While some swear by music’s magical effect on learning, others detest any background noise during their study sessions. Listening to music while studying is one of the most debated techniques in academia. It is a unique learning strategy that might not work with everyone. There are varying research results, opinions and viewpoints around it. Here’s why it can be a productive way to study or a futile endeavour for students:


Does Listening To Music Help Study?

Just like other stimuli, sounds impact our brain in various ways. How it interacts with songs and tunes determines whether they help us study or not. Here’s how music influences our brain functions  and study patterns alike:

  • Mood Booster & Stress Buster
    Music makes humans happy. From beating drums to synced hymns, our favourite music helps us relax and lifts our spirits. Researchers believe that soothing music makes people less anxious and more mentally fit. So much so that there exists a thriving field of Music therapy. Another study suggests that a good mood further leads to new and advanced learning outcomes. Moreover, the de-stressing effect of music makes the student focus keenly on the subject at hand. More maths equations can be solved while grooving to good music than in anxious silence. Thus, a stress-free calm and happy mind enables students to study well.
  • Improves memory
    We often find it far easier to learn lyrics of songs than historical facts or chemistry equations. The strong link between memory and music is the key that makes it possible. Our brain recognizes and employs patterns to understand and retain information. Studies suggest that background music, especially certain special melodies, can also act as a trigger to retrieve memories. It stimulates the brain activity and strengthens the recall rate of the studied material efficiently.
  • Amplifies Cognitive Performance
    Music is a brain tonic that nourishes our cognitive and affective functions. A multitude of studies shows that music acts as an exercise that refines our thinking and reasoning skills. Research suggests that people who study music or have musical training have augmented literacy and reasoning skills. Also, there seems to be a link between the emotional state and improved analytical skills. As music elevates our mood, the positive emotions trigger an enhanced cognitive task performance.
  • Keeps The Students Motivated
    Amidst a long and exhausting study session, what’s the thing that keeps students going? Probably a 10-minute break or a snack as a reward. Any pleasurable activity or a thing that relaxes us acts as a reward. Music tends to activate the same centres of the brain that pleases us on receiving a reward. Thus, music indirectly drives us to study. Keeping a list of favourite tunes to listen to after each topic or hour of studying can motivate students to learn effectively.
  • Increases Focus
    Acquiring, understanding and interpreting new information is a complicated task. A Stanford study suggests listening to music, especially classical music, can help simplify the process. It segments the new data for easier understanding and reasoning. This keeps students’ wavering attention focussed on the study material. With more focus, students can gain a better grasp on the subject they are studying.

Is Listening To Music While Studying Bad?

  • Distracts From Studying
    We all have used music to uplift our mood or keep us occupied while doing chores in everyday life. Thus, it’s quite obvious that music can be extremely distracting. Sooner than a student can realise, they will be singing along to their favourite song rather than preparing for the test the next day. The more loud, lyrical and emotionally relevant a song is, the more it will distract one from studying. Thus, the type of music is an important consideration to keep in mind.
  • Lowers Short Term Memory Capacity
    Our memory is divided into different parts. The information we read and interact with at a moment is stored in the working memory, which we employ while studying. Studies suggest that music adversely affects our immediate memory. It overloads our senses and makes it harder to assess and retain the studied lessons. As a result, it deteriorates the retention of the concepts that students tried to learn. Thus, the question does music help study has conflicting answers. While it can help with memorisation in the long term, it degrades the short term memory.
  • Degrades Reading Comprehension
    As a result of the fluttering attention and worsening working memory, the student’s ability to read and comprehend declines as well. Research shows the effect on reading is the worst. This is why one might find it easy to solve maths equations while listening to music rather than reading a history chapter. Thus, one should only listen to lyric-free music at the lowest volume in cognitive tasks.

Tips To Use Music Efficiently While Studying

What to do while listening to music comes down to personal preference. It differs from student to student and the type of task at hand. However, following a few evidence-based tips can make the experience of studying with music more worthwhile.

  • Stick to simple melodies rather than music with lyrics. This will ensure that the student is more engaged in studying than the song.
  • Fast and loud music disrupts attention and reading comprehension. Research suggests soft and slow music works the best in keeping students focussed.
  • The choice of music shouldn’t be too emotionally charged or negative. As long as the song doesn’t make the listener sad or angry, it’s good to go.
  • Instrumental music works wonders in study sessions. Though not every child would enjoy Mozart or Beethoven, soothing soft instrumentals are best for studying.
  • Since the effects of background music are extensive, only the students who can use it as white noise should use it while studying.
  • Introverts are easily overstimulated. Thus, they should refrain from listening to music while studying to avoid getting overwhelmed or distracted.
  • A platform with negligible disturbances and ads should be used to listen to music. This will minimise distractions while studying.

The decision to listen to music during study depends on the personality, preference and subject to be studied. With the amount of research on the topic, it’s quite clear that you can utilise music to help you study. A few tweaks to the types of music can help students make the perfect playlist to tune into for the perfect study session!