If you’re studying for an exam or working, you may decide to turn on background music. Doing so can help you focus on the current task you’re completing. However, if you choose to add this element to your environment, it must match your needs as using music to focus can become a distraction if you’re not careful. Matching your task with the right type of music can be easier when you plan.
Music – Provides Focus or Causes Distraction?
Are you the type of person who likes to listen to music while you engage in a task? You may feel better having the radio on while driving a car or typing a report. This action isn’t surprising as you have two attention systems. The first system is conscious and allows you to focus on tasks. The other is unconscious and linked to your emotions rather than higher learning. Listening to music keeps the second system occupied.
Types of Music That Can Aid Focus
When you’re performing a task and trying to focus, you’re using the first attention system. While it’s working, the unconscious system is in scan mode. If you’re studying and the material is boring, the unconscious system can pick up on subtle sounds, such as a sniffling coworker, and divert your focus. Background music keeps the second attention system busy, making it easier to focus. However, music can also be a distraction. It’s been shown that the right type of music is required. The music should be matched to the task you’re completing. Here are some music types that are often used as background music:
- Calming sounds
Classical music is considered one of the best types to listen to when studying. It’s filled with many instruments that produce soothing sounds. It also has no lyrics that might cause a distraction. Research conducted using classical music shows students score higher on tests when it’s playing in the background. It has also been discovered that listening to classical music helps release dopamine in the body, helping you feel positive.
If you’re working on stressful tasks, you may want to consider using calming sounds and peaceful music in the background to stay calm. Nature sounds are an excellent choice when going this route as they can be soothing and natural. Sounds from a gurgling brook or waterfall can be relaxing and help put you in a good mood. Be careful to avoid falling asleep though!
Low-Tempo music can help keep you grounded. It has lower beats per minute, making staying calm when listening to it easier. It’s also likely your best option if you need to relax while studying. A good example of a song with a low tempo that’s comforting to listen to is “All Love Can Be” from the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind (playing on Prime Video). Tuning in to low-tempo music can be a great way to block distractions when writing a report.
High-Tempo music may be the best choice when you’re involved in an activity requiring movement. It can get you energized, which is good if you’re working out and performing a physical task requiring effort. In contrast, listening to high-tempo music while studying would likely be a distraction, especially if the material is boring.
Background music can enhance focus. However, you need to be careful in choosing the right type of music. Specific music types can make it easier to focus on specific activities such as studying, working, or exercising. You can experiment and find out which type of music works best for you.