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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Keefe

The Do's and Don'ts of Studying with Music

Exam season will soon be upon us. If you’re anything like me when it comes to studying for exams, trying to study in dead silence is a definite no-go. Alternatively, the sound of people talking and other background noise can be disruptive and unpredictable. My initial solution for my lack of focus was to throw in the earbuds in and pump some tunes. Problem solved, right? Not exactly. I was still distracted and struggled to finish all that studying I had left to the last minute. As it turns out, I was on the right path, however I just had to be a little particular with the sounds that graced my awkwardly tiny ears. Seriously though, I have really small ears. Anyway, these are my do’s and don’ts of studying with music!


  • Find music that relaxes you but doesn’t put you to sleep. McGill University Professor Daniel J. Levitin has completed numerous studies showing the effects that slower-paced music has on reducing anxiety. Personally, fast-paced music stresses me out when I’m trying to focus.

  • Instrumentals! Downtempo Electronic, Jazz, R&B, Lo-Fi, and Classical have worked really well for me. The absence of distracting lyrics will be sure to keep your focus strong!

  • Keep it fresh by trying new genres. You never know what you’ll stumble upon.

  • Playlists and albums. Less time spent changing between songs and more time spent studying.


  • Listen to music that is overly lyrical. There is nothing less productive than trying to write as essay while getting in your feelings over Drake’s Marvin’s Room.

  • Choose music that makes you want to dance/party, because, well, you’ll want to party.

  • Force it. If it isn’t helping, move on to another genre. You’ll find what works for you eventually!

Here are some of the places I go on a regular basis to find new music:

  • No music streaming subscription? No problem. Chilled Cow is a fantastic 24/7 stream on YouTube.

  • Have a google account? Google Play Music has endless free study playlists.

  • Apple Music and Spotify have numerous crowd-sourced playlists. It just takes a little digging to find the right vibe.

  • My personal favourites include Sade and J-Dilla.

Now get out there, find those relaxing study vibes and study hard!

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