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The first time I heard about the Mozart Effect was in my Grade Nine math class when my Frasier-obsessed teacher insisted we listen to Classical FM 96.3 during every homework period to help us concentrate on our equations. Despite being a former violinist and symphony enthusiast, I had never actually heard of this unique study method before. Needless to say, I eventually adopted the habit and it has since made my tedious and stress-inducing studies much more vivid and uplifting.
I find that almost any purely instrumental piece could potentially be an asset in creating a concentrative environment as opposed to songs with lyrics—because vocals are usually distracting and divert attention away from the task at hand to the lyrics that they sing. Instrumental pieces are different in that the changes in musical expression—through elements such as transitions, dynamics, and tempo—are perpetually fluid and blend into the background. Classical music obviously falls under this category, of course, but I would also recommend experimenting with instrumental jazz and even film scores (the instrumental music used in film) to keep the playlist abundant and fresh.
I am well accustomed to music, so calling me biased is not an entirely unreasonable claim as this study technique is ultimately dependent on the person’s preference. However, I do genuinely believe that having some sort of enjoyable tune liven up an otherwise hushed atmosphere has its benefits. It’s actually more comforting than complete silence, for the reason that it lightens up the mood and can hence encourage longer study periods without feelings of boredom or anxiety. The last thing you want is to be left alone with your racing thoughts about how difficult your next exam will be or how long your term paper will take to research, outline, and type up.
Now, before you dive into "Swan Lake" with Tchaikovsky or take to the skies with Stravinsky’s "Firebird," there are undoubtedly some tips to keep in mind. For one, while it is riveting to picture yourself as a famous musician about to perform a solo, don’t get carried away with the volume of your study music—or your test scores won’t earn any encores. Keep the volume relatively low, so that the music doesn’t break your focus as you're gathering your thoughts for your optimal studying strategy.
Part of maintaining complete and total concentration is to avoid taking frequent breaks every five minutes to search for new music. I recently started creating playlists when I realized I became more dedicated to orchestrating my ideal lineup of compositions than to orchestrating my study plans. Having playlists ready in advance will save you time and give you an idea of how many breaks you should have between long study periods. Thus, I’d suggest putting together playlists that last approximately an hour and the end of each playlist can serve as a reminder that you should take a breather from your books.
Your studies are your symphony, and you are the conductor. This means that you should always have complete control of how the music is played. Don’t play the radio, not even Classical FM 93.6, because announcers and advertisements will definitely disrupt your train of thought. You’ll likely want to change the station, even though you know very well that contrived marketing ploys are the least of your problems.
Remember that your main goal is to ensure productivity during your studies. Don’t worry about selecting what experts would consider the “best” music; you want to play music that you know relaxes you and gives you the dopamine to do your best work.