The Power Of Music I Oxford Open Learning


    The Power Of Music

    Enhancing Focus And Productivity

    Do you listen to music whilst studying? Many of us, whether we’re studying, working, or simply trying to concentrate on a task, turn to music as a companion. But have you ever wondered why music seems to help us focus?

    The Brain’s Love Affair With Music

    Music has a unique ability to captivate our brains (hence you might get a jingle stuck in your head), but not all music is created equal in the eyes (or rather, ears) of our brains. Research by Dr Maria Witek, Associate Professor at University of Birmingham, suggests that there’s a specific spectrum of musical properties that the brain prefers, with a medium level of syncopation (a musical term that refers to the deliberate disruption or displacement of the regular, expected rhythm within a piece of music) hitting the sweet spot. This explains why certain types of music, like funky tunes, are more enjoyable and conducive to concentration than others.

    Attention And Distraction

    Our brains are equipped with two attention systems: a conscious one that we can direct, and an unconscious one that operates in the background. When we engage in tasks that require prolonged focus, the unconscious attention system remains active and can easily be distracted, especially if the task is perceived as dull or unpleasant (like washing up, revision etc). This is where music comes in handy, providing non-invasive noise and pleasurable feelings to neutralise distractions and keep us on track.

    Choosing The Right Tune

    While classical music is a popular choice for many, personal preference plays a significant role. Studies, for instance in “Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance” and the “Journal of Music Therapy”, suggest that genre you enjoy can enhance focus, while music you dislike may impede it. Another reason classical is often preferred is because instrumental music without lyrics does not tend to draw our attention away from the task at hand so much.

    The Rise Of The Video Game Soundtrack

    Perhaps surprisingly for some, one genre of music that’s gaining recognition for its concentration-boosting abilities is video game soundtracks! Designed to create immersive environments without distracting from gameplay, these soundtracks have been refined over decades to strike the perfect balance between stimulation and focus. This makes sense: if you are playing a game, trying to solve a problem, or complete a level – you want to focus!


    Music isn’t just background noise; it’s a powerful tool that can enhance our concentration and productivity. By understanding the science behind music’s effect on the brain and choosing the right tunes for the task at hand, we can unlock our full potential and achieve greater focus in our daily lives. So, the next time you need to buckle down and get to work, consider putting on your favourite playlist, preferably without vocalisation, or diving into a video game soundtrack. After all, science has proven: silence is not always golden.



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    Kellie McCord is a private tutor with over eight years of experience. Having been a lecturer and educator in China, India, Finland and the UK, she has a wealth of teaching experiences, allowing her to build rapport with students from all walks of life. Respect and inclusivity is at the heart of Kellie's tutoring, which is why she has Diplomas in the Pedagogy of Dyslexia and Mindfulness, allowing her to work with SEND learners. Kellie's mission is to empower students with the self-belief and confidence to achieve their academic goals and set them up for a life of success. She is also the founder of Uplevel Academy, which you can find more about by following the link below her blog -