If your k-12 child wants to study with music playing, he or she may not be trying to goof off. Depending on the kind of music, it may be a distraction, but music can also be good for focus and memory. The potential benefits of music can be a great study aid for students.
Parents of students in homeschool, traditional brick-and-mortar school, or a virtual school like Connections Academy, recognize how music during study time can potentially do more harm than good. (Kids and their “music” these days!) But let’s take a look at what science says music does to the brain, and how you can help your children choose or build a study playlist that will help them concentrate and be productive while studying for their classes.
Does Music Help You Study?
The short answer is: yes! Music’s effect on the brain is quite complex, and various studies cite multiple health benefits of listening to music. Hearing music has been said to:
- Boost the immune system
- Ease anxiety
- Improve cognitive development
- Improve memory and focus while studying
Tips on Listening to Music while Studying
In addition to aiding concentration, the right kind of music can act as an insulator that keeps external distractions from penetrating your virtual school student’s focus. How? By giving the brain’s unconscious attention system something to focus on.
You see, our brain’s attention system has two different parts, referred to separately as the “dorsal” and “ventral” attention systems—otherwise known, respectively, as our conscious and unconscious attention. Both parts work together simultaneously but do very different things.
Our conscious attention directs our focus to the primary task at hand—which, for your conscientious homeschool student, is studying. While our dorsal attention is hard at work, our ventral or unconscious attention is detecting peripheral sights, sounds, and other distractions: a creak in the floorboards, a siren in the distance, a smell coming from the kitchen. Unfortunately, even though your student’s ventral attention system is only doing its job, it’s disrupting his or her focus.
When we listen to music while studying, the music provides our unconscious attention system something to focus on. Keeping the ventral attention system busy drowns out other distractions and allows your child to concentrate on their schoolwork.
5 Tips on Picking the Best Music for Studying
Because music has a very powerful influence on our brains, bodies, and emotions, it’s important to choose the right music to play as a study aid. Use these five tips on the best music for studying, and help your student create an effective study playlist:
1. Choose Music Without Lyrics
To start your student’s study playlist, look for songs without words or lyrics. Music with lyrics can be quite distracting—especially if the lyrics resonate deeply with the listener and he or she has memorized every word. For background music to be helpful while studying, it’s better to play instrumental music, such as jazz, classical, or from movie soundtracks your child knows or from your child’s favorite video games.
2. Set a Proper Volume
Of course, music that is too loud will be distracting. Press play on that study playlist at a moderately low volume, but leave it loud enough to be heard. Having to concentrate to hear the music is just another distraction. The best music for studying should serve as background music.
3. Choose a Broad Study Playlist
One study of workers suggests that the best background music is music the listener enjoys, but that music the listener particularly likes is distracting. For studying with music, have your child create playlists of tunes they like but that don’t include their favorites. Let them set their favorites aside for a rewarding listening experience when they’ve completed their studies.
4. Settle in with Soothing Music
If you find that a pop music study playlist is distracting your child, try a playlist that’s more laid back before deciding to turn the music off. Or try the work of ambient music artists, which is usually instrumental and focused more on tone and atmosphere than rhythm.
5. Break Out the Funk
If your kid is struggling with a poor attitude about studying, lighten the mood by playing something funky. Professor Morten Kringelbach from the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry explains that the optimal levels of unexpected accents and unpredictable stresses in funk music make it uplifting. Your kids probably have their faves, but if needed, introduce them to a playlist of contemporary or old school jams.
The Benefits of Studying with Music
The benefits of music can make it a great study aid for your kids, whether they’re in elementary, middle, or high school. With thoughtfully crafted playlists, listening to music while studying can help your children maintain a better attitude and achieve better results from study time.
Whether your student is enrolled in virtual school, homeschool, or a traditional brick-and-mortar school, we hope these tips on studying with music help them achieve scholastic success. And if they’re still struggling, here are five more study tips that make tough subjects easier to learn … they’ll make studying as easy as A-B-C, and 1-2-3.