Music to Help You Study: Best Playlists for Focus and Memory

Deciding whether to study in silence or while listening to music is largely a matter of personal preference. However, you may be interested to learn that numerous benefits are associated with the latter. For example, studying while listening to music is associated with improved concentration, lessened boredom, lower levels of stress, and other benefits, according to 1883 Magazine.

However, just as certain types of chocolate pair best with certain types of coffee, some genres of music are more conducive to studying (and exam prep) than others. Below are just a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re putting together your next study.

Student studying in a library with headphones on.

Music and Memory

Have you ever heard a song that you loved as a teenager, only to have your mind transported back to a specific date and time when that song was on in the background? You’ve also likely experienced what it’s like to hear a song you haven’t heard in years, only to realize you still remember all the lyrics. There may be a reason for this, as LSTN Sound Co. reports that our brains are “wired to connect music with long-term memory,” citing studies that have shown that music memory is stored in a part of the brain that’s not affected by forms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, episodic memory — i.e., the ability to recall specific pieces of information from various points in time — can benefit from background music, according to a 2019 research study published in Psychomusicology. Other studies, as noted by the Mozart Project, support the theory behind the Mozart effect, which hypothesizes that listening to classical music improves memory and retention.

Benefits of Listening to Music While Studying

You often see people with their headphones on at the park, at the gym, and while working at coffee shops. Music is a great motivator, and it can be as good for the brain as it is for the spirit. Streaming while studying may offer the following benefits:

  • Music can get you going: Music not only helps motivate you when you’re exercising or cleaning; it can also help get you going while you’re studying. The brain often associates music with positive experiences and listening to the right playlist while studying may give you an extra burst of energy.
  • Music boosts your mood: Listening to upbeat music often brightens the spirit. When you’re in a good mood, focusing on the task (or tasks) at hand is often easier.
  • Music can help with memorization: Numerous research studies suggest music impacts memory in a positive way. For example, when people feel stressed and overwhelmed, it can be difficult for them to focus. However, listening to music has been shown to reduce levels of stress, and it may also help increase alertness and enhance cognitive recall.
  • Music may improve your focus: Forcing yourself to stay focused on lengthy volumes of intellectually challenging material can be difficult. Selecting an uplifting playlist may help focus your wandering mind.

Sounds That Are Best for Studying

Different people have different learning abilities — and music pairings used by your friends may not work as well for you. It’s all about finding something that you like and that you can study to. If you love the idea of listening to music while hitting the books, the following genres may be worth testing out to improve your studying success.

  • Classical music: Classical music can help you feel relaxed, and it may also help improve your focus. Additionally, listening to classical music may help stimulate the brain.
  • Ambient sounds: Background noise that includes ambient sounds, such as birds chirping or waves crashing, can help students feel more relaxed. This genre may also help boost creativity levels.
  • Ambient electronica: Listening to ambient electronica may help minimize background noise, such as kids playing and dogs barking. Its unique sounds and rhythms may also help reduce study-induced stress.
  • Instrumentals: Many students find song lyrics distracting — especially when they’re listening to songs they like. In this instance, instrumental music may be less distracting. Instrumentals can include everything from slow-tempo classical to cover songs played on an acoustic guitar.
  • Jazz: Jazz can be an excellent choice for studying. Not only is it often upbeat, but it may reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance concentration.
  • Lo-fi: The soft sounds and beats of lo-fi music also pair well with study sessions. Although there have not been extensive studies on the benefits of streaming lo-fi while studying, listening to this genre while hitting the books may help keep you focused.

Study Playlists That Are Worth Checking Out

If you don’t have time to make your own playlist, you’re in luck. Spotify and YouTube have countless playlists to choose from.

Using Music to Break Free of Your Study Funk

If you think that listening to music may improve your study sessions, you have hundreds of playlists to choose from. It’s all about finding the style of music that works best for you. Other helpful study habits include taking study breaks and creating an effective study space.

If you’re exploring study playlist options because you’re an aspiring student, we invite you to check out Maryville University’s wide variety of online degree programs to see if you find something that inspires you.

Recommended Reading

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Making a Career Change at 30

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1883 Magazine, “5 Benefits of Listening to Music While Studying”

APA, “The Effect of Background Music on Episodic Memory”

Connections Academy, “Does Music Help You Study?”

Exam Study Expert, “Does Music Help You Study: Busting the Myths”

Healthline, “Music and Studying: It’s Complicated”

Louise Byrne Music, “Is LoFi Music Good for Studying?”

LSTN Sound Co., “The Link Between Music and Memory”

Mozart Project, “What Is the Mozart Effect Psychology?”

The Music Essentials, “The Best Music for Studying: What to Listen to While Studying”

OM Openmic “7 Benefits of Listening to Music While Studying”

Take Lessons, “Effects of Music on Memory: How It Works, Benefits, and Song List”

We Rave You, “Why Is Electronic Music So Good for Studying?”

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