Music in the background: do Mozart, white noise and hard rock help you concentrate?

During the pandemic, the work of the developers has only increased: according to SimilarWeb for April, the platform has become the second most popular educational site in the world. But concentrating on it from home turns out with varying degrees of success. We have tested a variety of life hacks on ourselves and want to share the results. Today we are dealing with one of the most promising ways – music.

Probably, each developer has his own set of music for all occasions: for study, sports, work. Moreover, for burning deadlines we choose something harsher, for routine tasks – rhythmic, but without accents. For household chores, podcasts will do, for lunch – a blogger’s release on YouTube, for the game you can turn on the white noise of a stream on Twitch. But few have a playlist ready to focus on.

When polling colleagues, opinions were divided: about 40% of them chose silence and their favorite music for better concentration. Another 15% have dedicated playlists or apps just for when maximum focus is needed. Another 4% and 3%, respectively, listen to white noise and sounds of nature.

Interest in the influence of music on concentration has spawned a huge amount of research, myths and commercial projects. Millions of people are looking for a way to combat audio procrastination. The Endel application alone, which promises to generate sounds to focus the user’s attention, downloaded a total of more than 2 million times. A YouTube channel ChilledCow with the most popular lo-fi hip-hop streams it has more than 7 million subscribers.

The main myth of music therapy

One of the most popular speculative theories on the use of music to enhance mental performance is the so-called Mozart effect. Mozart’s music is said to be upbeat and positive, and help you solve problems and learn.

Apparently, this opinion gave rise to study, published in the journal Nature, in which scientists analyzed the influence of music of different tempo and key on the state of students. The problem is that the participants in the experiment were allowed to listen to the same Mozart sonata at a faster or slower tempo, in minor or major. The results showed that fast, cheerful music is better at solving spatial problems. Well, the choice was: Mozart or Mozart. So Mozart won. Perhaps the music of the great composer really has a positive effect on the state and helps to tune, however meta-analysis with the telling title “The Mozart Effect – the Schmozart Effect” completely refutes the beautiful theory. Most likely it’s just the influence of positive major music. For example, the organizers came to such conclusions 2017 research

Nice jazz or hard rock?

The researchers studied the impact on productivity not only of the works of the great Austrian composer. So what kind of music should you choose? Are there universal recipes?

For a start, you should narrow your search and consider only pleasant melodies. Unattractive music you listened to before work reduces performance. Some experts offer listen to soundtracks from video games. After all, these compositions are specially made to help a person focus and immerse themselves in the process.

Heavy music helps you release tension and tune in to a high tempo. Australian researchers conducted experimentin which people were turned on punk rock, scream and metal and asked annoying questions. The subjects calmed down faster while listening to music. We are sure that many will join the popular opinion that hard active black metal helps to accelerate and get the job done faster.

Music as different as techno, classical and Brazilian pop can have a similar effect. The point is distinguishable speech: she promotes distraction, and its absence can be one of the criteria when choosing a background for a productive day (of course, if you do not know Portuguese).

Noise: problem or solution

Music isn’t the only sonic drug for anti-procrastination fighters. The so-called white noise is also popular. For example, this spring, the site of the office noise generator received hundreds of thousands of views. Its creator, a Belgian research engineer, confessedthat I did not expect such attention to the project launched as a joke.

For some, white noise does have a positive effect. For example, one of research showed that 60 dB of background noise improved concentration in extroverts. In a different experiment Scientists have found that white noise helps inattentive children who are often distracted to focus.

However, these studies show a downside to noise. It lowers the performance of introverts compared to working in silence and distracts attentive children.

Loud continuous noise harms the body – this fact has long been studied and confirmed by experiments. Prolonged exposure to noise negatively affects the autonomic and central nervous systems: it worsens the mental state and increases anxiety. With a loud background noise, we get tired 15–25% faster than usual. According to Rospotrebnadzor, the noise level should not exceed 68 dB. For comparison: in residential buildings we hear about 40 dB, in offices, to which we will not return soon, – 55–65 dB. That is why it is so difficult for parents of babies to work remotely: the crying of a child sounds at the level of 76–82 dB.

The way out of this situation is with good headphones. The right noise canceling headphones can provide protection against external influences that interfere with work and study.

What to listen to

If you believe that background music helps you tune in and focus, or just want to see if this is the case for you personally, we have prepared a small selection of applications in which you can listen to “special” music:

Endel – promise that the application will create a personalized sound background for any activity, including concentration. Synchronizes with heart rate and takes into account the level of natural light.

Noisli – generates a background from the sounds of nature, including for increasing productivity. The amount and combinations of 16 types of noises can be adjusted.

Coffitivity – a synthesizer of comfortable background sounds of a coffee shop. This solution is suitable for those who consider a small cafe the standard of comfort, who like the sounds of quiet conversations of people, the clink of teaspoons and porcelain cups.

My noise – another audio cafe. The system allows you to mix sounds right in the browser, unlike Coffitivity, here everything is done right on the first page of the service, without downloads and registrations. – the creators of the application claim artificial intelligence that generates music for concentration, sleep and other pleasant activities. They promise that the effect will last 15 minutes after listening. Whether it is a lot or a little, everyone decides for himself.

Rainy mood – this app has about 400 different rain sounds designed to help you relax and improve concentration.

A soft murmur – another system for individually mixing background sounds. You can set the sound to decrease to silence at the desired time.

Tell us: do you listen to music while studying or working? Does it help you?

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