Table of Contents
Studying for long hours can be a real pain in the neck, as your blood boils with frustration and your eyes water with fatigue. It’s easy to feel like throwing in the towel when work won’t end, but this desperation is only a state of mind. There’s a study aid out there that can boost mood, decrease work hours, and relax your mind as the information seeps in.
There is a rumor you might have heard about classical music. Classical music is supposed to increase brain power if you listen while working or studying. But how can you test this theory? Is it possible that Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata can help you create slides for the big presentation? Or is all this talk about classical music dust in the wind?
Proof in Productiveness
Scientists have conducted hundreds of studies that detail the effects of classical music on the human brain. One occurred in 1993, when researchers tried to determine whether Mozart helped people score higher on IQ tests. The study, now discredited, popularized the rumor that classical music helped people study. While Mozart won’t make you smart, the rumor inspired multiple studies to uncover the legitimate benefits of classical music.
One French study discovered a specific correlation between academic performance and classical music. Students who listened to a lecture with classical music in the background scored higher on a lecture quiz than students who listened without classical music.
Classical music has been proven to increase productivity in office settings too. Researchers in the United Kingdom conducted another study describing the effects of classical music, this time with office workers. Two groups of workers transcribed 600 words in an office setting. One group listened to classical music and the other worked in silence. The group who listened to classical music were 15% more efficient at their task.
An extensive study from Germany’s Goethe University in Frankfurt uncovered broader connections between music and creative productivity. The study found that happy, upbeat music promoted creative thinking by causing brains to function with divergent thinking. Divergent thinking occurs when brain activity switches into a mode that is meant to increase creativity, causing the brain to diverge into new lines of thought. Any music that you find happy can promote divergent thinking but if you want a starting point, you can try classical music! It’s one genre known to be positive and energetic, two factors related to divergent thinking.
Turn on Bach before Bed
Research from deep in the heart of Texas discovered a correlation between classical music and Targeted Memory Reactivation (TMR). TMR is a process that causes the brain to more permanently store information. A Baylor study revealed that students who listened to classical music during a lecture and again before sleeping retained more information than the control group. The test subjects demonstrated an improvement of 18% when exam’d the next day.
In Canada, scientists performed a study to determine whether classical music could help fight insomnia. University of Toronto research indicates classical music before bed helped people sleep by reducing their brainwave activity. Less brainwave activity means more relaxation and less anxiety. These factors helped ease participants into a peaceful night of sleep.
Another benefit of the classical music style is that slower tempos are more akin to a resting heart. Classical rhythms allow the human body to calm down, in contrast to the effects of rap or pop music. Some jazz is calmer than most, but I wouldn’t recommend turning on any bebop if you want to go to sleep.
Classical music has a wealth of emotional benefits as well. Research demonstrates the brain releases more dopamine when listening to classical music. Dopamine improves mood by producing a feel-good effect in the brain. The increase in dopamine causes listeners of classical music to experience a boost in happiness.
Raising dopamine levels can be useful when fighting depression. While classical music releases dopamine, don’t expect it to cure depression by itself. Listening in conjunction with therapy might help you live a happier life.
While it’s fun to dive into the world of classical music, you might feel overwhelmed by the wide selection. How do you select the perfect songs to increase productiveness and happiness?
For starters, try to avoid giant orchestral pieces. Songs like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony have a rapid pace, loud crashes, and grandiose scale. Those might not be the ideal tracks for late night study sessions!
Try to stick to simpler arrangements featuring only a few instruments. Listening solo piano compositions are a great place to start. The arrangement is conducive to a relaxing, studious environment. Some other suggestions are:
- A Beautiful Mind, James Horner
- The Draughtsman’s Contract, Michael Nyman
- The Well-Tempered Clavier, Johann Sebastian Bach
- Piano Concerto No. 23, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Gymnopédie No. 1, Erik Satie
- Nocturnes, Frédéric Chopin
- The Hours, Philip Glass
- Moonlight Sonata, by Beethoven
- Organ Concertos, by George Frideric Handel
- The Blue Danube Waltz, Johann Strauss II
Find What Works for You
At the end of the day, the right music can assist everyone when trying to work or study. Classical music is a great place to start because of the extensive scientific research behind its benefits.
Movie soundtracks are another great place to find study music. Both Interstellar (Hans Zimmer) and Princess Mononoke (Joe Hiashi) have excellent selections inspired from classical scores that provide a smooth ambiance for quiet work.
It’s important to remember that classical music might not be the most productive music for you because everyone has different taste. In my case, I composed this article while listening to a jazz and blues playlist featuring George Duke and Cannonball Adderley. On the other hand, one of my friends studies best listening to house music. The next time you find yourself cooped up in a library with a mountain of work, try listening to music for motivation!
Eric M. Earle is a tutoring expert and founder of TutorPortland.com. He believes in the power of classical music for studying!