Should you play music while studying?

As the legend says, there are two types of people in the world – 1) who like music while studying 2) who hate music while studying. Irrespective of which camp you fall under, exams are edging closer, so it’s imperative for us to use every tool to boost our productivity. Today, blogger Krishna presents to you one such tool: music. 

By Krishna Bellamkonda

As always, studying with music comes with its own pros and cons. We are going to discuss both of these and figure out a strategy that works for you. First of all, why study with music at all?

Why study with music?

Having headphones on with music sets the ambience for a study session. It helps take away the sting from sitting down and pushing yourself to study. Often, it is taking this first step that is most difficult. So, it helps you overcome procrastination and stay motivated. Moreover, the music helps us relax and takes us to a comfortable space. Even if a deadline is looming right over our head, the music calms us down and tackles anxiety. This helps us focus better and for longer periods of time. 

Clinically speaking, a study by Stanford University of Medicine reveals that this kind of music might help in the grasping of new information. The study suggests that music improves cognitive functioning and memorization capabilities. So, there are a lot of upsides to studying with music. However, there are some adverse effects too (I’m sure most of you can relate).

Adverse Effects of Study Music

Most importantly, the music can sometimes be distracting. It can break your train of thought and might even affect your retrieval capabilities. Some studies have also concluded that music reduces the ‘working memory capacity’. As the term suggests, it is your capacity to hold information in the short-term. A decrease in this capacity usually means a reduced productivity. 

The adverse effects of study music are exaggerated when: 

  • You have a strong feeling about the song (like / dislike)
  • The music is loud 
  • Contains a lot of lyrics

 So, keeping these in mind, let’s explore which kind of music is best suited for your studies. 

Which kind of music is best to study with?

So, neutral music is the best kind of music to study with. Generally speaking, slow songs with more instrumental foreplay are the best. Which genre of music best fits this description? Yes, you’ve guessed it – Classical Music!

Afterall, the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach is not redundant (no one ever thought that). Personally, I’ve found a gem in classical orchestral music. It has become my go to playlist for study sessions. 

Some other types of music I’ve found to fit our criteria are – 

  • Nature sounds (waterfalls etc.)
  • Soft electronic music 
  • Ambient Music

Conclusion

From experience, I relate to both the positive and negative impacts that music brings to study sessions. So, I have carved up a strategy for this. When working seriously (deep work), I prefer not to have music to avoid any possible distractions. However, while tackling some lighter tasks, I have some music on. As always, experiment a bit to figure out what fits your study regiment. You might even like having your headphones on without any music playing (yes, I’ve even tried this)! Sometimes, saving the music for breaks might help you.

Hopefully, after reading this article, you will have made your study sessions more productive. If you’d like to know more about study music, please let me know through the comments section.


There are lots of websites and apps with concentration music. Noisli is good for background noises, and YouTube has many focus music playlists.

What are you go to study music songs and playlists? Let us know by leaving a comment below, tweeting us @warwicklibrary or emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

Header Image: Charlotte May

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