This is Your Brain on Music

Whether it’s bringing the comfort and strut of your music from home or it’s time to break out and gather a whole new set of favourite tunes as the nest door hits you on your way out, college and music-listening usually go hand in hand. In fact, college can be one of the most musically enriching times of your life as you swap music with new friends and figure out which of your tunes suit your new study habits – and which ones let you blow off the best steam when you need a break from the books.

Music delivery technology has leapt quantum levels since the days of whoever-has-the-best-stereo has the party and mix-tape walkmen (hello 80s pals!). Tune pods the size of a fingernail (coming soon!), Bluetooth stereos, Ipads (and their weary competitors in the personal notebook arena), inexpensive computer speakers that put out great sound, and last but not least: Spotify, Itunes and other music-sharing applications, websites, and services – they all play a part in today’s college music-listening scene. Some libraries pipe in music, and many study-cafes do too. You’ll just have to experiment and find out which venues and gadgets boost your productivity, and which ones cut it in half.

With so many cool, affordable options, nearly every student can get in on the personal-tune action. Keep in that important college-going mind of yours, however, that there are pros and cons to walking around all day with headphones on being inspired by musical greatness. And pros, cons, and strategies to studying while listening to music. According to ACT Test-Prep author Kelly Roell, music does “brighten the mood and increase positive feelings – both of which are important factors for successful study,” but you should choose your study music carefully if you want it to help you out

Studies are out on this, and most experts agree that music for studying should be lyric-free, since most of us only have enough space to process one language-based input source at a time.  Or at least process it well. This means something like no hearing/listening to “Get the Party Started” while reading Romeo and Juliet, or “God Save the Queen” when you’re writing about ancient Egypt.

Loud, fast music – while it does have its winding-up-to-unwind part to play – is another study no-buddy. Too much agitation, not enough flow.

Listening to music with lyrics can be fine for doing math homework, though, since you’re not usually using the language parts of your brain when you’re being a calculator. So they say at Stanford University, anyway.

Bottom line is that music while studying is not good when you’re learning something entirely new, can increase productivity when you’re doing something you know pretty well, and should probably be turned off whenever you’re doing complex tasks of any sort. Despite our neato, “time-saving,” multi-media-on-steroids world, letting ourselves do one thing at a time with the cerebral region we need to use to do it has proved again and again to be what the brain likes best.

Here’s a list of vetted study-friendly songs for your consideration – it includes John Tesh!

You are of course, encouraged to make your own study-music playlist once you’ve figured out what works best for that one-of-a-kind mind of yours.