It’s 1:30am on a Friday night. No, before you ask, you’re not dancing with a celebratory glass of champagne in hand. Instead, you’re in your room, sitting in a squeaky chair while hunched over your desk and pouring over a seemingly endless binder full of lecture notes and textbook information.
You’ve got a coffee maker or your favorite energizing beverage within arms reach.
For those of you who’ve ever been a student, you understand that nights like these are all too common. While your friends are out having a good time or celebrating their lucky grades, you’re cooped-up in a small room or the school library trying to further your education (or at least your dwindling grades).
All you have to do is stay awake and focused enough to focus on the task at hand- studying.
This is always far easier said than done, however. Depending on how creative you are, you’ve likely tried some of the following methods:
For some, these methods genuinely work, but for other people these methods just don’t seem to work as well as the movies told you they did. At the end of the day, all of the coffee in the world won’t make your memory any better. It will just allow you to stay up and read more of the same information without actually remembering it.
What if you could start remembering a lot more than you usually do, though? What if you could relax, study, wake up the next morning, and crush that test because you actually retained the information that you studied?
We’re not talking about experimental nootropic drugs, we’re talking about something that’s as old as time- music. More specifically music for studying.
That’s right, today we’re going to be going over how relaxing study music can positively affect your brain and your study habits to ensure that you actually remember what you read and are able to retain it long enough to make a solid grade on your next exam.
Best Classical Music For Learning
Best Focusing Music
Best Atmospheric Music
Best Classical Music For Studying
Can Music Make Me Smarter?
Of course, when you tell most people that they can better their grades and their studying habits by listening to music, the first question that jumps to their head is, “Can music actually make me smarter?”
The answer is a little bit complicated, but the quick answer is yes.
Music doesn’t necessarily “make you smarter,” but it does do a lot of other things for your brain that can help you to be a better student and happier person.
How Music Affects Your Brain
Good study music works on your brain in two key ways. The first is that it triggers an emotional response, and the second is that it alters your brainwaves. Let’s take a look at why these two things are so important when it comes to the way that you study.
Think back to some of the happiest and saddest moments in your life. You probably remember each and every detail with absolute clarity. You remember the temperature in the room, the weather outside, the smells in the air, the way you felt, what somebody said, and maybe even what you were wearing.
The reason why you remember all of these details with such stunning clarity is because you have an attached emotional experience to them. Your brain experienced such a rush of emotion that these moments are permanently branded into your long-term memory, and you’ll likely never forget them.
Now what does this have to do with studying music?
Simple. Almost all music creates an emotional response in your brain, and emotional responses help you to remember the details surrounding the moment you have that emotional response. The emotions you feel tell your brain to make an important note of the event.
While the song that you’re listening to may not be powerful enough to help you remember the quadratic formula ten years from now, they can certainly elicit enough of a response to boost your short-term memory and help create a clear association which you can remember days into your future when you take your next test.
A Quick Note On Brainwaves
On an even deeper level, good study music or specially designed focusing music changes your brainwaves. Brainwaves are the root of almost everything we do. Our thoughts, behavior, emotions, and memory is all based off of millions of neurons firing off and corresponding in our brains.
Brainwaves measure the frequency at which these synchronized pulses of communication occur between neurons. In a way, brainwaves are a lot like notes in a musical score. High frequency waves are like the flutes and low frequency waves are like the drums or tuba.
Scientists have classified these waves into six distinct categories, which we’ll get into below. Essentially, your current state of brainwave activity dictates everything you do, and learning how to manipulate them through the use of studying music is a one of the best ways to boost your short-term memory and ensure that you actually remember what you’re reading.
Infra-Low (.5HZ or less)
Infra-low waves are very low frequency waves that affect how our brains perceive time and how the neurons communicate. Not a lot is known about their deeper function as they are hard to detect.
Delta (.5 to 3 HZ)
When your body is resting in a deep sleep, your brain is going to be primarily producing low-frequency delta waves and your body will be in a healing state. If possible, you want to avoid producing these in a study session as it will put you straight to sleep.
Theta (3 to 8HZ)
Theta is another low frequency wave that our brains achieve during sleep while we dream. Again, you’ll want to avoid focus or study music at these frequencies at it will put you into a meditative state.
Alpha (8 to 12HZ)
Once you start listening to study music that has tones between 8 and 12 HZ, you’ll experience a noticeable change in your alertness levels. You’ll feel a calm and alert focus that is incredibly useful when you’re trying to learn new subjects or memorize details during your studies.
Beta (12 to 28HZ)
Beta waves are high energy waves that we produce when we’re being alert and productive. Listening to classical study music that boosts beta brainwave production is the best way to ensure that you’re alert and actively paying attention to the subjects that you’re studying for.
Gamma (38 to 42HZ)
Gamma waves are the most energetic waves and occur when our brains are processing information at incredibly quick rates. If you’re in a state of deep flow, learning, and study, then you’ll be producing a healthy mixture of beta and gamma waves throughout.
Our Recommendations For The Best Study Music
So, now that you know a little bit more about how your brain works, let’s get into our recommendations for some of the best study music.
While you can do a quick YouTube search and find brainwave frequencies to listen to, these are usually just a series of beeps and sine waves that tend to be more annoying than they are helpful.
The best way to increase your short-term memory retention through music is to listen to the classics.
That’s right, we’re talking about Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Before the digital age, these composers would lock themselves away for months creating their masterpieces.
Their success in life hinged on one thing- their ability to create an emotional experience for their audience which they would never forget. This was especially important in an age where there was no such thing as music streaming. These people would likely only listen to music a few times per year.
That being said, let’s get into our top recommendations of classical music for studying.
Best Classical Music For Studying
Winner: Classical Music For The Reader: Great Masterpieces For The Dedicated Reader
The reason why this is our number one pick is simple. This two-disk twenty-two-song album contains some of the best pieces of classical music ever created by over fifteen different composers.
Looking at the top-played songs on the album, you’ll see the tracks which previous listeners have experienced the most success with. Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni, and Debyssy’s Clair De Lune are easily the top two songs listed in this particular collection. Once you listen to songs like these while studying, you’ll notice an instant calming effect and your brainwaves will be predominately between Alpha and Beta which is the perfect zone for deep learning and memory.
Even if you’re not studying, this album is still a great way to acquaint yourself with the greats and become a more sophisticated appreciator of art and music.
Runner Up: Dinner Classics, Vol. 1
Don’t let the name of the album fool you. These “Dinner Classics” are just as good for those late night study sessions as they are when you’re sitting around the table eating a steak dinner with your friends and family.
This collection of classics features Boccherini, Schubert, Beethoven, Rubinstein, Mozart, and Chopin. Mixed and mastered by Cobra Entertainment in Los Angeles, the tracks are well-balanced, and organized in a manner that lightly builds up to a crescendo, and maintains a steady, positive energy throughout the entirety of the playback period.
That’s what this particular album is all about; maintaining a steady energy level that’s not distracting and that serves as relaxing study music or just some of the best background music you could find depending on the occasion.
The total playback time is an hour and nine minutes, which will give you a nice window of time to get in some quality study time before you need to switch albums.
Alternative: The Nutcracker by The Berlin Symphony Orchestra
While some people prefer to study to the calm and upbeat piano concertos by Chopin and Mozart, others prefer the high-energy mood that can only be delivered by Tchaikovsky’s epic ballet concert, The Nutcracker.
The opera was first performed on December 18th, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia and has remained one of the world’s most popular performances. This Christmas drama is about a young child who falls asleep on Christmas Eve and travels through a wonderful assortment of fantastical worlds in her dreams.
Tchaikovsky’s movements in The Nutcracker are bold, exotic, and full of energy. The rolling drums, high brass, and soaring strings are bound to make for an unforgettable studying experience.
Best Focusing Music: Passion; Most Famous Orchestral Spectaculars - Orff: Carmina Burana
There are few things in the world that take quite as much patience, precision, and focus as becoming a professional musician in an orchestra or an opera singer. The dedication that these musicians have to their craft is not only admirable, it’s nothing short of astounding.
With Carl Orff’s Passion, you too can achieve the focus that these musicians have. Performed by the world-famous Prague Festival Orchestra, this wonderful collection of orchestral and opera music will make you feel like you’re at the opening night of one of the hottest opera’s in Prague.
It also happens to be great study music if you’re really trying to focus on learning some new material for an upcoming test or research paper that you’re writing. The low bass notes are combined with soaring vocals and orchestral tones that will switch your brainwaves to a high beta rate and really get you in the zone to study. Not only will you be able to focus better, but
you’ll find that you are able to retain far more information than you otherwise would be able to.
Best Atmospheric Music: 99 Must - Have Valentine's Day Classics
Let’s face it, sometimes you don’t need to be 100% in the zone while you’re studying. Often, you just need a little bit of atmospheric music to listen to in the background while you’re studying or sitting around with your friends.
One of the best things about a non-vocal, purely orchestral tracklist like this is that you won’t be distracted by trying to pay attention to the singers’ words.
Although these songs definitely tend to ere more on the side of romantic baroque melodies that are perfectly suited to a Valentine’s Day dinner, they’re just as suitable for late afternoon study sessions in the park or library.
All of your friends will think you’re incredibly sophisticated when you show them some of the best background music that they’ve ever heard in their lives.
What Is The Mozart Effect?
If you’ve done any amount of research into how to better your study habits or how to better retain the information that you’re learning, then you’ve more than likely stumbled upon the term dubbed as “The Mozart Effect.”
While this does sound like it would be the perfect title for a Hollywood romantic comedy film, it’s actually a term that refers to a study performed all the way back in 1993 about how Mozart’s piano sonatas appeared to greatly improve cognitive skills in subjects.
Of course, the study was quite controversial, and the results were debated for quite some time. This was the first time that anybody had done significant research into the subject of music’s effect on the brain.
Does It Actually Work?
Those who questioned the results of the Mozart effect claimed that the results were purely a coincidence based on “enjoyment arousal.” Simply put, they thought that the subjects were just enjoying their time more, and thus were able to better recollect what they were studying.
However, this argument doesn’t really hold true when you consider that music and emotion not only have a surface effect on your brain, but can deeply affect your subconscious brainwaves and change the way that you learn on a minute-by-minute basis.
One of the best scientific explanations for this effect has to do with a concept called spatial imaging. This describes your brain’s ability to better reason and apply logic to everyday scenarios such as simple tasks and basic memory retention.
Humans can be fickle subjects when it comes to mind tests, however. There is simply too much emotional and individual psychological variety between each person to fully nail the theory down to a science.
So, in an effort to back their claims, scientists tried a similar experiment on rats. While in utero, unborn rats were exposed to the same Mozart piano sonatas as the humans in the initial test were. The results spoke for themselves.
The rats were born and grew up far more intelligent than the other rats who weren’t exposed to the classical music.
When given the maze test which tests the rats’ ability to find their way through a maze using cues and their own memory, the rats which had been exposed to Mozart in utero finished the maze far quicker and with far fewer mistakes than the rats which had not received classical music exposure.
Over the years, many people have backed up claims that the Mozart effect does indeed work. In fact, it’s recently become a very popular trend among pregnant mothers to place special “womb headphones” on their tummies so that the babies can hear Mozart.
While it’s still too early to test these particular results, there is a good argument to made for classical music’s effect on the human psyche and memory skills.
What To Pay Attention To When Picking Your Studying Music
Are you still on the fence about what you should or shouldn’t be listening to while you study? We understand, it can take a little bit of time to figure out what works for you personally as each individual will have their own preferences and moods in which they are able to learn and memorize material better.
Let’s take a look at some important considerations when picking the best study music for yourself.
Classical, Focusing, or Atmospheric?
Studying music is usually divided into three separate categories; classical, focusing, and atmospheric. Focusing music tends to get you in your zone and is really great if you’re trying to learn new material that you have no former experience with.
Atmospheric music is great if you already know the material and you’re just going over your notes at the end of the night. Classical music combines the best of both worlds and enables you to both focus and relax, which is the perfect blend if you’re trying to study for an upcoming test.
What Helps You Personally?
At the end of the day, though, the thing that matters most when it comes to study music is what helps you personally the most.
Some people prefer classical, others like the calm and upbeat flow of jazz, and some like to listen to atmospheric ocean sounds. The best advice that we can give you is to check out our recommendations.
Amazon allows you to listen to a 30-second sample of each track. Make your way through the album, and if you notice that you are better able to focus on your work and studying, then that means it’s working and doing its job.
How Much Do You Like The Album?
Another consideration to take into account before you make a final decision is how much you like the entirety of the album. While you can purchase tracks individually, it’s often a better deal to buy the entire album. So try to find an album where you enjoy at least 75% of the tracks.
Studying would not only be far more boring without music, but it’s also far less effective. By understanding the way that your brainwaves function and how music can help manipulate them, you can greatly increase your natural ability to learn and memorize new material.
Some of the world’s richest individuals make it a point to read and listen to classical music for at least an hour a day.
So, whether you’re trying to learn a new subject for personal development or you’re just studying for an upcoming test try out some of these classic albums. We guarantee that you won’t regret it.