Music may improve focus and concentration for some people when studying, but for others, it may be distracting and have a negative impact on learning. The tempo and intensity of music may also have an effect.

Listening to music when studying or concentrating may not affect each person in the same way. The genre, volume, and tempo of the music may all play a role in whether music helps people study.

Personal preference is also important, and some individuals may find certain study environments more helpful than others.

This article looks at the research behind music and studying, whether or not music can help improve cognitive performance, and which types of music may benefit the most.

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There is conflicting evidence on whether music can improve concentration while studying. A 2021 article suggests that many factors may contribute to whether music improves focus when studying or completing certain tasks.

These factors include:

  • genre
  • volume and tempo
  • age of the person
  • complexity of the task
  • personal preference
  • a person’s personality
  • whether music is instrumental or has lyrics

Below are several ways that music may be able to improve concentration and focus.

Support performance in cognitive tasks

According to a 2017 study, evidence suggests that music may help improve cognitive performance. However, factors such as the tempo of the music may influence this.

To further investigate this, the researchers looked at the impact of music on working memory training in 72 older adults ages 65–75 years.

Participants were split into groups, listening to either a Mozart piece, an Albinoni piece, or white noise before starting working memory training activities. Those listening to the Albinoni music experienced larger training gains than those in the Mozart group.

A 2019 study looked at the effects of music at different volumes and complexities on people carrying out cognitive tasks compared with working in silence.

Researchers found that music generally had a negative effect on performance in complex tasks. However, complex music improved performance in simple tasks.

Researchers concluded that the effect of music on cognitive task performance may depend on the type of music, task, and personal preference.

Reduce stress or anxiety

Lasting stress may negatively affect cognitive function and concentration, which may have a negative effect on performance.

A 2021 small-scale study looked at the effects of music on psychological and physiological stress in 50 people in a hospital. After listening to music for 30 minutes, people reported significantly lower anxiety and pain.

Influence on memory

An older 2015 study looked at the effects of music on a memory test involving facial recognition. Researchers examined the impact of listening to music compared with silence or the sound of rain on 54 nonmusician students.

The researchers found that listening to emotionally touching music, or silence, improved memory and resulted in faster and more efficient recall in the memory test. Sounds of rain or joyful music did not improve memory.

A 2017 study also looked at the effects of background music on memory types. Researchers found that listening to low arousal music helped participants recall more words from memory tasks than listening to high arousal music.

Negative low arousal music increased recognition of words more than high arousal music. However, background music did not improve verbal memory performance more than silence.

Despite the potential benefits of music for concentration, music may not improve focus for everyone. Here are some potential drawbacks of music for concentration.


Background music may have a negative effect on studying in some cases.

A 2021 article highlights research that suggests music can worsen performance in reading comprehension tasks compared with performance in silent conditions.

Music may be distracting to some people, especially when it is loud or contains lyrics.

The research outlined in the above article has also suggested that listening to pop music while carrying out a reading task reduced performance in introverts but not extroverts. So, personality may play a role, as well as the type of music.

Negative effects on working memory

Working memory is the cognitive system for holding and retaining a certain amount of information temporarily.

According to a 2017 article, background music may put an extra load on working memory, making learning more difficult. Everything involved in learning, including the learning material, task, and context, requires processing with working memory.

Working memory capacity is the number of different concepts that working memory can deal with at once. The brain has limited working memory capacity, and music may reduce the capacity available for learning.

People may have to divide their attention between the background music and what they are trying to learn. People may require extra cognitive effort to listen to music and learn, which may negatively impact studying.

A 2017 research article suggests that the tempo and intensity of the music people listen to may affect studying. Other observations in this article about the impact of music on concentration include the following:

  • Soft, fast music may have beneficial effects on learning.
  • Loud music, either fast or slow, may have adverse effects on learning.
  • Slow, soft music may also negatively affect learning.
  • Instrumental music may distract people less than music with lyrics.
  • Familiarity with the music may also affect how people learn.

Music may help reduce stress, improve some aspects of memory, and improve cognitive function, which may all help with concentration and focus when studying.

However, some research suggests the opposite — that music may distract people and reduce working memory capacity.

Whether music helps people or not may depend on the individual, as well as the type of music, volume, and tempo.