Studying can often be repetitive and sometimes monotonous. Music can be an accompaniment to the long study sessions, but does this positively affect concentration, or does it make it harder to retain information? Further to this, could the type of music you listen to improve your quality of studying? Natalie Howarth discusses.
For me, music is a significant part of my daily routine. From brushing my teeth to walking anywhere to listening parties with my friends, I am a huge consumer of all types of music during the day.
I find listening to music while studying, whether it is jazz, ambient, synth-pop, IDM or even DnB, helps me focus and keeps me optimistic while enabling me to work for longer periods of time. Having said that, sometimes if I’m in a quiet place like on Level 4 of Hallward Library, I will enjoy the silence of the abyss. For me, it is either music or complete silence. Disregarding all bias, I will discuss music’s effectiveness and potential for disruption.
Music is like a comfort when getting started with an essay plan or some less laborious task
A myriad of research has been conducted to suggest music helps to reduce stress during tasks, enables better focus and eases anxiety. Music is like a comfort when getting started with an essay plan or some less laborious task. Unfortunately, when studying for an exam or doing something that requires you to take in information, music can be a factor that makes this more difficult. It has been suggested that music incapacitates your ability to absorb facts and induces lower reading comprehension, regardless of the style of music.
I conducted my own study and asked twenty of my friends if they listened to music or not when studying and I received a 60:40 result. Initially, I was shocked by the result, however I then considered the factors involved, for example what subject they study and how their exams are assessed. Furthermore, I asked the 60% who listen to music when studying what genre they listen to and the most common answers were lo-fi, ambient, classical, jazz and even white noise. These genres all have little to no lyrics, ostensibly demonstrating that it is more popular to abstain from lyrics and opt for some music that is more pensive and instrumental.
The ‘Mozart Effect’ study led to the U.S. state of Georgia distributing a classical CD to every child
Relating to the question of whether genre affects the quality of studying, classical music is a highly recommended genre to listen to while studying. The genre is so enjoyed and consumed that there is a theory that was investigated in 1993 that argues listening to the famous composer Mozart will make you smarter.
Known as the ‘Mozart Effect’, the study was conducted by psychologists to test the idea of whether ‘Mozart made you smart’ using mental tasks including solving mazes and spatial reasoning. As the theory was popularised, there was the idea that immersing your child into the discography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would improve their brain development, intelligence, IQ and stimulate creativity.
The ‘Mozart Effect’ study led to the U.S. state of Georgia distributing a classical CD to every child residing in Georgia! Regrettably, the study lacked evidence of the correlation between both Mozart’s music and ‘smartness’, an immeasurable and unquantifiable concept.
Whether you would rather hear the clicking of a keyboard or immerse yourself into a carefully curated playlist
Personally, I found there is an element of subjectivity when listening to classical music to study, like most genres of music some people love it, and others hate it. However, there is a question of whether commerciality led to the sudden emphasis on Mozart and classical music, with the absurd, capitalistic influx of sales of his music.
There can be lots of misconceptions as to whether music affects studying, however it is all down to personal preference. The very well-known phrase, ‘there is no right way to study’ palpably applies to the question of whether you would rather hear the clicking of a keyboard or immerse yourself into a carefully curated playlist, audiobook or podcast.
Whatever helps you stay motivated and focused for the entirety of your study session
If you are looking for some good vinyl or CDs to study with at home, go check out the Portland Music Library: home to over 10,000 CDs and 4,000 vinyl! You will no doubt find something suited to your study session, with such an impressive collection. Ultimately, it is whatever helps you stay motivated and focused for the entirety of your study session; music or not to music… that is the question.
The songs I chose carefully enable me to work for long periods of time, whether it is in the comfort of my bedroom, in the library or a café. Here are my Top 5 Study Anthems for getting me through exam season and deadlines:
- #3 by Aphex Twin from Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)
- Lazy Calm by Cocteau Twins from Victorialand (1986)
- Twin Peaks Theme – Instrumental by Angelo Badalamenti from Soundtrack From Twin Peaks (1990)
- First Light by Harold Budd, Brian Eno from Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (1980)
- It Never Entered My Mind by Miles Davis Quintet from Workin’ (1959)
Featured image courtesy of simerpreet singh via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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