man sitting on chair and looking laptop computer

The verdict of whether or not listening to music increases your ability to study isn’t concrete.

Music releases dopamine. That much is clear. While music is pleasurable, it doesn’t correlate to making your more productive or more focused.

If music improves your mood, you will be more willing to focus–but it may not be on your work.

Relaxing Doesn’t Work

Being relaxed isn’t the optimal state for work. You want to be calm, but ready; potential energy ready to go, like a bow waiting to launch an arrow. Similar to what Musashi preaches in his 21 principals for life.

The problem with listening to music while working is the words.

It’s difficult to listen to your own thoughts while taking in the words of someone else.

Never cross streams.

While listening to Hip Hop while studying might be fun, you’re not going to get much done.

Work time isn’t for entertainment. Leave that for afterward as a dopamine reward for finishing studying. Or listen to music at the gym and let the sounds take over your mood, pushing you to work more.

That isn’t to say you need to study or work in complete, graveyard silence.

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Instead, listen to audio without frequent changes. Mixes, loops, or tracks without sound.

If you’re listening to songs, you will pay attention to the song more than your work. Music is ENGINEERED to be interesting. That’s the point. Musicians are entertainers.

If a song comes on you don’t like, you’ll break your concentration to change it. Whenever a song changes, your brain will observe the change in noise, distracting you again.

You can’t think louder than the song. Their words will be louder than your focused thoughts. Music prevents entering Deep work.

What is music for? 

Music is for entertainment. Emotional stimulus.

Good in the gym because we aren’t pushing our minds, we’re pushing bodies. Music is not for studying. But you can listen to something else.

My favorite sounds to listen to while working are long loops. Your brain will get into a flow listening to a repeated pattern over a long period of time.

In a way, hypnotizing.

Classical music works. Although The Beethoven Effect doesn’t explicitly show an increase in focus, you won’t be distracted with words.

My Favorite Sounds

Many of my favorite sounds are background music from videogames of my childhood. Stable sounds that cradle the background, locking your work in the foreground.

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Zeldapedia | Some of you will hear this image

The sounds I like, either don’t have any words, or repeat the same word in a hushed tone to prevent distraction. I want sounds in the background. Never center stage.

Below are some of my favorite sounds to work to. Feel free to bookmark this page to come back later, or follow my study playlist on YouTube.

35 Mixes to Listen to While Working

Bodybuilder, Muscles, Fitness, Weight Lifting, Training

1. Zora’s Domain – Zelda Ocarina of time

2. Gerudo Valley – Zelda Ocarina of Time

3. Astral Observatory – Majora’s Mask

This is one of my favorite mixes. Peaceful. Hopeful. Safe.

4. Clock Town Day 1 – Majora’s Mask

5. Windfall Island – The Wind Waker

6. Hyrule Field – Zelda Ocarina of Time


7. Lon Lon Ranch – Zelda ocarina of Time

8. Chasing the Black Caped Man – Final Fantasy 7

9. Jolly Roger Bay – Super Mario 64

Underwater sound. Good for tropical places.

10. Inside Peach’s Castle – Mario 64

11. Kokiri Forest – Zelda Ocarina of Time

12. Costa Del Sol – Final Fantasy 7

High energy, island-sounding music from Final Fantasy 7.

13. Bombchu Bowling – Zelda Ocarina of Time

14. Trappin in Paradise 50

Even though this mix has words, they’re muffled and stay in the background. One of my favorite mixes for aggressive, high-energy concentration.

15. Animal Crossing – Relaxing Nighttime Music

16. Animal Crossing – Relaxing Rainy Day Music

17. Animal Crossing 8-dimensional Music 

8D music–when wearing headphones–moves the sound in a circular motion. I don’t know how to explain it. Try it.

18. Gaming High – Lofi Mix

19. Regularly Scheduled Programming 

It’s like channel surfing in 1985.

20. Mass Effect – Citadel

Mass Effect is a Science Fiction game with excellent ambient noise that takes you to a future world. Some of these videos are animated, which looks great on TV for background noise.

21. Mass Effect – Noveria

22. Mass Effect – Huerta Memorial Hospital

23. Mass Effect – Dr. Bryson’s Lab

24. PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises

25. Tokyo Dreaming

26. Cowboy Bebop Lofi Mix

A remix from the anime.

27. Luxury Apartments

28. Persona 5 – Beneath the Mask

My current go-to. Muffled words, consistent beat, good animation.

29. Staying in.

30. Long Nights – Retrowave Mix

31. Late Night Vibes

32. Gaming High – Lofi Mix

33. Nintendo & Chill

34. We’ve never met but can we have a coffee or something

35. Raining In Paris

What’s Next

I made a full playlist of study tracks I use daily. All of these videos are on YouTube.

You may need some sounds to take with you. 

There is a way to do it, although it may not be the most legal; this is not an endorsement of this method–this is an explanation. Whatever you do is on you.

There are sites that convert YouTube videos into mp3 or mp4 files. After that, you can listen to sound files, or add them to a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music.

If I were to Google it, I’d Search: YouTube to Mp3.

Try listening to some of these sounds while you work. If they help you work longer, keep it up. If not, ignore this completely.

Stay on the path and continue finding new strategies to walk faster and farther.

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