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Less Lyrics, More Productivity

“Where words leave off, music begins” - Heinrich Heine


I still remember the day I got my first ever MP3 player. I was eight years old, it was Christmas Eve, and no gift could have made me happier than the tiny piece of metal that held a grand total of one song (Apologize by One Republic to be specific, a classic for young Hannah). With that and some cheap plastic headphones in hand, my relationship with music began. Although since then my playlists have expanded past angsty 2000’s pop ballads, one thing remains the same. Like many other students, music is absolutely essential to my existence and day-to-day function.

Now that I am in college, my love for music has only grown. Whether I am hanging out with my friends, going to the gym, or just walking to class, it provides a backdrop for all my experiences and memories. However, the one thing I have always struggled to find the perfect soundtrack for is studying.

Googling the phrase "best music to listen to while studying” will lead you to several suggestions ranging from lo-fi hip hop beats to classical symphonies. As different as these genres are, the one thing they have in common is a total lack of lyrics, which according to many researchers, is the way to go if you need to get serious work done. For example, Psychology Today shares that low-information, relaxing music can help with cognition while traditionally popular music can potentially hinder more complex tasks, as well as reading comprehension.

I can definitely speak to this issue from personal experience, as whenever I sit down to get work done with one of my usual playlists I always find myself distracted, whether I’m lip- syncing the words or just trying to find another good song to queue. Unfortunately, as fun as getting lost in a Spotify Radio suggestions playlist can be, chemistry homework definitely doesn’t do itself. With that in mind, I set out this week to research the perfect music for those days where you really need to stay focused, and here’s a collection of playlists I found from Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube for four different genres that can create more productivity with less lyrics.

1. Acoustic Guitar

My roommate likes to listen to guitar when she studies. Makes you feel like you're in a coffee shop or downtown on a Saturday night instead of cramming for a physics test.

2. Classical

This is definitely a lot of people's go-to for study music and for good reason. Makes you feel uplifted and focused instead of anxious and distracted.

3. Lo-Fi Hip Hop

If classical or acoustic isn't your thing, then this genre is a great option. I specifically recommend YouTube's selection.

4. Jazz

I never gave jazz its credit until some songs showed up on my discover playlist last semester. Makes you feel classy and relaxed even when you're in sweats you've worn for three days.

If at the end of the day, you still prefer listening to Metallica or Megan Thee Stallion over Mozart in the library (or in the case of quarantine, your living room), that’s totally fine. The beauty of music is that your taste is yours alone, and you can do whatever you want with it.

However, if you ever find yourself in a late night study session where silence just isn’t enough, but words are too much, I hope some of these suggestions help you stay productive!

Remember to check out our most recent Youtube Video for suggestions on what to do if you’re feeling bored in quarantine, and most importantly, stay safe and healthy. Happy studying!

-Hannah :-)

P.S. In my personal experience, listening to music in different languages can also have a similar effect to music without lyrics and is a great way to find new artists! I won’t make any specific recommendations on this one, but Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube all have a wide variety of playlists with songs ranging from Spanish vocals all the way to German rap, so there’s something for everyone!

Link to Psychology Today Article I mentioned if you’re interested in learning more about how music choice influences productivity: Is Background Music a Booster or a Bummer?

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