The Perfect Playlist: Is Music the Key to Studying?

Whether it’s a week before, the day before or the morning of a final, studying has a way of taking over student lives and setting nerves on edge.

While all school work routines differ, many use music to get the study vibes flowing, and using it efficiently is essential for any upcoming late-night cramming sessions.

“Music can help with studying if it puts you in a good mood. A good mood can ease anxiety (which otherwise might paralyze) and help you stick with homework instead of going off to do something else,” says Dr. Beverly Farb, a psychology teacher at EvCC.

Farb’s statement reflects the arousal mood hypothesis which states listening to music modulates our mood and arousal states, which in turn affects cognitive performance.

Courtesy photo from Dr. Beverly Farb

“Music — if we like it — can release the “feel good” neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, same as if we were eating a favorite meal or laughing at a favorite joke,” says Farb. “Music tends to reduce anxiety, sending cortisols back into storage.”

The best tunes for studying often have no lyrics while being familiar and enjoyable to the listener. The music should also avoid the combination of high tempo and intensity as studies have found this pairing the most distracting.

Leah Sacks, a current student at EvCC, feels like the words in her study playlist are an asset in getting into her work groove. “The voice in songs is like another instrument to me. I don’t necessarily focus on the lyrics while I’m studying,” says Sacks. She credits this to the familiarity of her music. “A lot of the songs on my playlist are songs I’ve listened to for years.”

Dr. Farb clarifies that while music may tend to be relaxing there are exceptions. “Music is less likely to relax someone when it is unfamiliar. Music does not relax someone when they actively dislike it.”

Different people have different results, but for students like Sacks, they attribute some of their good grades to the music method of study. Sacks says “Music mostly helps with English assignments. I had an assignment a few years ago to annotate pages of a textbook I was reading and it helped. Another time I remember having to write a free verse poem; music really kept me focused.”

Jennifer Tuy, a nursing major at the school, happens to do her best studying when taking a cruise down Rainbow Road. The second-year student says, “I find background music with no lyrics helpful because it helps me stay awake and concentrate on the assignment. There is this Mario Kart Playlist on Spotify and it helps me finish assignments quickly because the music is repetitive.”

Tuy’s go to Mario playlist helps her finish assignments quickly. (Courtesy photo from Jennifer Tuy.)

Tuy has different music preferences depending on the task at hand. “I prefer listening to relaxing music like Lo-fi or classical when studying for an exam, so I do not feel overwhelmed.”

However, lyrics and go-karts can only take you so far. Both Sacks and Tuy have times when they believe music can be a hindrance. “I find it beneficial when it is silent when watching a video lecture because I am doing a lot at once- trying to take notes and listen to the teacher speaker,” says Tuy.

“I’d say [music is] less beneficial for things that require memorization like [a] foreign language,” says Sacks. She continues to add that “It’s a bit hard to focus sometimes on schoolwork when music is playing in the background. I also get distracted easily, music sometimes is that distraction.”

With Winter Quarter reaching its halfway point, finding our musical preferences whilst studying can be important for continued academic success. From Mario Kart jams to chill Lo-fi beats for a rainy night study session, music choice can loosen you up and set the scene for successful study sessions.

EvCC Student Study Playlists:

Youtube Playlists

Will Smith Chill Beats to Quarantine to

Cowboy Bebop [Tributes Mix]

nintendo and lofi III

3:30 a.m. ~ lofi hip hop / jazzhop / chillhop mix