The Best Study Music (AKA Thank God It’s Not Mozart)

Posted by
Jeff Black On Dec 12 , 2013

In honor of all national finals week(s), also known as Open Season for your predatory, student-hunting professors, we’re challenging the trends, myths and science behind listening to music while you study.

This usually goes one of two ways:

1) “Shut up and Study: no music will help you, you lazy good-for-nothing!” if you’re used to hearing that, you’re mom must be a b*tch too, in which case, I’m sorry for you.

2) “Mozart will make you smart!” Ooooh, crank up that sweet NPR! Score some serious cool points with your friends! (Just kidding. REALLY kidding.)

We’re here to bury these stupid quotes you’ve been hearing all your life, and offer you REAL music that follows the rules but won’t kill your buzz, fun or reputation (if you sell it the right way at least). What scientists have discovered is that:

Music boosts productivity, and improves your mood.

  • So rule #1 is completely off-base. LISTEN to your music. Well, maybe not YOUR music. But we’ll get to that in part II.

The style of Classical music is not what aids your thinking. It’s just the BPM:

  • While some Baroque music has been proven to set a good, productive mood, the real trick behind music is the BPM, or beats per minute.
  • A recent study by Spotify showed that students perform better academically if they listen to music in the 60+ BPM, to put the brain in a learning state. Supposedly, the magic number (in the 50-80 range at least) is required to get the brain revving, but not to the point of distraction, especially where thinking and creativity are involved. So if Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons doesn’t pump you up, that’s ok. There are plenty of cooler, less tired and outdated alternatives that won’t leave you seeming the stuffy nerdwad who studies like it’s his job.

The best alternatives to your current playlist:

Classical, but Cool

Want new music, but believe in the classical method? Here’s an option for you. The Vitamin String Quartet does classical/string quartet covers of pop music. Anything from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Linkin Park, the Goo Goo Dolls.

The Ambient Approach

Need to de-stress? If it’s finals week, you probably are pulling your hair out over that-essay-you-forgot-when-you-have-2-exams-tomorrow in classes you couldn’t care less about. Take a chill pill with ambient/chillout/IDM style music. IDM was originally designed to help hard partiers and dancers relax and recover between long rave sessions, so if it works on youngsters hopped up on MDMA, it will roshambo your tension-binging limbic system.

This music was actually designed to put passengers at ease in stressful travel situations. Another plus? There are a bunch of online radios devoted to this style of music. Check out Soma FM’s Groove Salad, Drone Zone, Secret Agent, or this electronic music hub: Digitally Imported.

Enjoy the Silence?

The guys at ChatterBlocker put together an app is designed to mask or blend the noise surrounding you. Ignore this crap commercial (though it’s worth a laugh, it’s not very informative). I suggest downloading it if you find yourself going a bit crazy, and don’t want to deal with the same people as this poor CSUN student.

Don’t want to clutter your phone/desktop with random apps? Then just try out, it generates White, Pink and Brown noise to kill the silence. I’m a fan of their Simply Rain site – though it may put you to sleep if you get too relaxed. They have a variety of noises, and definitely worth an experiment to help you study, focus or sleep.

Foreign Music

Don’t get hooked on the lyrics, just pick a genre in a language you don’t know to keep yourself focused. Distraction comes from the ability to interact with the music you’re tuned in to, and music in your native tongue can distract the language centers. I don’t speak German, so I’m a big fan of German industrial rock for a nice, upbeat study-fest. If you’re tired of good-old Rammstein, try Oomph!:

Once again, everyone is different, and these styles may work for you. If you have a preferred style, please comment and share it! Again, the science behind the music indicates that even different types of music can influence your performance in certain subjects. So, GOOD LUCK CRAMMING. We hope you got some interesting tunes to try out of this post.

Check back next time to discover what music works best for your major!