Should I turn up or turn off my music while I study?

Studying with music playing is a pretty common practice, but I’ve always wondered if it would hinder my ability to remember the information I’m trying to study. I’ve never cared enough to stop listening to music while doing schoolwork, in fact, I’m listening to Otis by Jay Z right now, which probably isn’t the most incredible studying music. So, what makes a song good for studying, and are there even any songs that are good for studying, or should we stick to silence?

USA Today College has informed me that it really depends on what it is that you’re listening to and what subject you’re working on. It’s better to listen to lyric-less music when you’re writing or reading, or otherwise using the language part of your brain. However, if you’re working on math homework, you’re probably okay to listen to all the lyrics your heart desires. This is because it may depend on your mood- if you’re in a angrier mood, you should listen to relaxing music so that your mood becomes more centered, which is the best point at which to study.

In a different study done at the University of Wales, they researched something a bit different. They looked at how much it matters if the test-taker enjoys the music that they’re listening to while taking it. What they found is that it didn’t really matter if the person liked the music or not, but what did matter was if you were listening to music at all. The constant group that took the test without any music got better scores than the people listening to music. It was also found that, although music listeners didn’t have as high of an average score as the non-music listeners, there was a significant amount of variation in the test results. What this means is that there could be a big difference between how music will affect your studying versus my studying.


After finding out more about the correlation between music and studying, I would say it’s safe to do whatever you think is best for you. If you study some nights with music and some nights without, maybe you can find out for yourself if you retain certain information better depending on the night. The cause of the bad scores or the lack of concentration could also be a third, confounding, variable. Maybe the reason your studying isn’t helping you very much is because of the distractions of your phone or the location in which you are studying. It seems like you should look at your own actions and decide yourself how music listening while studying will affect you. But maybe don’t go listening to rap if you’re easily distracted by lyrics.


That girl sitting in a meadow
Very artsy shot of headphones and a book

8 thoughts on “Should I turn up or turn off my music while I study?

  1. Astrid Andrea Navas Grijalva

    I thought your post was interesting because I am often very picky about when i choose to listen to music. For example, I don’t like to listen to music when I’m doing any type of writing, like blogging, writing essays, or even writing a simple email, I feel like the music gets in the way of my thoughts. However, I love to listen to music when I am working on art project or when I am doing math homework. Last year I remember learning that if you listen to music while you study , it is most likely that you will remember what you studied when you listen to music while you take your exam. I wish people weren’t always trying to cheat so that we could (individually) listen to music while we took a test.

  2. Emma Murphy

    I always struggle with whether I should listen to music or not while studying. I agree with your conclusion that it should be an in the moment decision. What kind of music I listen to depends on what homework or exam I am working on. Sometimes I feel that it helps me concentrate, but I can also see how times it could be a distraction.

  3. dff5115

    I can relate to this post a lot because as i am reading it i am currently listen to music. I think that music can help in certain environments that are louder and noise cancelling head phones can really help. I have found in my own experiences that when i’m writing something music can often help me stay focus and help my ideas flow. That being said when i am trying to study and memorize certain facts i think music can be very distracting. You often focus more on the music than the material you are trying to memorize. I agree with you that it can change from person to person and based on what kind of studying you are doing.

  4. Thomas John Krieger

    I think that it just depends on your preference. I like to listen to music when I’m doing homework, but I don’t like listening to anything when I am studying. My roommate is different though. He will listen to music no matter what he is doing. Whatever makes someone more comfortable when they are doing their school work should be best for them.

  5. Brendan Mironov


    Like you, I also love to listen to music while doing assignments like term papers, homework, and when studying for exams. Even though the research you provided sort of suggests against listening to music while doing school work, I sometimes find myself in the zone when listening to a certain song that allows me to crank out assignments in what seems like record time. However, I also noticed that music can cause me to lose focus and get distracted from time to time. Do you think that background noise like having the TV on in the background has the same effect as listening to music?

  6. Alexander Nicholas Cautela

    Honestly, I think it’s easiest to formulate long strings of thought while NOT listening to music. It’s generally easier to stay on topic, and there’s less to be distracted by. However, studying without music can be dreadfully boring. I just wrote two blog posts and several comments without music, but I will listen to music for my next and final blog.
    Being a musician, I have a special place in my heart for music. Recently, I have been listening to music that is very energetic, which gives me the motivation I need to get through the day. Guitar-driven music I find very energetic. Music gives me the energy I need to do work sometimes. I would recommend listening to music only when you absolutely need to. Try studying without it, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is once you get into it. However, you get to a certain point where you get so bored that you just have to put it on. Then, try listening to music. This works really well for me.

  7. Imaani Allen

    I agree it depends on the person. Some of my friends claim they can listen to music while studying at the same time. This may be true for a small number of people that are able to do both because that’s just how their brain works. As stated in the blog it really depends on the person. I’m someone that needs it completely silent when it comes to studying.

  8. cmt5586

    This is really interesting, in that in general listening to music harms your studying, but its more individual than most things. I guess its up to us to choose whether its worth it to listen to music (I say, listening to music while working on the blog posts…) The most interesting part to me was the fact that it didn’t even matter if they liked the music a lot, the effect was still the same. Maybe that speaks more about how music tastes are less about enjoying it and more about appearances? I may think I hate Katy Perry, but if listening to her does the same thing for me as listening to Journey (albeit a bad thing,) I guess I have to reconsider some things.

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