What are the benefits of music and background noise when studying or working?

Most people love listening to music when performing a task. The idea of you performing at a different capacity when listening to a particular melody of sound is now becoming a more accepted argument. While it is easy to point out that silence creates the best atmosphere for concentration, listening to music and background noise has proven to be effective for study and work productivity.

Listening to music whilst studying has been proven to help increase concentration according to some studies. This is due to improving your mood and increasing dopamine in the brain and also helping you relax instead of stressing whilst studying

A research carried out by Dr Gordon Shaw called the MOZART EFFECT in 1990 showed that listening to music (especially classical music) improves the intelligence quotient of people. In 1993, Dr Shaw showed brain activity using classical musical notes in a human brain model he created. He carried out experiments on his students by making them listen to classical notes. In his observation a group of students had as much as a 9 IQ-point increase while listening to classical notes. It was resolved that listening to music is an effective brain activity, much like playing chess.

With the experiment and several more that followed, there has been a shifting perception. There is now a somewhat common-place belief that music might provide the right atmosphere for kids to become smarter. This is part of the reason why music became a common component in the toys they played, the cartoons they watched, their lessons, poems and rhymes at school, and even the lullaby they listened to. Even Albert Einstein was a popular advocate for the Mozart effect and stated his interest in the theory.

About 10 years later, a group of 40 researchers debunked the claim that music has an effect on IQ. They concluded that music only improves your mood and therefore affects your attitude to work.

Why music and background noises are beneficial when working or studying

Music can affect the chemical composition of human beings, making us produce emotions we didn’t know we had.


Music releases dopamine in your brain, which is a hormone and a neuro-transmitter responsible for gyration, excitement, cheerfulness and basically any rise in your mood. Research has shown that people work better with a positive mood or attitude than a negative or non-partisan one.

Relaxes your mind

Relaxing also reduces the cortisol hormone which is responsible for anxiety, stress and sometimes depression. Music can also be an effective sleeping drug as it reduces your anxiety and stress levels, you will tend to find it easier to fall asleep when listening to calm or soothing music. This is another reason for lullabies being sang to infants due to their high level of hyper activeness.

Your muscles are relaxed

When working, listening to rhythms can be beneficial. As you tend to move with the frequency of the sound, you’re likely to feel like the work becomes easier. Activities like washing, cleaning, running, pulling and pushing tend to appear easier. This is possible because music relaxes the muscles. This is also why sound therapy is a form of exercise.

Why do I concentrate better with background noises?

Background noises are able to boost your concentration because of their potential to do the following;

Make you lively and active

For long studying periods it is important to have background noises in order to boost concentration. As “weird” as it may sound, students find their studies boring in a silent environment over a long period of time. This is why a person can fall asleep in the library after reading for 2 to 4 hours. When background noises are introduced, they create a sense of activeness and alertness in your mind and keep you focus. This is why some students prefer to read in class with people present than in the library with its deafening silence. Listening to background noises also gives your brain something to block out when accepting information. Hence, making it active the entire time of study.

It is a psychological advantage

Music is enjoyed by a lot of people, especially athletes. In fact, the USA Track and Field committee banned the use of headphones and audio players as a result of claims that some athletes might have a psychological edge over others due to the type of music they were listening to. Music distracts the athlete’s mind from fatigue and helps them stay focused. A test carried out in 2008 shows that cyclists tend to be more effective when listening to music than when they are not. A study now generally known as Karageorghi’s research has shown that sports men and women tend to have enhanced abilities when they listened to music.

Music improves your mood

Happiness is a feeling associated with sound. Therefore, being able to improve your mood and work satisfaction means that it can also improve your attitude to work.

Why you should not use a radio when studying

Listening to the radio is actually different from listening to music. As you listen, you hear conversations and interrupted frequencies due to the change of melodies and, sometimes, the sound is unclear due to connections to your mobile. These interruptions are not beneficial to your study and can distract your focus entirely.

Although radio can be used during a physical activity, it is not advisable to use it during study. Most of the music played on radio will have lyrics, there will also be news, talk shows and commercials. All these will take your attention. If you are reading or writing, you would want to reduce the amount of words in your head, because radio tends to distract you when you’re reading or writing because, in itself, it has a huge number of words and conversations.

How to pick music or background noises when studying

Well selected music has the ability to isolate an individual from his surroundings. This is due to the melodious frequency of the sound. Generally, different types of genre affect your mood in different ways depending on preference and exposure. Classical music is a popular type of music used when studying. The Mozart effect is a perfect example of improved human concentration as a result of classical music. Music by baroque, Vivaldi, Handel and Bach which has 60 beats per minute are great examples. Research has shown listening to 60 beats per minute improves concentration.

  • When using songs for your study it is important to pick them before the study, in order not be distracted by the selection.
  • Select your playlist to run for 40-50 minutes, this will remind you to take a break when the playlist stops, therefore improving your focus and thinking.
  • No radio or songs with lyrics, as it can be a huge distraction to your study.

Why should you avoid lyrics in songs whilst studying?

Therhythm is what isolates us when listening to a sound. Music with lyrics doesn’t have the effect as music without does. Lyrics are distractions and, quite frankly, listening to them when writing or reading is not ideal. Just like radio, lyrics are conversations that take your mind off your work. Although it can be helpful when walking or running, it is detrimental when studying.

It is often observed that some students watch or listen to motivational songs or videos before they start their study. This has proven to be effective as it puts them in the mood to read. This is allowed since it is done before study. However, I must emphasize that listening to a song without lyrics helps to improve your focus and thinking.

Classical music

It is often said that classical music is the ideal music for studying and relaxation. Classical music is a western art that reigned supreme from 1750 to 1910. These were the medieval times which featured Mozart, Joseph Hayden and Ludwig Van Beethoven. Their sounds and lyrics created a different type of music that speaks to the soul and is replicated heavily in today’s music. Classical music is the best when studying because of the calm nature of it’s low and high note intonations.

It is also said that classical music is the mother of modern western music, as popular musicians like Anthony Braxton, Lorenzo Ferrero, Solene and John Williams are good examples of classical musicians with ideal study sounds.

How loud should it be whilst studying?

Low volume sounds are more effective when studying. Loud sounds become distractions and end up causing what it should prevent. If the volume is loud you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself and your thoughts. Loud sounds can be used when doing physical activities, not mental. When it comes to background noises, it is advised that you use headphones to block out the external noise, as much as possible.

Is it better to work in silence?

Yes and no, it’s really all up to you and what you are comfortable with. What makes you more relaxed? For some people, it is silence. Hence, you’ll see them going to libraries to study. Not everybody is a music enthusiast, some find it distracting. On the other hand, musical rhythms have been helpful to many others. Sounds put them in the mood to work, while others find inspiration in it.  Although statistically more people are still opting for silence when studying, music and background noises are becoming a rising need phenomenon for those looking to accomplish some mental work.

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