How We Live  ·  About The Ubyssey

We’ve gathered four playlists for focus-intensive work so you don’t have to listen to Mozart like a newborn baby

We’ve all been there. Our books laid out across the table, pens scattered around, trying to find the motivation to crack open the textbook and get work done. So you plug in your headphones and pull up your study playlist to help. When nothing else seems to help make us productive, finding the right music can really get us in the study zone.

It’s been long known that music can influence our psyches and improve concentration levels, but according to research, instrumental tracks work better than lyrical ones. Music with words are more distracting than those without. A Wales University study found that listening to music with minimal interruptions in speech pattern is more beneficial to memory. Imagine the struggle of resisting to sing or dance along to Beyonce or Migos.

While the Mozart Effect popularized the idea that classical music leads to improved performance, some studies suggest that it comes down to personal preference — you’d more likely focus listening to something you enjoy.

I have gathered Instrumental study tracks from four favoured genres, made playlists, and tested how personally effective they were while completing different focus-intensive tasks.

Instrumental Tropical House (EDM) vs. Papers

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is a set of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubs, raves and festivals. Tropical house, in particular, is a subgenre of EDM that’s more relaxing and uplifting, providing listeners with lush sounds and island vibes. You’ll commonly hear tropical instruments such as marimbas, guitars, pianos and sometimes saxophone.

I wrote a paper to this Tropical House playlist and only a few songs in, I was in the paper writing frenzy. As I was typing away, the upbeat tempo gave me the energy to keep trudging through. The crisp beats and amplified bass helped clear my mind and keep me in focus. Meanwhile, the sound of saxophones and pianos helped with de-stressing. EDM songs have a melodic nature of buildups and breakdowns, which kept me highly energized and engaged with my task at hand. As the tempo got faster, so did my typing.

This is the kind of music to listen to while racing a deadline.

  • Concentration: 8/10
  • Longevity: 8/10
  • Productivity: 9/10

Lo-fi Hip Hop vs. Accounting Homework

Lo-fi hip hop identifies as a “mixture of melodic hip hop beats perfect for studying, work, relaxing, smoking or focusing.” In my words, I’d describe it as a fusion of chill hip hop, anime-beats (sampled and spun from the soundtrack of nostalgic animes) and vaporwave (an aesthetic and sound born from internet culture that magically combines leisure beats, smooth jazz and elevator music). Think of Lo-fi Hip Hop as the kind of dynamic, all-inclusive, multi-functioning playlist for a diverse range of ears.

I completed my accounting homework to this playlist, a task that was both immersive and tedious. While listening, it really got me in the zone. Time was lost and hours felt like minutes. Songs played in loops; it was both repetitive and unpredictable which brought in a balance of dynamic beats that somehow worked in harmony. I instantly felt uplifted and recharged. The music was able to stay present but also fade into the background. Some songs layered subdued nature sounds like crashing waves or rain droplets.

Man was I soothed — I couldn’t help but want to grab a blanket, a cup of tea, and continue scribbling away into the night.

  • Focus: 9/10
  • Attention Span: 9/10
  • Productivity: 9/10

Instrumental Indie/Alternative vs. Journaling

Indie or alternative music is well known to be melodic and well-harmonized. Although the genre is very broad, guitars, keyboards and catchy drum beats are distinctive elements of indie music. The blend of these different sounds make some really great simple and textured pieces.

I spent some time journaling to this playlist; and unlike the other genres, indie music plays at a slower pace. With the lack of prominent beats, I found myself getting dazed and unfocused after a short period of concentration. A unique feature of indie music is the use of the voice as an instrument. Its soft humming vocals provided a soothing element that lullabied my ears until I felt sleepy. In the end, my trigger-finger couldn’t actively stop from skipping songs to find one that brought my focus back, thus shortening my attention span.

With that said, it wasn’t the best suited genre for my productivity levels.

  • Concentration: 7/10
  • Longevity: 6/10
  • Productivity: 7/10

Ambient Nature Sounds vs. Writing Articles

Ambient natures sounds are meant to calm the listener. I typed this article to this playlist. Typical soundtracks include the sounds of rain, wind, thunderstorm and animals.

At first, I found it hard to concentrate. The sounds of birds chirping in a rainforest or water running sounded completely out of place in my room. I couldn’t help feeling how artificial it was listening to the sounds of ‘Feathers in Flight’ or ‘Crickets and Frogs in a Swamp at Night’ from my laptop. But it only takes a little warming up; once you’re in the zone, the sound gradually blends into the background like white noise and you’d stop questioning it. In the end, it worked for an extensive period of concentration.

  • Concentration: 8/10
  • Longevity: 8/10
  • Productivity: 9/10

Verdict

If I had to choose which genre was the most effective in promoting concentration and lengthening attention spans, It would undoubtedly be Lo-fi Hip Hop. The beats not only kept me feeling calm and concentrated, but also made me highly energized and motivated. It was also the genre that managed to keep me focused for a longest time.

So the next time you’re tired of studying to Mozart or baroque, test out Lo-fi Hip Hop or the other three and see how they work for you.

Happy listening!

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