Tips & Tricks

How Does Music Affect Concentration and Focus?

Ever tried to focus on a paper for school or a work presentation, but you ultimately gave up because you couldn't concentrate? 

We've all been there — the truth is, work and study sessions aren't always interesting enough to capture our attention. And with all of the digital notifications that constantly bombard us, maintaining focus is even more challenging. 

While there are various strategies you can use to boost your focus, we'll focus on one: music. We know what you're thinking — isn't music distracting? Well, yes and no. The key is to find the right type of music for focus. And we'll help you do just that. 

Here, we’ll explore the relationship between music and concentration and offer tips for creating the perfect playlists for working or studying. 

What does concentration mean in the modern world?

Concentration is basically the ability to direct your attention to a single task or thought, disregarding distractions. If you're working or studying, concentration allows you to focus wholly on the tasks at hand, be it preparing a big presentation, completing an assignment, or cramming for a test. 

If you're interacting with others, it's staying in the moment and listening to what they're saying without giving in to external distractions like phone notifications. 

Maintaining concentration in a technology-driven world has become an uphill battle. How many times do you stop what you're doing to scroll through TikTok, refresh Facebook, or check your Instagram? Many, right? 

Research shows that the average human attention span reduced from 2.5 minutes in the early 2000s to a mere 47 seconds these days. This is worrying, as it can now take hours to complete tasks that used to take minutes, making procrastination even more common.

Luckily, you don't have to accept this as your fate. There's a lot you can do to improve your concentration and focus, and using music is a big one. 

Examples of how music can help you concentrate

You’re probably already aware of the impact of music on our lives. It can improve comprehension and problem-solving skills, uplift our moods, and promote overall well-being. 

However, people often underestimate the impact of music on cognitive performance and, ultimately, concentration and focus. So let’s look at some examples of how music can boost concentration, so you can get a better picture of their relationship.

Listening to music while studying

Different types of music have varying impacts on cognitive functions. For example, familiar music can improve concentration and retention during study sessions by reducing cortisol and stress levels. This can allow your brain to focus without interruption. 

Additionally, classical music, ambient sounds, lo-fi hip-hop, and Baroque music can enhance study sessions by lighting up your brain's attention center. So the next time you have an exam prep but can't focus, play pieces from composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Alternatively, you can find some calming ambient sounds online. 

Learning to play a musical instrument

Learning an instrument can enhance cognitive function and focus beyond the music-listening experience. Music lessons are a lot like gym sessions, only instead of solely exercising your physical form, they also provide a full workout for your brain. 

Playing an instrument activates almost all parts of your brain, improving connections and neuroplasticity. This can make it easier for you to perform cognitive tasks and lower your chances of being distracted. 

Playing music to take a break from intensive tasks

A lack of focus stems not only from distractions but also from exhaustion and stress. If this is the case for you, music can help by acting as a mental palate cleanser. Playing an instrument can give you a mental break that still engages the brain in a different form of focus, rejuvenating the mind for future tasks. 

So the next time you experience writer's block or feel overwhelmed by your full schedule, take advantage of the relationship between music and psychology. Instead of downing an energy drink or cup of coffee, take a musical break — or do both! 

Improvising or composing as a concentration exercise

If you enjoy the creative aspects of music making, you can improvise or compose a few pieces to improve your focus. The creative process requires you to remain completely engaged. This can train your focus and concentration, transferring the benefits over to your everyday life. 

Further, composing can help clear your mind, setting you up for a more productive work or study session. 

Listening to music while doing creative activities

Passively listening to music can also boost your creativity. Music activates both the right and left brain hemispheres simultaneously, improving working memory and sparking creativity. As such, background music during activities like writing, painting, or brainstorming can make all the difference.

How to find the right background music for concentration

With millions of music options, how do you find the right fit to improve your concentration and focus? Here are some tips to guide your selection process.

Identify the genre that works for you

The first step to boosting concentration with music is creating the perfect playlist. Choose pieces of music based on:

  • The task at hand: Different types of music are suitable for varying tasks. For example, classical music or instrumental music may be better for tasks that require intense focus, since there aren’t any words to distract you.  
  • Environmental factors: If you're in a noisy environment, options like ambient sounds and electronic music may be better, as they can mask background noise more effectively. 
  • Personal preference: Ultimately, the right choice comes down to your personal preferences. Some people focus better when listening to classical music, others benefit more from upbeat music, while others prefer white noise. Experiment with different music genres to determine what works best for you. 

Balance volume and tempo

You’ll need to experiment to find the right volume and tempo for optimal concentration. Aim for a volume that's just enough to be audible but not overpowering or distracting. 

A low volume may be enough if you're in a quiet environment. If you're in a noisy one, you'll likely need a higher volume level to drown out external distractions. 

The ideal tempo is pretty subjective. An analysis of around 100,000 popular study playlist songs found that, while the average tempo was 112 BPM (beats per minute), individual tempos varied widely. So try out different tempos and see what range works best for you.  

Create playlists for different tasks

Your ideal playlist for studying or working may not be the best choice for creative tasks. Create different playlists based on expected tasks to maximize your focus. Some options include:

  • A classical music playlist for studying: This kind of music can increase brain activity and improve focus. 
  • Nature and ambient sounds for working: These are great for de-stressing. The less stressed you are, the likelier you are to focus on your work. 
  • Lo-fi music for creative tasks: It can set the right mood for creativity and calm your mind. 
  • Electronic music for administrative tasks: Its rhythmic patterns can clear your mind just enough to let you focus on everyday tasks. 

Again, the key is to find what works for you. Listen to different playlists when performing various tasks to find the best fit. 

Consider when silence might be best

Music is undoubtedly a powerful concentration tool for many people. However, it may not be the right fit for everyone or all situations. Integrate music into your work or study sessions and observe how it affects your concentration. If it distracts you instead of helping you focus, silence may be a better solution. 

Silence may also suit tasks that require intense focus, like reading comprehension and accounting. Don't rush into creating a concentration playlist just because everyone else is doing it — test to see if music is an ideal solution for you first. 

Tips for crafting your musical practice for better concentration

If you prefer active engagement over passive listening, playing an instrument or taking online music lessons is a great option. Use these tips to create a positive musical practice that improves concentration and focus by activating the brain's memory, creativity, and attention centers. 

Build a structured practice schedule

A regular, structured practice schedule can help you keep up with sessions, allowing you to maintain and enhance your concentration. Set some time aside each day for practice, and break up sessions into focused segments to help you get more out of each one. 

Ensure you have clear goals for each segment to keep you motivated. If you're a beginner, your goals could be:

  • To master a proper instrument hold
  • To improve your sheet music reading skills 
  • To master proper posture

Create a distraction-free environment

It goes without saying that the key to focusing on any task is minimizing distractions. To create an environment conducive to concentration:

  • Find a quiet and secluded space that you can consistently use for all your practice sessions. Every time you enter that space, it will signal to the brain it's time to focus on music.
  • Silence or turn off electronic devices like phones and TVs if you don't intend to use them during your sessions. 
  • Choose a time of day when there are minimal distractions — like when the kids are at school. 
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones if you can't control the noise level in your environment. 
  • Find proper seating to ensure comfort throughout your session. 

Once you create the perfect space for practice, integrate mindfulness techniques that allow you to stay in the moment and focus wholly on your sessions. Focus on the sound of each note as you play, pay attention to the physical sensations you feel from playing, and take note of the impact of music on your emotions. 

Balance technical skills with creative expression

The last thing you want is to get bored during your sessions. To prevent this, focus as much on expressing your musicality as you do on improving technical skills (such as scales and arpeggios). 

For example, you could recreate or improvise music pieces. This way, you don't just repeat exercises mechanically but also connect emotionally with the music. Doing so can keep your practice sessions engaging and help maintain your concentration. 

Use rhythmic patterns to boost concentration

Practicing music with clear, repetitive rhythmic patterns can help anchor the mind, reduce stress, and enhance concentration. The repetitive and predictable nature of rhythmic pieces supports sustained attention and creates a sense of control and stability, ultimately boosting relaxation and focus. 

You can integrate rhythm into your practice sessions by playing etudes like Niccolò Paganini's Capricci. Etudes often have straightforward rhythms and feature repeated rhythmic patterns. You can also improvise by playing the same musical passages with different rhythmic variations. 

Find your focus in the rhythms of modern life with Trala

Playing music while studying or working can improve focus by lighting up the brain's attention center. Music can also boost your concentration by reducing stress levels and enhancing relaxation. The more relaxed you are, the likelier you are to focus on the task at hand. 

You can incorporate the benefits of music into everyday life passively, by playing background pieces as you go about your tasks, or actively, by playing an instrument. 

If you're interested in the latter, Trala has you covered. With Trala, you get expert instruction from world-class music teachers and access to the Trala app, which can support your practice sessions to help enhance your focus. 

Ready to leverage music for improved concentration? Sign up for Trala today!

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