Does Music Help You Study and Concentrate?
Trying to focus can be difficult, especially when in a hyper-connected world, full of stimuli, information, and distractions. It can be very challenging to get in the right state of mind to study, to create, or to work.
A debate about the effectiveness of music as a means to help us focus has been going on for years and years. Some opinions tend to agree with this conclusion, while others are against it. As usual, the truth lies in the middle, as different studies suggest.
It is true that music can help us concentrate, but only when specific conditions are met.
In this article, we will try to shed some light on the topic bringing different points of view in the discussion.
When music does not help
Before diving into the researches demonstrating that music can be a great help to find your focus, let’s see at what conditions the opposite situation occurs.
Listening to lyrics, for example, can actually distract you from the task you are doing, especially if it involves reading. As a rule of thumb, it would be wiser to avoid studying for your next exam while listening to lyrics-centered songs.
You may end up focusing on the words sung by your favorite artist instead of your book. The same principle applies to writers, who need to concentrate on the words they are putting down on paper rather than on song lyrics.
Another adverse condition pertains to music which is played loud and/or with a tossing rhythm and mood. This kind of music may generate agitated or unfocused states of mind, making the task of studying or working more difficult than it is. Even a pleasant rhythm, one you’d want to dance to, can severely affect your concentration.
Some relaxed, soothing music is surely a better choice, as we will shortly see.
How music influences our brains
The reasons behind the aspects explained in the previous paragraph are actually proof of the effects of music on our brains. By understanding them, therefore, we can understand how to control our focus through music, obtaining only the desired results.
Let’s start from a very general but true principle: music helps reduce stress and anxiety, by positively affecting parameters such as our blood pressure and heart rate or by inducing a pleasant psychological condition. It is also quite a common occurrence to feel energized, happier, and at ease while or after listening to our favorite tracks, so even our first-hand experience should somewhat support this principle.
Another effect of music, particularly known among athletes, pertains to performance-enhancing. Listening to specific motivating tracks can help you achieve more results in different aspects of your life, whether it is a sport, a college exam, or a work project. By inducing the right kind of mood, music can give a sort of confidence boost to our brains, helping us perform better.
Since music can lower your blood pressure, it can even soothe muscle tensions, being of huge help in reducing pain.
From a strictly neurological point of view, music activates the areas of your brain connected to attention and focus. In other words, the right kind of music can actively help those areas function, making you more focused and concentrated on your studies or work project. Music also activates both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously, another factor inducing concentration.
Lastly, different studies proved that music is strongly linked to memory and emotions. First of all, music is a powerful trigger to make memories re-emerge. Secondly, these memories emerge better when the music is connected to specific emotions. As a result, when our mood improves, our memory improves. Therefore by listening to uplifting background music we have some good chances of strengthening our memory skills.
The strong bond between music and memory and music and emotion is proven to enhance the process of concentrating and memorizing concepts, making music become a pleasant and powerful ally for any student struggling with their next exam.
What kind of music can help us focus?
Now that we covered the overall effects of music on our brains, it is time to reveal what kind of music is more likely to help us find our focus.
As previously highlighted, background and instrumental music are surely less distracting than songs with lyrics. To see benefits on our focus, however, we also have to take into account aspects such as tempo, amplitude, and even frequencies.
Classical music is probably the most effective genre when it comes to helping us with focus. Soothing and calming moods, often associated with orchestral parts, can produce the best effects our minds.
As for tempo, slower tunes work better. You may want to choose pieces of music that lie between 60 and 80 beats per minute. Slower tempos may induce sleep but faster ones may distract you.
Nature sounds and ambient music are also great to enhance your focus.
Last but not least, a low-medium level of amplitude is preferable, as loud music can be a distraction rather than a focusing aid.
The left ear and the right ear perceive frequencies slightly differently, although the brain sums up these two perceptions to hear one single tone. Binaural beats are recorded taking this fact into account.
For example, the right channel could be recorded at 200 Hz, while the left channel could be recorded at 210 Hz. That 10 Hz difference constitutes the binaural beat.
Some studies concluded that binaural beats, listened through a set of stereo headphones, can enhance the focus and the overall mood of a person. In particular, beats in the alpha pattern (between 7 and 13 Hz of frequency) seem to be the best-performing ones for focus and attention.
However, the effects of binaural beats on our focus are still not completely proven by the scientific community. While some people report an improvement in their concentration through the listening of these beats, some researches suggest that these have no real influence on how our brains work.
Are we all affected equally by music?
For the sake of completeness, we must add one last consideration. Each individual deals with different specific dynamics related to his or her focus. A friend of yours might benefit from music more than you do. Or the opposite.
Some people may find upbeat positive music more effective than slow and neutral background music. Some others may be able to focus only when they listen to binaural beats. And so on.
We are all different so the only way to understand whether the results of the studies conducted within the population apply to our specific case is by experimenting different things and noting the differences.
The relationship between music and focus is still largely a mystery. While the evidence may suggest that calm classical music and nature sounds can improve our concentration, the functioning of our mind is still so cryptic it is hard to find a definitive answer to specific questions like the one highlighted in the title of this article.
Whatever the case, there is no doubt that music can improve our mood and support us in stressful moments, such as when an exam approaches or when we must work at a difficult, mind-draining project.
As long as it makes us feel good, music can be our strongest ally.