What’s the best music for studying?

Can the right music help you study? Let's put it to the test. Here are three Spotify playlists designed to get you into the productive zone. 

A collage featuring two men dancing on top of outstretched hands with a spinning record in the background

You’ve got your books out. Your noise cancelling headphones at the ready. Now it’s time to turn up the music and dive into an intense, hours-long study session.

But what’s the best music for studying? And will the right study songs actually make you more productive? Here’s what the experts reckon.

Does music help you study?

Everyone has a different opinion on this question—and ultimately it does come down to personal preference.

But plenty of experts agree that music can help you study. Some think it’s because music has a direct impact on your cognitive function, boosting your memory, concentration and problem-solving abilities, while others just think that music makes you happier, and therefore more willing to push through boring tasks.

Whatever the reason, it’s thought that the genre you choose can make a difference.

What genre of music is best for studying?

When you need to focus: instrumental

Intense Study Focus Playlist

Listen to our playlist: Intense Study Focus

Nothing disrupts your flow more than a sudden, irresistible urge to sing along to a favourite song. If you need to get some serious work done, it’s best to listen to instrumental tracks that don’t have any lyrics

In the early 90s, scientists even theorised that listening to classical music—or Mozart in particular—could boost your brainpower. They called this the Mozart effect.

While the idea has become a bit of a pop culture myth since then, a more recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that classical music does encourage your brain to pay attention. This is because it doesn’t follow a predictable pattern like pop music does, so it keeps you alert enough to absorb tricky topics when studying.

If you want to try it out but 18th century composers just aren’t your jam, a lot of people swear by TV, movie and game soundtracks. This intense background music is upbeat enough to stimulate your brain, but as a bonus you associate the songs with how you feel when watching your favourite movies, so it puts you in a better mood. It’s ideal music for writing essays.

Check out our playlist above for some of the best TV and movie soundtracks to study to.

When you need a break: pop or dance 

Time for a Dance Party Playlist

Listen to our playlist: Time for a Dance Break

Most of us can concentrate for about 90 minutes before we need a study break. And it’s important to take those breaks, because they make us feel refreshed, relaxed and energised when we get back to work.

What we’re saying is, this is a perfect excuse to step away from your laptop, blast some high-energy pop music—and maybe even bust a few moves in your bedroom. Not only is it fun, but a McGill University study found that listening to your favourite songs gives your brain a hit of dopamine, improving your mood dramatically.

Plus, it’s a good idea to get your body moving after sitting still for a long time to avoid muscle strain. If you’re not much of a dancer, try going for a walk or a run while listening to a dance playlist. Spending just 20 minutes outside, surrounded by green spaces, has been proven to reduce your stress

Try our playlist above for a mood boost during your next study break.

When you need to read: acoustic

Weekend Study Session Playlist

Listen to our playlist: Weekend Study Session

If lyrics don’t bother you and you want calm music for studying, then you might like to go with a quiet acoustic playlist.

There’s a reason this genre is a café staple: the gentle guitar sounds blend perfectly into the background, making it great music to listen to while reading.

Another study by Stanford University found that slow tempo music with a simple melody has a relaxing effect on your mind, which is why it’s our favourite genre for a long weekend study session. Check out our playlist to see if this music makes you feel more productive.

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