“Can listening to music improve learning and work performance?” a colleague asked as she passed me an audio CD “Music For Your Mind” and suggested that I listen to it.

I remember reading the book “The Mozart Effect” where author Don Campbell wrote that listening to music can improve the quality of life including learning, health, well-being, and even work performance.

Since that was some years back when I read the book, I thought I revisit the topic.

Read on, and find out whether listening to music improves learning and work performance.

What are the benefits of listening to music?

Many educators consider music a great tool to improve cognitive performance such as focus, memory, and creativity. Listening to music can help you stay focused on the task at hand.

Music can also help to reduce distractions and make your workplace more pleasant. You can also use it to help you relax and boost your mood and outlook.

According to research, listening to music can help you consolidate memories and improve recall accuracy. In a study conducted at the University of Birmingham, participants were asked to recall a list of words after listening to music. The results showed that individuals who listened to music were more likely to remember the words accurately than those who did not listen to the music.

Studies have also shown that listening to music can increase your working memory. Participants in a University of Maryland study were instructed to complete a cognitive test while listening to classical music. The results revealed that those who listened to classical music outperformed those who did not.

What about long-term memory? In a study conducted at the University of Amsterdam, participants who listened to music were more likely to recall the words accurately after a long period than those who did not listen to music when learning those words.

What types of music improve learning

It is critical that you examine the type of music and the atmosphere it creates when you choose music to increase your cognitive performance. Music of different genres can have varying effects on your mind and body.

Classical music

Classical music is frequently used to help people focus and concentrate. Numerous studies have has shown that listening to classical music has a calming effect and can help you reduce stress and distractions.

In one study, participants were required to complete a cognitive activity while listening to either Mozart or a modern pop song. The results found that those who listened to Mozart’s music performed better than those who listened to the pop tune.

An example of Mozart’s music that many researchers found effective in improving learning is Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 In G Minor, K. 183. This piece was featured in the movie “Amadeus”. Listen to this YouTube video.

Other studies have revealed that Baroque music, such as the music composed by Bach and Handel, can be particularly useful for boosting concentration and focus. Participants in a study conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas were instructed to complete a cognitive test while listening to either Baroque classical music or silence. The results showed that individuals who listened to Baroque classical music outperformed those who remained silent.

Examples of classical music that are known to improve learning are:

  • Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major
  • Corelli’s Concerto in D Major
  • Handel Water Music
  • Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos
  • Pachelbel’s Canon in D
  • Vivaldi’s The Four Season

For more studies on how listening to music can improve learning, check out the references below.

Ambient music

Another common option for increasing cognitive performance is ambient music. This type of music tends to be soothing, with a slower speed than other forms of music. Ambient music can help you relax, concentrate better, and be more creative.

Ambient drones, minimal music, and ambient soundscapes are other genres of ambient music that can help with attention and concentration. These forms of music can also help to create a peaceful and calming environment, allowing you to focus and concentrate more easily.

Generally, ambient music has the potential to improve focus and concentration. You can improve your cognitive performance and achieve new levels of performance by selecting the proper sort of ambient music.

There are lots of ambient music on YouTube. Choose what you like and see if they help you with learning.

Nature sounds music

Nature sounds music is another type of music that can help cognitive performance. Many people find nature sounds music relaxing and it can help reduce stress and increase concentration. Listening to this type of music can help you feel more connected to your surroundings and lessen distractions.

Bird calls, ocean waves, and thunderstorms are other examples of nature sounds music that can help improve cognitive abilities. These types of music can help to create a peaceful and calming environment, allowing you to focus and concentrate more easily.

Generally, most nature sounds music has the potential to improve cognitive functions. You can improve your cognitive performance and achieve new levels of performance by selecting the proper type of nature sounds.

Again, like ambient music, there are also lots of nature sounds music on YouTube that you can try.

How to create a music playlist that meets your needs

Making a personalized music playlist tailored to your specific needs can be an excellent method to improve your cognitive performance. To make such a music playlist, consider the style of music that helps you focus as well as the desired mood.

Listening to music creating a playlist
Create a Music Playlist

First, identify what kind of music helps you focus. Some people believe that ambient music works best for boosting their attention and concentration, while others prefer classical music. Experiment with different types of music to see what works best for you.

Second, choose tracks that match the required atmosphere once you’ve found the style of music that helps you focus. Choose tunes that are tranquil and slow-paced if you want to create a relaxing atmosphere. Choose tunes that are uplifting and lively if you need extra energy and motivation.

Finally, make a playlist that corresponds to the things you’re working on. Choose music that is peaceful and slow-paced if you are performing cognitive work. Choose music that is more cheerful and energetic if you are working on a creative project.

Conclusion

Listening to music can be a good tool for improving learning, cognitive performance, and executive performance. It can help you focus, remember better, and be more creative. Used appropriately, music can also reduce stress and make the workplace more pleasant.

It is important to examine the type of music and the atmosphere it creates while choosing music to increase your cognitive performance. Classical music and Baroque music can be very good for boosting concentration and focus. When constructing a customized music playlist, it is critical that it is targeted to your specific needs.

What music do I like? I prefer classical or baroque music as I find them more effective than ambient or nature sounds music. What about you? What music do you like?


References

  • Angel, L. A., Polzella, D. J., & Elvers, G. C. “Background Music and Cognitive Performance.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2010, vol. 110, pp. 1059–1064.
  • Campbell, D. The Mozart Effect. Quill, 2001.
  • Lapham, C. “Is there a Mozart Effect? The Effects of Listening to Music on Cognitive Processing Ability.” Christ College, University of Cambridge.
  • Mammarella, N., Fairfield, B. & Cornoldi, C. “Does Music Enhance Cognitive Performance in Healthy Older Adults? The Vivaldi Effect.” Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2007, vol. 19, pp. 394–399.
  • Nantais, K. M., & Schellenberg, E. G. “The Mozart Effect: An Artifact of Preference.” Psychological Science, 1999, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 370–373.
  • Newman, J., Rosenback, J. H., Burns, I. L., et al. “An Experimental Test of The Mozart Effect: Does Listening to His Music Improve Spatial Ability? Percept Motor Skills, 1995, vol. 81, pp. 1379-87.