Are There Any Benefits To Listening To Lo-Fi Music Whilst Studying?

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The relaxed blend of retro sounding hip hop combined with the absence of jarring vocals or sudden changes of melody makes low fidelity (Lo-Fi) music an excellent soundtrack to allow your brain to focus on a task.

Exactly why Lo-Fi works well as a mental stimulus goes way beyond having the music simply create a barrier between your thoughts and potentially distracting background noises.

There is good evidence that the neurophysiological effects of listening to so-called ‘focus music’ allow a particular mental state to be reached that is favorable when undertaking concentration intensive tasks such as studying. 

Lo-Fi shares a number of qualities with the focus music genre that enable students to concentrate for longer and retain more information. Both excellent traits to acquire when preparing for an important exam. 

Why exactly this is the case is more than interesting enough to fill a few books, but we’ve distilled the main points into a couple of paragraphs below so you can get back to studying 😉

Why does Lo-Fi music make a good study soundtrack? 

It has long been known that music can provide a measurable benefit when being played whilst we work. 

Just ask the assembly line workers of the UK who were broadcast ‘Music While You Work’ across the BBC radio waves between 1940 – 1967.

For students whose goal is to digest learning material better or ace an exam, a very specific type of music is trending as a suitable study companion. 

Lo-Fi is considered particularly well suited to the mentally challenging task of studying as it has many similar qualities to Brain.fm’s cognitive boosting focus music.

In Brain.fm’s own words their functional music includes technology to elicit strong neural phase locking – allowing populations of neurons to engage in various kinds of coordinated activity.

In practical terms this means the music has been enhanced with frequency modulation to help stimulate neural activity and achieve a particular mental state and spatial modulation to create an all enveloping, three dimensional sound that allows attention to be directed towards a single task. 

The playlist below will give you a taste of the Focus music produced with the help of National Science Foundation funding.

Now, Lo-Fi doesn’t have the audio enhancements Brain fm has scientifically shown to trigger improved focus but there are plenty of similarities in the structure and style of the two types of music. 

The relaxed, steady beats of Lo-Fi aren’t so slow that it lulls you to sleep, yet not too fast for it to become a distraction to workers. Some have coined this productivity sweet spot ‘aural cocooning’.

Specifically, Lo-FI makes a good study soundtrack due to it having:

  • a lack of salient events such as attention grabbing changes in beat or chord
  • a dense texture (meaning that it contains multiple layers of sound woven together vs a single layer such as a vocalist)
  • no strong melodies and typically has no vocals
  • a steady pulse
  • heavy spatialization

One aspect of Lo-Fi music which is difficult to measure is the emotion that it makes listeners feel. And how that then creates a mindset which is ready to receive new information. 

The genre of Lo-Fi music has a unique sound as it represents music of homemade quality, complete with distortions and crackles that are smoothed over and lost from studio quality recordings. 

For many, this brings a comforting sensation which calms, relaxes and sets a good foundation to learn. 

By extensions the characteristics and structure of Lo-Fi music identified above has been proven to improve cognitive performance by helping focus be retained for longer than other types of music.

Take home message

There are no peer reviewed scientific studies that examine the influence of Lo-Fi upon student performance. 

In fact, conclusions drawn from studies looking into music in general have published mixed results on whether listening to music (even classical music such as Mozart) can make you smarter at all

It seems that the influence music can have leans towards personality, type of subject matter being studied (i.e. text based or arithmetic), and type of music being broadcast through your headphones. 

As a recipe, Lo-Fi has many of the ingredients which generally makes for a good study companion, and with the X-factor of emotion to be accounted for – the take home message would be if you enjoy listening to Lo-Fi then factor a playlist into your study sessions. 

There’s little to lose by conducting an experiment upon yourself yet a lot stands to be gained if it transports you ‘into the zone’.

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