How working to a soundtrack can better your concentration

Image credit: Georgie Alford

Just as people find themselves better suited to various work spaces, different genres of music can equally serve people better when attempting to revise.

Music can be particularly distracting if it is something with lyrics, or indeed music that is very familiar. This article might provide a few suggestions for new listening - be it with, or without lyrics.

Much is to be said for the ‘Mozart’ effect; a belief that listening to music whilst revising can lend itself to a short-term improvement on one’s academic performance. However, an inclination towards Classical music does not need to be limited by Mozart. If you are someone who perhaps does not have a great depth of knowledge of Classical music, or a lack of experience listening to it, Romantic composers such as Chopin and Debussy might provide a nice starting point for a classically-based revision sound track. Works written for the piano (take Chopin’s Preludes, for example) are particularly conducive to a calm, peaceful work atmosphere, removing the silence of study that can sometimes become quite isolating. Contemporary Classical Music might also find its place here, with composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi bridging a gap between more minimalist and classical music.

Contrastingly, you might consider a more modern approach to your studious soundtrack. More experimental contemporary music evokes a rather soothing atmosphere, but often with a persistent textual consistency that lends itself to concentration. You might want to try listening to Four Tet’s 2017 album, ‘New Energy’ for an alternative backdrop to learning. Blending instrumental and electronic writing, the album’s more ‘listener-friendly’ vibe is one very compatible with academic work. In a similar vein, Caribou’s ‘Extended Love’ conjures a similar effect of focus, with the repetitive rhythms and melodies working alongside your own grind. The older, instrumental work of an artist like Tom Misch generates a similarly effective atmosphere – try listening to ‘Beat Tape 1’, for example.

If perhaps you find the effects of electronica a little distracting, much can also be said for the soothing effects of a simple acoustic guitar. Artists such as Bert Jansch create a non-intrusive environment that is often harmonious with studying. His 1996 album ‘Live at the 12 Bar’ evokes a calm working atmosphere, through the lulling tones of both his guitar and voice. Along the same lines is Nick Drake. Albeit slightly more upbeat than Jansch, folk albums such as ‘A Treasury’ are similarly peaceful in the face of seemingly never-ending piles of work and revision. Similarly, Bob Dylan’s soundtrack for the 1973 movie Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid provides a comforting musical backdrop.

So, if you are someone who enjoys listening to music and finds their concentration bettered by the act of doing so, perhaps one of these genres or artists will help you even more. Revision certainly isn’t the way we might want to be spending our days, but a brilliant soundtrack is something that can make work just that little bit more bearable – perhaps even enjoyable.

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