Does Listening to Classical Music Help Study?
Many people find that listening to music helps them study or work better. Some people find it hard to concentrate when there is any noise in the background.
There are many good things about music, such as:
- improved mood
- upped the incentive
- boost concentration
- better memory and brain exercise
- better ways to deal with pain and tiredness
But not everyone thinks that music makes it easier to study. So, what’s up? Does it work or not?
Because music doesn’t affect everyone the same way, there is no simple “yes” or “no” answer.
Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of studying with music and how to get the most out of your study playlist.
How it can be useful
It would be great if you could put on a playlist or song that would help you finish a problem set or remember all the dates for your history final, wouldn’t it?
Music isn’t quite that powerful, though. It helps mostly in indirect ways, but those ways are still very important. These are why it’s good to listen to classical music while studying.
It makes you feel better and reduces stress.
Music doesn’t just motivate you. It can also help you feel less stressed and have a better attitude.
Research shows that, in general, being happy makes it easier to learn. When you’re feeling good, you’re more likely to be able to study and learn new things.
When you don’t fully understand what you’re studying, studying can be stressful. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, putting on some music can help you calm down and get more done.
It can get you going.
If you’ve ever had to do a lot of homework on a long, tiring night, you may have lost motivation to study long before you were done.
You might have promised yourself a reward, like the latest episode of a show you like or your favorite takeout food, if you wanted to study.
New research from 2019 shows that music can make the same parts of your brain light up as when you do other things you enjoy. Getting your favorite music as a reward can give you the drive you need to learn something new.
If you like music that isn’t good for studying (more on that below), listening to your favorite songs during study breaks could push you to work harder.
It can help you concentrate.
A study from 2007 found that music, especially classical music, can make it easier for your brain to take in and understand new information.
Your brain breaks up all the information it gets from the world around you into smaller pieces so it can understand it.
The researchers found evidence that music can keep your brain busy in a way that trains it to pay more attention to what’s going on around you and guess what might happen next.
What does this do to help you learn? Well, if you have a hard time making sense of new things, listening to music could help.
You can also link reasoning skills to being able to make better guesses about what will happen.
When it’s time for an exam, having better reasoning skills won’t help you pull answers out of thin air. But based on the information you do have, you might notice a difference in how well you can reason your way to these answers.
Other studies also show that music might help people concentrate.
Some of the boys in a 2011 study on ADHD were distracted by background music, but it seemed to help other boys do better in the classroom.
It could help you remember new things.
A study from 2014 in Pubmed Central shows that based on these results, it seems that some kinds of music can help improve memory and other brain functions.
Music can wake up your brain in the same way that exercise can wake up your body.
Isn’t it true that the more you work out your muscles, the stronger they get? In the same way, giving your brain a mental workout could help it get stronger.
Not everyone finds music helpful when they need to focus on something.
It can get in the way.
A big part of the effect of music is that it can take your mind off of things.
When you’re feeling down or stressed, listening to your favorite songs can help you feel better.
But when you need to study, you probably don’t want to be distracted.
If you’re trying to argue your point in a term paper or solve a hard calculus equation, music that is too loud or fast might just get in the way of your thoughts and make it harder for you to do what you need to do.
It can hurt your ability to remember things.
Working memory is the information that you use to solve problems, learn, and do other things that require thinking.
Working memory is used when you want to remember:
- list of things
- how to work out a math problem
- the order of things
Most people can handle a small amount of information at a time. If you have a lot of working memory, you can handle more information at once.
But research shows that listening to music can make it harder to use your working memory.
If you already have trouble putting together different bits of information, listening to music could make it even harder.
It can make reading more difficult.
Some kinds of music, like songs with words or fast, loud instrumental music, can make it hard to understand and remember what you’re reading.
Soft classical music with a slow tempo might be a better choice for a night of Victorian literature or a night alone with your biology textbook.
What music works the best?
It doesn’t always make you less productive or efficient to listen to music while you study or work.
You don’t have to give up music if you like to study with it. Keeping these tips in mind can help you find the best music for work and study:
Avoid music with words. If the words are in a language you understand, they will likely distract you more than help.
Choose slow, instrumental music. Most research has been done on classical music, but if you don’t like it, you could also try soft electronic, space, or ambient music, like you might hear at a spa or while getting a massage.
Avoid strange or experimental music. Music that changes quickly or doesn’t have a steady beat can make it hard to know what to expect next. This can take your mind off of your work and make it hard to concentrate.
Keep the volume low. Study music should be soft enough to be heard in the background. If it’s too loud, it could make it hard for you to think.
Stick to songs you don’t have strong feelings about. Listening to music you either love or hate can make it hard to focus.
If you can, stream music without ads. Imagine this: you’re listening to an instrumental Pandora station when a toilet paper ad comes on, which is annoying and takes you off track. Say no more.
Music can make you feel better and give you more drive to do important things, but it doesn’t always help you study.
Even people who like music might not find it helpful when they are trying to focus.
Choosing music carefully can help you get the most out of it, but if you still can’t concentrate, you might want to try white noise or something else instead.
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