @ 5:35 pm
  • I’m glad you enjoyed it! Best of luck on your exams!

    Comment by SherRon Marcek — May 13, 2011 @ 8:22 am
  • PLEASE don’t think Mozart when you listen to baroque! Other than that, great list :D

    Comment by Oskar — May 19, 2011 @ 12:39 pm
  • Absolutely agree with no.2 – I find Sigur Ros to be amazing music to work to. Interestingly recent studies have shown that the most effective music is music that you love and that you can control. Putting instrumental or classical music into an environment where people didn’t ask for it – actually reduces performance.

    Comment by Andrew — May 19, 2011 @ 12:45 pm
  • Great thoughts, Andrew. I can definitely see the most effective music being what the person wants. Classical music has definitely been shown to have negative effects — a mall in Salt Lake City was trying to get rid of homeless people loitering at the entrances and finally made it work when they started playing classical music outside.

    Comment by Sarah Ward — May 19, 2011 @ 2:04 pm
  • Mozart is not baroque, it is from the classical era of Classical music. Baroque and classical are two different types of style of music. Now Vivaldi and Bach are baroque…

    Comment by Kristoffer — August 26, 2011 @ 10:44 am
  • The notion that classical music ‘activates’ the brain is an urban legend. After the initial findings of a study in the early 90s were published, the ‘promising’ early results were widely publicised by newspapers, but once the study was completed, nothing so dramatic was noted. (http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4128)

    Comment by Jan — August 28, 2011 @ 6:08 am
  • Glad someone (Oskar and Kristoffer) said it before me. Mozart, while one of my favourite composers, is NOT baroque.

    Comment by et al — August 29, 2011 @ 1:07 pm
  • [...] up some ear plugs to blog out outside noises around you.  If you work best with background music, check out some of these tunes to listen to while [...]

    Pingback by The College How To — September 26, 2011 @ 9:27 am
  • BEST music to study to is without a doubt Roman Catholic Hymns – Latin or English, they are the best to set a scholarly, yet prayerful, atmosphere.

    Comment by Al — October 13, 2011 @ 6:11 pm
  • Thanks for your feedback, Al — I can see the hymns in Latin being something to keep you focused while studying.

    Comment by Sarah Ward — October 14, 2011 @ 1:36 pm
  • The Collective – album by Scale the Summit + a 30 Mg adderall = straight A’s

    Comment by TC — October 19, 2011 @ 5:53 pm
  • I study to any type of music so no.5 does not fit for me. I cannot study without music on.

    Comment by Haley — October 25, 2011 @ 6:54 am
  • It really helps to have something on in the background, doesn’t it, Haley? Do you have a favorite artist?

    Comment by Sarah Ward — October 25, 2011 @ 5:28 pm
  • Nice! TC, it would be interesting to see if certain types of contemporary music could help college students get better grades…

    Comment by Sarah Ward — October 25, 2011 @ 5:29 pm
  • Some really good (and free stuff if you find his homepage) study music is by Younnat. Very little to no voice, catchy random beats, and sometimes just random sounds. so it’s the best of both worlds like classical mixed with music in another language.

    Comment by Yuko — November 2, 2011 @ 8:37 pm
  • Sounds like a great find, Yuko! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Comment by Sarah Ward — November 3, 2011 @ 3:23 pm
  • Well I thank you for the list and for responding. Younnat won’t be as effective as some of your choices, but it’s nice to get a change once in awhile. Please take care Sarah ^^

    Comment by Yuko — November 7, 2011 @ 7:53 pm
  • For something in another language, I can suggest Richard Bona. He also toured with Pat Metheny at some point.

    Oh yeah, Pat would also hit the spot. If your brain shuts down from hearing the same pattern of 22/8 (“First Circle”) three or four times, you are a genius and don’t need to bother studying anyway :)

    Comment by Gilles — November 17, 2011 @ 1:01 pm
  • I cannot study to anything with words or I get distracted. I’ve found classical music can get me a little bit sleepy after while, I still use it quietly in the background if I need to do some reading. For math though, nothing beats some good dubstep.

    Comment by Melanie — November 18, 2011 @ 8:58 am
  • DAFT PUNK, by far… hand down…without question

    Comment by Christian — January 31, 2012 @ 7:59 pm
  • Though most people might think it would be hard to study to, some extreme metal bands use very little repetition and their music is almost like a new (albeit louder and distorted) form of classical music. Bands like Between the Buried and Me, Animals as Leaders, Ana Kefr, Cephalic Carnage. Their music is generally format-less, and with odd-time riffs and irregular patterns. Stimulating to listen to, and great as background music while reading or studying. And with the idea of listening to music with vocals in a foreign language, the hoarseness/guttural sound of metal vocals is sometimes difficult to understand for some people, so it could count as a ‘foreign’ language even if it is your own. Pretty cool!

    Comment by Karen Strange — February 14, 2012 @ 9:58 pm
  • Very different feel but check out Audiograft’s Melody in the Half-Light album. No lyrics so nothing to distract you with. Great background music. Never really thought of listening to foreign music while studying. Great idea.

    Comment by JH — March 26, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

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