You are most likely sitting in your headphones at work if you’re reading this text during office hours. Right?
Music helps concentrate keep the working pace, but what kind of music affects the brain in the best possible way? Which genre of music will help you work better and not distract you from it? What about classic music, which, most of people find boring? Is it true that Mozart’s music helps the brain work better? Let’s figure it out.
Music and the brain
Headphones pass the sound from a device straight to your brain, where different areas activate depending on the type of music. Music undoubtedly affects our emotional and even physical state. But how do we choose that music? And exactly what music should we choose for work and for relaxation respectively?
Everybody knows positive effects of classical music on the body. But is it really so? It turns out it is.
The US Department of Homeland Security scientists confirmed that music can reduce stress levelsi. Their research was based on combinations of different frequencies, duration and amplitudes of tracks which the subjects listened to and transitioning from stressed to relaxed. Most of the calming compositions were variations of classic music, close to Chopin. Such compositions reduced the level of cortisol in blood, and had a sedative and painkilling effect. Do you know what else works the same way? Antidepressants!
According to anotherii research, classical music helps concentrate on the working process. The research concentrated on Mozart’s compositions and it turned out that his sonatas significantly improves memories among test subjects. And in the second group, that listened to Beethoven, there were no such effects indicated. We can surely say state that if you listen to Mozart at your workplace, your cognitive functions will increase drastically. It’s called “Mozart’s effect”.
Sounds of nature
The research, which you can check out if you follow the link in the end of the articleiii, indicated that even minor presence of the “sounds of nature” in the composition increases the level of concentration and improves the mood. How so? Probably because sounds of nature is the most ancient music in the world. Our ancestors used to listen to the sounds of rain long before the simplest musical instrument. Cracking of campfire, rustles of leaves, the sound of the breeze and roaring of the sea – all that will help you concentrate on your current affairs or reduce your stress level.
Natural sounds, such as white noise, make the surrounding speech, which passively enables our brain, less evident. According to the experiments, concentration and general satisfaction of the test subjects during the listening stably grew.
Bird chirping, the sound of rain, the babbling of a brook or rustle of leaves cause make an equally positive effect. It’s not necessary to exactly these sounds of nature. You can easily find their mix with calm music and the effect will be the same. Finding sounds of nature is quite simple using YouTube, for example.
In order not to go crazy while doing some painfully familiar job, for completion of which you might probably get a nice financial reward, you put on headphones, turn up the volume, choose the needed track list and push the play button, right? Anyway, if we’re talking about work that demands activating the right brain hemisphere, loud music probably won’t help.
As it turned out, the average level of noise is sort of a catalyst for creative abilities. Making the process of information processing more complicated background noise stimulates abstract thinking and sets the brain for having a productive day. That is exactly why public places, such as cafeterias, summer courts, piers, parks and etc., attract creative people so much.
Binaural beats for work
Are binaural beats suitable for work? First we have to understand what binaural beats are.
Binaural beats are a combination of two sounds with different frequencies. That is a long-known trick among musicians. No mystery! Two sounds differing in frequencies coming from different headphones will be perceived as a new sound. It’s quite simple. Our brain merges different sounds into an absolutely new one, which doesn’t actually sound out. In a nutshell, our brain tricks us and creates a new sound. According to scientists, binaural beats can regulate brain functioning. Besides, they can make a person more focused, improve memory and help sleep better. And it’s not surprising that binaural beats are quite catching on. It’s really easy to find an app that generates binaural beats in App store or Google play.
Our brain creates its own frequencies:
- gamma (40Hz +)
- betta (13-40Hz)
- alpha (7-13Hz)
- theta (4-7Hz)
- delta (less than 4Hz)
Each of these frequencies matches a certain emotional and physical state. When we’re awake or about to yawn, the brain would generate completely different beats. Scientists keep arguing about the nature of binaural beats, but there is proofiv that they can change your brain’s functioning frequency. By choosing the sound with the necessary frequency we can trick our brain so it would start to generate the beats we need. It sounds somewhat surreal, but scientists have evidence. The researches show that people who used binaural beats (2-8Hz frequencies) had their sleep improved. And what about their work?
Gamma and betta binaural beats have this proven positive effect. They are perfect for active states, fulfilling difficult tasks and concentrated reflecting. In other words, listening to binaural beats should set the brain for work and help it with all the important tasks. Most often, binaural beats for work are mixed into some calm music, because it’s much easier to listen to than just some noise (if you’re not a techno-noise fan, of course).
Music in an unfamiliar language
It’s quite obvious, but music with lyrics takes up our brain’s resources even if don’t notice it. While you are passionately solving work problems, you “may not be hearing” the soundtrack in headphones, but your brain “processes” music and wastes energy to make out the lyrics. That’s why music without lyrics or music in an unfamiliar language is the best for work. If you’d ever learned German and remember nothing, then your brain, like Italian mafia, remembers everything. And it will try make out the lyrics outsourcing the energy you were using to fulfill a task. Oh, come on! Is it worth it?
The 2008 research indicated that 48% of office workers are distracted by song lyrics. The researchers observed 689 employees in 11 different companies.
This conclusion was a part of a bigger Cambridge Sound Management research. The scientists had also discovered that human speech is the most distracting factor for a worker. “In average, employees waste more than 21 minutes every day getting distracted by talks”, the researchers state.
That’s why if an employee wants to disguise the speech of surrounding people with music, the scientists advise to choose music without lyrics. Otherwise, loss of concentration because of conversing with colleagues won’t go anywhere because of those lyrics.
Game music is specifically composed the way that it doesn’t distract you from the gameplay and doesn’t bother you at the same time. That’s why game soundtracks are perfect for working. Choose compositions without lyrics out of those that play in the background during fights. Besides, if you choose music from your favorite game, it will surely cheer you up. By the way, the next item in our list is exactly about favorite music.
Your favorite music causes an increase of dopamine (one of pleasure hormones). This effect baffles scientists. But it’s beneficial for common people. It doesn’t matter exactly which composition cheers you up. It will help you during work anyway. There no mysteries in your favorite music; you know it perfectly well and your brain loves it, because it likes familiar routes. When you listen to long-known compositions, the brain doesn’t strain itself anticipating the melody or analyzing the lyrics. Thus, all your attention stays focused on your work. And, as a bonus, you get a great mood!
Conclusion. Different music for different work
Choosing a music genre and an artist/songwriter you should also be driven by your occupation:
Classical music while working with numbers during work, which demands attention to details. As we wrote in the beginning of this article, classical music helps concentrate and keep in mind small details. That’s why they are perfect for economists, accountants, and those who work with numbers. By the way, cinema created an interesting tendency. Both genius detectives and genius criminals very often listen to classical music in cinema.
Mozart for comprehending new information. Classical music might have a different effect. Californian scientists found out that music written by Mozart improves the brain activity, especially in the process of memorizing and comprehension of new information 0im. That’s why if somebody needs to urgently learn a speech for, let’s say, winning an Oscar, try learning it with the sounds of 40th symphony.
Popular music for data inputting and working within deadlines. Popular music increases the effectiveness of task fulfilling, which have to do with data inputting up to 58%. Moreover, it increases your working pace and reduces the chances of making a mistake up to 14%.
Ambient for monotonous work, or the one that needs high concentration. This genre without lyrics, made up by Brian Ino, will help you focus and evade unnecessary mistakes. It probably won’t have any groundbreaking effect on you, but it will most definitely help your concentration.
Dance music for resolving problems and issues, and proof-reading. Cheerful music, the sounds of will which make your body rhythmically twitch, will be great for doing work that has to do with finding mistakes, spell-checking and proof-reading.
Rock music or techno for those who need to keep cheerful whole day long. For instance, it’s great for programmers and developers. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-04/udoh-bm042309.php  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053810015001130  https://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.4920363  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165862/