Check out any college campus library during finals week and you’ll see hordes of bleary-eyed students glued to their laptops, buried in their textbooks and surrounded by multiple cups of coffee. Another thing you might observe? The majority of students are most likely sporting headphones while they study. Listening to a study music playlist is a great way to kick your studying into high gear, especially when energy is waning. According to research from the Stanford University School of Medicine, music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in memory.
Music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in memory
Source: Stanford University School of Medicine
If you’re hoping to ace the next big exam, you’ll need a study-friendly music playlist to settle your nerves and keep you motivated. Whether you’re memorizing chemistry formulas or analyzing Shakespeare, these study song recommendations have got you covered for those late nights ahead.
Study Music for Science and Language Majors
If your head is swimming with physics theories in your study session, then try listening to music with 50 to 80 beats per minute. Science and language subjects typically engage the left side of the brain, which is responsible for processing factual information and solving problems. Perfect for studying, low to mid-tempo music has a relaxing effect on the mind which allows the brain to learn and remember new facts.
Artist: Mumford & Sons
“Babel” is the punchy title track on Mumford & Son’s second studio album. Featuring Mumford’s signature banjos and foot stomping, this study song will keep you energized while you stay up cramming for midterms the next day. According to bass player Ted Dwane, the song was like the second chapter for the band and Mumford’s best foot forward. “Babel” will help you put your own best foot forward come exam day.
Artist: Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” is another great mid-tempo song to add to your study music playlist. Produced by Timbaland, this eight-minute track features lush strings, a soaring chorus, layered synths and, of course, Timberlake’s buttery smooth vocals. With lyrics that reference how someone can become an extension of yourself or your other half, “Mirrors” is said to be inspired by the marriage of JT’s grandparents and their love story. This sweet study song is bound to put you in better spirits so you can power through the next round of flashcards.
Study Music for English, Arts and Drama Majors
If cramming for your final exams involves analyzing classic works of literature or art, then try adding some upbeat rock and pop songs to your study music playlist. English, Drama and Art students frequently use the right side of their brains, which is responsible for processing creative thoughts. Up-tempo study music can boost your mood and your creativity simultaneously. But remember, noise level matters. Don’t listen to your study music too loud or you’ll decrease your brain’s ability to process information.
Australian singer/songwriter Sia’s seventh studio album, “This Is Acting,” serves as a not-so-subtle nod to all the artists (Beyoncé, Adele, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Shakira) that she’s written for in the past who ultimately ended up rejecting her songs.
According to Rolling Stone, Sia wrote “Footprints” while in the Hamptons for Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth studio album. Out of the 25 tracks she wrote for Beyoncé’s album, “Pretty Hurts” was the only one that made the cut. It’s a shame since “Footprints” turned out to be one of Sia’s favorite songs on the album.
Artist: Sara Bareilles
Sara Bareilles is taking her songwriting career to new heights with the release of her fifth studio album, which features songs that she wrote for the upcoming Broadway musical, “Waitress.” One of our favorites on the album is “Opening Up,” a bright, bouncy pop number that will keep you in good spirits and hopefully inspire a burst of creativity when you study.
Study Music for Math Majors
If your study sessions involve lots of math equations, numbers and formulas, then consider adding classical music to your study playlist. According to a study from clinical psychologist Dr. Emma Gray, students who listened to classical music with 60 to 70 beats per minute while studying scored on average of 12 percent more on their math exams.
“The melody and tone range in classical music, like Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise,’ helped students to study for longer and retain more information,” says Gray. “Music in this range induces a state of relaxation where the mind is calm, but alert. The imagination is stimulated and concentration is heightened (similar to a meditative state). And this is thought to be the best for learning.”
So before you start crunching any numbers, make sure to check out these classical songs for studying.
“Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491 (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)”
Artist: Lang Lang
Chinese pianist Lang Lang performs at concerts that sell out all over the world. He’s also had the honor of playing for President Obama at the White House, and he’s been listed in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. But in order for him to become a world-class concert pianist, he had to work for it.
Lang Lang began piano lessons at the age of 3 and endured intense criticism and pressure from both his father and piano teacher, nearly driving him to quit playing altogether. Thank goodness he stuck with it, and we have the pleasure of listening to his flawless performances today. His recording of Mozart is absolutely exquisite and stimulating enough to get you through the next round of studying.
“Mahler: Symphony No. 5: IV. Adagietto”
Artist: Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony
Treat your ears to Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s performance of the Adagietto from “Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.” The orchestra is reduced to just strings and solo harp in this famous fourth movement, which is said to be Mahler’s gift for his new bride, Alma. Let the gentle hum of the strings transport you to a state of peace and calm as you wrap up your study session.
The Best Headphones for Intense Focus
If you’re planning to study for multiple hours on end, then the earbuds that came with your phone probably aren’t going to cut it. Consider upgrading to a pair of headphones that will remain comfortable throughout your study session and treat your ears to premium sound quality. Sony’s MDR-1A headphones are affordable with an incredible sound pay-off. Designed with ultra-comfortable, ergonomic 3D ear pads that seal music in and keep distractions out, these headphones are perfect for blocking ambient noises in loud places like a busy café or moderately noisy environments like the library.
Now that you have your study music playlist locked and loaded and the perfect pair of headphones to get you in the zone, you’re all set to hit the books.