Studying to Music
…pleasures and pitfalls

Do you study with music on? Or do you prefer the sound of silence? The blog post below considers the pleasures and pitfalls of studying with music. 

Hospitals now use music to reduce pain. Advertisers and retailers know that music can heighten interest in a product. Sports stars use tracks to train to and yoga get results from relaxation with music.
So what?……you ask!   I’m STUDYING and I know music is supposed to help me, but half-the-time it does the opposite.    What am I doing wrong?
Let’s look at four dos and don’ts of Studying to Music and make the music work for us.

  1. DO consider what you’re trying to achieve. Are you trying to absorb ideas right now?   Listening to instrumental music, with a regular, but gentle rhythm and smooth melody line would be perfect.  Choose classical, or calming modern music that doesn’t make you think about the music, but keeps your mind clear.  Do you need some energy, as you copy, write up notes or brainstorm?  Then you need something with bounce, rhythm and variety. Choosing your favourite songs and sounds for the time when you’re relaxing multiplies the benefits of that time too.  
  2. DON’T listen to songs!  Lyrics can kill your concentration and take your thinking in too many directions. Research has proved that rather than helping you, listening to the words will inhibit your progress! I’m quite sure that my perfect memory of all the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s blockbuster ‘The Wall’, which I listened to during my high school years 35 years ago, is a good part of the reason that my exam results were rather less than stunning! While your mind is busy trying to understand new ideas, cut out songs with lyrics and reduce the number of ‘programs’ your brain is having to run.
  3. DO prepare the music before you come to study.  Experience shows that getting down to studying is much harder than spending an hour hunting out ‘just the right music for today’. Whichever platform or means you use to listen, spend down-time to organise your music into categories in advance.  45-minute, bite-sized chunks of ‘concentration’, ‘energy’, ‘calming’ or ‘relaxing’, prepared in advance, means that you can give your full attention to studying your course material, not sequencing your songs! 
  4. DON’T listen to the radio while you study, as the music will be unpredictable and will be interrupted by speaking at regular intervals. Try as you might, your mind will not be able to ignore this. You’ll end up with a brain full of too many things at once.

Four simple pieces of advice that should make ‘Studying to Music part of the answer to those learning ‘struggles’.  Now, where did I put those headphones? 

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