You sit down to get to work and everything feels too… silent. We’ve all had it happen to us. Sometimes silence is more distracting than sound because we can notice every little occasional sound or maybe our thoughts end up feeling too loud.
There’s a whole field of study called music psychology that researches the psychological impact different kinds of music can have on the mind. One of the areas of music psychology is focus music.
Today, we have a pretty good idea of what makes good music for focus. But every person is still a little different. Check out these types of music and find which one works best for you!
What Makes Good Focus Music?
The main component of music to help you focus is that it doesn’t distract you. The songs you want to sing along to, break apart and analyze, or skip halfway through aren’t right for the job. You’ll be more focused on interacting with the music than you will be on the task at hand. For this reason, music without vocals is often the best option. You won’t be distracted by what the singer is saying.
At the same time, you don’t want any music that will bore you. If you’re falling asleep while listening to the music, you aren’t going to be focused anymore. Similarly, if you dislike the music you’re going to be distracted by how much you dislike it and the urge to change it to something more of your taste.
Your music should energize you and give you a soundtrack to work to. Focus music for work should inspire you to keep going and work hard. Think of it as the soundtrack in a movie when a character is doing something particularly difficult. Wouldn’t you always like to have that kind of inspiration?
1. Classical Music
As mentioned before, music without lyrics is less distracting which makes classical music for focus a great option (as long as you stick to the instrumental songs).
Unfortunately, you may have some misconceptions about what classical music is and whether or not you like it. Classical music is diverse, influential on modern music, and broken down into subgenres that are worth exploring before you write it off entirely.
Classical music includes Romantic, baroque, contemporary, minimalist, and many other styles. Try a sampling of a few to decide which works best for you and your study habits. You may be surprised by what you can find even in the older eras. Some of Beethoven’s symphonies really take you on a whole journey.
Continuing with the idea of creating a soundtrack to your work, consider music for ballet as an option. The music composed for ballets often helps drive the action and can help drive your action too.
2. Ambient Music
Brian Eno, of Roxy Music fame, popularized the term and laid the groundwork for “ambient music” in the early 1970s. Today, ambient music is as varied as classical and can refer to a few different styles. Some of them may even resemble some of your favorite popular genres of music.
Ambient music can include slow, atmospheric sounds as well as pulsing EDM music that you might hear at a party. Both can be used as deep-focus music depending on your personal taste and your work style.
Some people may find that something too atmospheric is too boring for them and ends up putting them to sleep. They may prefer something that makes them feel like they’re moving fast like EDM. Others may find EDM too stressful to work to. They would require something more relaxing for their work environment.
If you’re looking for something that technically belongs in the world of classical music but also falls into ambient music, you should consider listening to some Steve Reich. His pieces are minimalist enough to prevent distraction but involve enough emotional and sonic changes to keep you interested.
3. Jazz and Jazz Fusion
Like classical music, a lot of people have a misconception of jazz. You may think jazz is all Dixieland or old crooners. Or maybe you picture complex and hard to listen to screeching improvisations. If either of those (or any other individual idea) is your idea of jazz. You’re really missing out.
Jazz has gone through a lot of transformations and today it’s often hardly recognizable compared to its beginnings composers like Duke Ellington. If the old school jazz is more your speed more power to you. But let’s look at some other options.
A good place to start when looking for some relaxing jazz is with individual instrumentalists. Look for solo albums on piano or guitar. This will tend to sound less messy to unaccustomed ears. If you’re worried that you like pop music too much to try jazz, consider jazz fusion!
Jazz fusion combines elements of jazz with other popular genres such as funk, pop, and rock. If you start with a fusion of something you already like, it can be a gateway into liking other styles of jazz.
4. Instrumental Rock
If jazz, classical, and ambient music just aren’t really your speed you can use instrumental rock as music to help you focus. While few rock musicians put out entirely instrumental albums, there are plenty of playlists that take instrumental tracks from various albums.
Check out if any of your favorite rock musicians have ever had their instrumental songs included on movie soundtracks. For example, legendary progressive rock band, King Crimson’s, song Starless is at the beginning of the movie Mandy. The rest of that soundtrack sounds like metal without the heaviness or vocals.
Better Focus and New Music Appreciation
By trying out these genres, you may discover a new favorite while also receiving the amazing benefits of focus music. You’ll work faster and more efficiently while getting to enjoy a style of music you may not have paid attention to before. Be sure to try out all the subgenres within a genre before writing it off as not your thing.
Curious about more of the effects of music on the mind? Find more articles in our Music section.