While some people concentrate best in complete silence, other students insist that they actually perform better when they are listening to music. But is there any truth to this claim? Numerous studies of the effects of music on people performing tasks requiring high levels of concentration insist that there is.

The oft-cited “Mozart effect,” a term coined by French researcher Alfred A. Tomatis, refers to the hypothesis that listening to classical music from an early age helps to “retrain” the ear, promoting the healing and development of the brain. Subsequent studies have focused specifically on the effects of music in the workplace and in scholarly environments, including the 1993 experiment by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky, who reported that listening to Mozart before a Stanford-Binet IQ test increased participants’ spatial-temporal reasoning, at least temporarily. Although the results of this experiment have been misrepresented and overblown by scientists and music lovers alike, many of whom often insist, quite erroneously, that listening to Mozart will automatically increase your IQ, they do provide concrete links between music and the development of spatial reasoning abilities. Music has furthermore been proven beneficial in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, easing people to sleep, motivating or activating the human body, improving memory and cognitive skills, and even improving the concentration of people who suffer from learning disabilities such as autism, ADD, and dyslexia.

Most contemporary researchers studying the effect of music on students and professionals now insist that the type of background music played while work is being done is not as important as the fact that the listener enjoys what he or she is listening to. That being said, certain types of music are considered more beneficial, particularly for students working on term papers or cramming for an important final exam. Classical music is widely considered one of the best genres of music to study to, due in part to the generally wordless, and therefore non-distracting, quality of the music, and also to the specific notes, vibrations, tempo, and melodic and harmonic consonance and predictability of classical pieces. Many parents and teachers, from kindergarten aides to college professors, avow that playing calming, upbeat classical music improves the concentration, moods, and test scores of students; however, it is difficult to find legitimate sources claiming that music by the likes of Ne-Yo and Lil’ Wayne has the same positive effects. Often, music with harsh beats, jarring tones, and loud lyrics disrupts tasks such as studying, which requires prolonged amounts of concentration. It is for this reason that some researchers claim that listening to soothing music in a foreign language (one that you do not know at all, as opposed to one that you are attempting to learn) can be just as beneficial for spatial reasoning and memory as listening to classical music can.

So exactly what sort of songs should you stream during your next big study session? Experts suggest not only traditional classical pieces and foreign language hits, but also instrumental movie scores and even certain lyrical albums (provided, of course, that you do not end up singing along instead of studying!). The following list of “Study Songs” and albums to listen to when you want to improve your concentration, tune out distracting external noise, or simply are tired of studying in silence, has been compiled from Internet sources, scientific studies, and the suggestions of high school students:

  • Ÿ Chopin: Nocturnes and Berceuse, performed by Arthur Rubinstein
  • Ÿ  Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
  • Ÿ  Brahms Piano Trios Numbers One and Two, performed by the Eroica Trio
  • Ÿ  Anything by Mozart, Bach, or Brahms
  • Ÿ  Symphony No. 9, “From The New World” by Antonin Dvorak
  • Ÿ  Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy
  • Ÿ  Tibet: Nada Himalaya 2 by Deuter
  • Ÿ  The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King soundtracks by Howard Shore
  • Ÿ  Gladiator soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard
  • Ÿ  The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
  • Ÿ  Braveheart soundtrack by James Horner
  • Ÿ  Any soundtrack by John Williams (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, etc.)
  • Ÿ  Plans by Death Cab for Cutie
  • Ÿ  The Memory of Trees by Enya
  • Ÿ  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
  • Ÿ  Call Me Irresponsible by Michael Buble
  • Ÿ  Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones
  • Ÿ  Facing Future by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  • Ÿ  Any Coldplay album
  • Ÿ  “Waka Waka” by Shakira
  • Ÿ  “Con Te Partiro” by Andrea Bocelli
  • Ÿ  “99 Luftballoons” by Nena
  • Ÿ  Un Día Normal by Juanes