Does music help students study?
“Okay, laptop, check; text books, check; pen, check; comfortable chair and desk to prepare study notes, check; amplifier, headphones and folder of super-loud rap, and metal mp3s to blow my mind while I cram it, check!”
And that seems to be about it for a lot of students; eyes absorbing facts while ears absorb 120 decibels of pure ‘relaxation’.
Is it bad to listen to music while studying?
Music can have both positive and negative effects on studying, depending on two things: the student and the music.
For a start, every student is a unique bag of tricks when it comes to study methods. Some thrive in utter silence; in fact, they’re distracted by the slightest noise, be it a television or dog barking outside. Others can’t operate on any focussed level unless they shut the world out with wall-shaking music.
Or, at least, so they think. Yes, music can disconnect you from the outside world, but it can also short circuit what you’ve asked it to help you do: assimilate knowledge.
Benefits of studying with music
Yes, music can create a mood. Study music, particularly, can be relaxing and help students beat anxiety or stress while studying. Background music is likely to help students improve their focus during long study sessions.
Music can help with memorisation – a somewhat debatable idea that is the basis of “the Mozart effect” which suggested that listening to Mozart study music could actually enhance intelligence.
Study music is considered to be beneficial for the intake of vital information. Relaxing music for studying can help to ease nerves and help you beat pre-exam anxiety. Consequently, any music of a high bpm, angry or intense nature tends to do the complete opposite.
Drawbacks of listening to music while studying
Music can distract. Students who listen to loud music can have trouble with reading comprehension and mood. Even soft music with loads of lyrics can distract and could have absorbed less information.
Think about it: a textbook or online module is trying to help you understand a critical phase in your study while some singer fills your ears with intimate details of their failing love life. It’s a bit of a clash.
Basically, if you aren’t the kind of person who can turn that music into ‘white noise’ and use it to centre in on what you read, not what you hear, your study effectiveness will be like a download on a dial-up modem.
Interested in finding out how to improve children's learning skills? Read in our previous blog post!
Best music for studying
What is THE music to study to? Well, it’s a matter of taste and comfort and most students aren’t going to settle back with a bit of Beethoven or Mozart.
But as a general rule, anything that can be accurately described as ‘soothing’ will probably do the job if your students honestly can’t study without musical accompaniment.
If they want to get creative with it, try downloading something that will help you study. It might be an inspiring movie soundtrack, some spa music, nature sounds or something that lifted you before and can again carry you through to successfully finishing your assignments. A subliminal, vaguely related motivation can still be music to your ears.
At the end of the day – and that’s when most students study – it’s about finding your Happy Study Place; a place you can effectively accomplish all your study goals. If you must listen to music, try out some YouTube study music at first - make it relevant music, make it background music, make it music that becomes a soundtrack to success.