Skip to Main Content Skip to bottom Skip to Chat, Email, Text
Chat with an AI assistant

Surprising ways music may improve studying

At a Glance: Take up an instrument or simply listen to a little jazz before hitting the books to retain more of what you’re studying.

Hear this: We may be able to listen, sing and strum our way to enhanced learning. Here are just a few ways music has been shown to boost academic mojo.

1. Relaxing and absorbing information

“Anxiety and fears consume a considerable part of your brain’s neural activities and, because of this, your brain is less able to retain information. Listening to music that relaxes your mind and body prior to studying frees up that space in the brain so your memory can function at a higher level,” says Aparna Ramaswamy, PhD, a visiting assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and a licensed clinical professional counselor. But what music is right for you? “It’s truly about individualizing,” Ramaswamy says. “Music is a highly personal thing, so what one student needs or likes will be different from another.” The key is to find music that relaxes you before you dig into the books.

Not sure where to start? Go to YouTube and search “music for studying.” Countless options, including Mozart, classical piano, jazz and New Age playlists, are ready for your listening ear.

2. Learning a language

No habla español? Music might help. Researchers found that the link between music and learning a foreign language is significant. A recent study found that participants trying to learn Hungarian — a notably difficult language — performed better when they sang Hungarian phrases versus simply saying them. The idea is that the melody or rhythm of singing the words helped retention.

3. Remembering more for longer

Research shows people who were routinely engaged in music (for example, grew up taking piano lessons) performed better on standardized memory tests than non-musicians. The reason: Researchers believe that musicians have an easier time processing information than their non-musical counterparts and, therefore, can retain information for longer periods of time. No musical immersion in your youth? That’s okay. You can still reap the fun and personal fulfillment that comes from participating in music as an adult.

Drum lessons, anyone?