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 plays a major role 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 6 genres below are good places to start.
Never doubt the power of a good retro playlist. Okay, when they hear the word “retro”, most people 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 and not just for the history lesson. Classical music can help reduce stress and even improve sleep patterns. As for which famous 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 but many studies have refuted this claim. However, this isn’t to say 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 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 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 with our music picks. In our own experiences, music with little or no lyrics works well for studying because it is 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. We recommend any of the study playlists put together by Live Better Media.
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 each other. 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 with 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 what works for you!
Effective studying requires a relaxing, stress free environment. What better way to create this for yourself than to listen to calming nature sounds while you hit the books? From gentle rainfall to jungle canopies, the natural world has no shortage of soundscapes to get lost in. Many students will likely respond better to nature sounds than many genres of 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 in relaxation.
Create your own playlist
The truth is everyone responds differently to music. What one person finds motivating may be distracting to another. You may even find you can’t study with any background music at all! This is why our top recommendation to find the best music for studying is to do what works for you. If you can only concentrate while listening to heavy metal, then put it on!
Having a playlist of your favourite music ready to go also saves you time, as you won’t have to frequently stop to find new music. A good way to test whether your study music is getting 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.
We wish you the best of luck on your exams and finding the best music for studying. For more exam study tips, check out our blog posts on study hacks and how to use music for stress relief.