Students are always looking for ways to improve their study habits and one of the most popular study aids is music. Unfortunately, the music you listen to on a daily basis may not be very effective for exam prep. On the other hand, there is no one genre of music that works for everyone. Just like everyone has different study methods, one person’s music preference may not work for another. Volume is a major factor as well, as listening to loud music is much more likely to be distracting, regardless of genre.
Fortunately, there are certain genres of music that have been shown to increase concentration and motivation. The best music for studying still depends a lot on personal preference, but the six genres below are good places to start.
Never doubt the power of a good retro playlist. Okay, when you hear the word “retro,” you probably aren’t thinking of music that is hundreds of years old. However, there are a surprising number of benefits to listening to classical music. It can help reduce stress and even improve sleep patterns. As for which famous classical composer to listen to, many students will likely turn to Mozart due to the so-called “Mozart Effect.”
Mozart’s music is said to improve mental performance, although many studies have refuted this claim. However, this isn’t to say that listening to Mozart while studying is without merit—it just has to work for you. Some students will concentrate better with simple instrumentation, while others will prefer the power of a full orchestra. We recommend experimenting to find the best music for studying. YouTube and Spotify have many classical music playlists, so take a look and find some that work for you.
This broad genre includes everything from slow, atmospheric music to pulse-pounding electronic dance music (EDM). We realize that this covers a very wide range of music, but that’s also kind of the point. Electronic music has become very popular among college and university students in recent years and the good news is that much of it is actually great for studying. We’re big fans of this Ambient Electronic Spotify playlist, which includes nearly 77 hours of music! YouTube also has a ton of great channels, such as Chillhop Music, which hosts live radio playlists for studying.
By this point, you have probably noticed a theme. In our experience, music with little or no lyrics works well for studying because it’s less distracting. This is why instrumental or “post-rock” music is a great study choice. Bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Polyphia prove that catchy riffs can carry you far without a singer. These groups build soundscapes around non-traditional songs and often begin their songs with slow builds that rise to a crescendo.
Many popular rock bands, such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, have also experimented with instrumental tracks over the years. Spotify has an excellent playlist of these tracks, though you can also find some great ones on YouTube.
Jazz is a surprisingly misunderstood music genre. Many people tend to think of jazz as being big, loud, and filled with musicians who are constantly trying to outperform one another. While it’s true jazz’s focus on improvisation has created a lot of roaring, complex music, it’s also given us many mellow tracks. Even jazz greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane recorded some lower tempo songs that make for great study music.
Much like classical music, there’s a good chance you may not like jazz music—or at least think you don’t. Surprisingly, this can actually be a good thing, as you’re much less likely to be distracted by music you’re not highly engaged with. Do some experimenting and see if jazz works for you!
Effective studying requires a relaxing, stress-free environment. What better way to create this than by listening to calming nature sounds while you hit the books? From gentle rainfall to the soothing noises of the jungle, the natural world has no shortage of soundscapes to get lost in. Many students will likely better respond to nature sounds than actual music because they are less distracting. Better yet, it’s so easy to find playlists. A quick YouTube search will bring up many that are eight hours or longer. All you have to do is hit play and start studying!
Create Your Own Playlist
The truth is that everyone responds differently to music. A genre one person finds motivating may be distracting to another. You may even find you can’t study with background music at all! This is why our top recommendation is to do what works for you. If you can only concentrate while listening to heavy metal, then put it on. Better yet, make a playlist!
Having a playlist of your favourite music ready to go also saves you time, as you won’t have to stop in the middle of your studies to find new music. A good way to test whether your study music is getting you results is to take a break and review your study material. If you find you can’t remember much, it might be time to switch up your playlist or turn off the music altogether.