It’s an age-old debate that endlessly plagues the field of academia and tutoring – is listening to music while studying mentally stimulating, or simply distracting? While there’s valid points to both sides of the argument, we’ve decided to focus on the key points to get to the bottom of this ever-controversial topic.
Headphones In, Distractions Out?
For many students, listening to music can help to alleviate boredom, increase concentration, and reduce stress while studying dense content or writing an essay. This can be extremely beneficial to students who are easily distracted by visual stimuli, or who fidget with random items across their desk – however, this varies from person to person. Upbeat pop songs or music which employs intricate melodies and lyrics can overpower the brain and make you lose your focus relatively easily – it’s not uncommon for students who listen to music begin to write out the lyrics to the song mid-sentence in an essay. If you’re struggling to focus with your usual playlist in the background, maybe try out some instrumental music to see how you go.
The Mozart Effect
There’s an old psychological theory called ‘The Mozart Effect’ which claims that children and babies who listen to music composed by Mozart become more intelligent over time. If you didn’t know previously, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is known as the original composer of the melody for ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ which is shared with ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ and the Alphabet song – all of which are probably among the first songs we learn in our lives. However, while it’s true that music can help with memorization, some studies have suggested that classical music is actually one of the least effective genres to listen to while studying. Also, some students who utilise music as a memorisation tool pull a blank when trying to recall information in exam halls or classrooms which don’t allow MP3 players or smartphones, which certainly poses a problem – however, if you’re just writing essays at home, you should be fine.
So, What Genres Work?
If you trawl YouTube, you’ll often see popular videos for ‘LoFi Beats to Study to’ pop up in your feed. These videos typically feature looped compilations of wonky hip-hop instrumentals that intentionally sound like they’re bleeding from someone else’s headphones, and most of the time, they kind of just put people to sleep. If you’re looking to try out a new genre for study, we’d highly recommend ambient music, such as Brian Eno’s Music For Airports, or even laid-back, piano-centered modal jazz, with artists like Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk’s discographies being perfect for late night sessions. At the end of the day, however, listen to whatever inspires you – if industrial German techno is going to get you through your last minute revision for a calculus exam, then rave away!