The Benefits of Studying with Music

Man Listening to Music on HeadphonesDoes Music Help You Study?

With that highly detailed Biology exam just around the corner, you have been hitting the books with every spare second you have. During nightly, starlit studying sessions, you continuously trudge past midnight, and the hours multiply. What if there was a more beneficial practice rather than spending hours upon hours of silence studying in your bedroom?

The Theory

You have likely heard before that music helps you study. But, do you know why parents and professors alike are urging you to tune to iTunes? Studies have shown that music produces several positive effects on a human’s body and brain. Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory. Find out music’s effect on your body and brain, and see how to enhance your studying with songs!

Proven to Ease Student Stress

In the middle of a busy semester, students’ stress runs high. This is the perfect reason to study your class notes with music playing, — it is proven to help reduce stress!

Music is a way to process emotions and strengthen their resolve while being overwhelmed. People often turn to the music they can relate to as it helps them deal with stress in this way. So, if university life has got you feeling a bit down, dazed or distracted then it might be a good idea to put some music on while you study. Not only will it help you concentrate on your studies, it will also help keep stress at bay and put you in the learning mood.

Reduce Test Anxiety

student stressed with head down over laptop and notebooks

Anxiety can become a crippling blockade between students and their textbooks. How can students beat it? Let’s pretend you were offered a free, soothing massage during each study session for the duration of your college years. You would feel lower levels of anxiety and tension as you reviewed your notes. While this might be a difficult feat for the typical college student to attain, the next best thing is readily available to pupils all over the world. Believe it or not, USA Today reveals, “one study found that music’s effect on anxiety levels is similar to the effect of getting a massage” (Christ). It is official; your favorite tunes can reduce anxiety as much as a massage! Anxiety-stricken students should pop in the earbuds before heading to the library. They will feel relaxed, at ease, and ready to conquer chapter after chapter.

If you’re like many students suffering from anxiety and stress, try listening to rap music while studying. A study done by Cambridge University showed that hip-hop music provides an uplifting effect on its listeners that can help them accept, manage and deal better with mental health issues. There’s more than one genre of rap, so find the one you like if it means giving your brain that extra bit of support it needs.

Improve Your Performance

Music is found to help people perform better in high-pressure situations, such as the bi-annual high-pressure event that is finals week. Studies have shown that music can help students transform from coal to diamonds, shining under pressure. USA Today asks, “Want to sink the game-winning shot when the pressure’s on? Listen to some upbeat tunes before the big game. . . basketball players prone to performing poorly under pressure during games were significantly better during high-pressure free-throw shooting if they first listened to catchy, upbeat music and lyrics”(Christ). This relates to anyone combating high-pressure situations, including you and your studious peers! Grab that 80’s style boom box and turn the volume up!

It can even cure pain!

So, you arrived at the last Conquistadors basketball game, prepared to perform better after a little music therapy. Excited and energized, you played all of your best moves on the court, until you sprained your ankle landing a slam dunk. Ouch! Now, every time you attempt to study, your mind only focuses on the pounding pain in your ankle! Have you tried studying with music? According to USA Today, music is so powerful to the body that it can actually help ease the pain. Studies show that music can meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care, or palliative medicine.

Your ankle pain and your midterm stand no chance against your favorite album and focused mind! Similar to how a lullaby would calm you, listening to music can also help you relax as by lowering your blood pressure, easing muscle tension and increasing your attention span.

It will help you focus more

Rather than distracting college students, a Stanford study found that “music moves [the] brain to pay attention.” Researchers utilized musical compositions from the 1800s in their study and found that “music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory” (Baker). They believe that music choice was influential in brain processing, revealing, “The goal of the study was to look at how the brain sorts out events, but the research also revealed that musical techniques used by composers 200 years ago help the brain organize incoming information” (Baker). Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven can help students categorize information, which is an influential asset to studying.

Proven to improve brain functions

Musical activity serves as a cognitive exercise for the brain which trains it for more challenges in the future. Therefore, people who have musical training early on, specifically before age seven, have healthier brains and are less likely to suffer from debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s or Dementia. But you don’t have to wait for a certain age before benefitting from music. Regardless of whether you’re a freshman or senior, you can start exercising your brain now, simply by having your favorite device and earphones handy for any study session.

Music, Memory, Emotions

Several studies in recent years have linked music, memory, and emotion. To back this claim, Petr Janata has conducted two studies to prove that music, memory, and emotion are linked. His initial study found that “music serves as a potent trigger for retrieving memories.” During his second study, Janata took Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of students’ brains as he played popular songs from their childhood and teenage years. “After each excerpt, the student responded to questions about the tune, including whether it was familiar or not, how enjoyable it was, and whether it was associated with any particular incident, episode or memory” (UC Davis). This study reveals that music, memory, and emotions and strongly linked. This evidence supports the theory that studying while listening to music is a very beneficial practice.

Ever wondered why it’s easier to memorize the lyrics to a song than the periodic table of elements? That’s because your brain looks for patterns to better understand, recall, and process information. It’s the same reason why music producers always put a hook in their songs since what is more commonly known as the earworm or catchy bit.

“Earworm” was coined in 1979 by psychiatrist Cornelius Eckert. It happens when a part of the song gets stuck in your head for an extended period of time and you can’t get it out. It just so happens, this is also one way of improving your brain’s memory, which is why some language courses are set to a musical pattern of ear-catching melodies. Some even suggest that the benefits don’t necessarily depend on the kind of music you listen to, but rather how effectively your brain latches on to the pattern of the song.


End Your Study Session with Classical Music

We now understand that music and memory are strongly linked in the brain, and that music can be beneficial to study. All that studying, however, has made you exhausted! You close the textbooks and lay beneath your blankets, but your mind is still buzzing from all of the information you’ve acquired. Can’t sleep? Well, music can even help you close out the night after studying. “Listening to classical music has been shown to effectively treat insomnia in college students, making it a safe, cheap alternative to sleep-inducing meds” (Christ).

We Want You To Succeed!

Florida National University (FNU) is dedicated to helping our students succeed. While you continue to excel at FNU, please take advantage of our helpful resources. As the semester comes to a close, gain tips from our blog article, “10 Ways to Prepare for Your Final Exam,” and don’t forget your headphones!

If you are not currently enrolled at FNU, browse our programs of study and apply now!

Works Cited

Baker, Mitzi. “Music Moves Brain to Pay Attention.” Stanford School of Medicine. Stanford School of Medicine, 01 Aug. 2007. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

Christ, Scott. “20 Surprising, Science-backed Health Benefits of Music.” USA Today. Gannett, 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

“Stress.” University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland Medical Center, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

“Study Finds Brain Hub That Links Music, Memory and Emotion :: UC Davis News & Information.” UC Davis News & Information. UC Davis, 23 Feb. 2009. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.