Whether in class, at home or on the road, college students can be seen with noses in books and pens in hand, cramming for the next exam. Studying may seem daunting, but science has shown music makes for an effective aid.
Music during study sessions works by activating both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which can maximize memory and retention. However, depending on the genre of music being listened to, it can have the opposite effect — providing more of a distraction than the calming effect needed for proper studying. Here are three music genres to consider listening to for studying, and three to avoid.
Consider: Classical music
Classical music has been historically and scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, improve sleep patterns and bring stress levels down. In addition, classical music is subtle enough to not be distracting from a task at hand. Classical music has even been shown to help depression. Having a positive mindset to study is healthy.
Much like classical music, jazz is very calming and slow. Since the brain will be more focused on study material, jazz can be very effective as background noise, and could even passively stimulate the brain to increase focus. The more music can be tuned out, the better for studying, and jazz fits that notion like a glove.
Consider: Ambient/Electronic music
Ambient or electronic music is the most varied genre on this list. For every slow and subtle song there is an upbeat, high energy song to match. EDM’s greatest strength is its ability to be upbeat yet calming at the same time, specifically songs without lyrics to distract the mind. This genre is also the most budget-friendly on the list, as there are many studying playlists that can be found online for free.
Avoid: Metal/heavy metal
The high-energy riffs and runs the metal genre has may be appropriate for a high-energy concert, but from a studying standpoint, metal is one of the worst genres to relax to. If anything, metal music is by design a genre that invokes hyperactivity. Metal typically contains overtly edgy and nihilistic lyrics, which does nothing to calm the mind.
Pop music is strongly associated with dance music and the nightclub scene. Take everything beneficial from electronic dance music, strip it away, add lyrics to it and pop music is born. Like the metal genre, pop music stimulates the mind to want to get up and move around the room, rather than sit in one spot and concentrate.
Music without lyrics is better suited for longer study sessions, and rap is the most lyric-centric genre of them all. Rap is arguably the most demanding genre for active listeners — the opposite of what a student needs when trying to find music that helps shift attention away from it.