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Listening to music while studying can increase your brainpower.
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Classical Basics

Best classical music for studying

Listening to classical music while studying doesn’t guarantee you’ll ace your test and won’t complete that essay for you, but it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve memory and increase your brainpower — perfect for concentrating.

So, what music should you play to produce these beneficial effects?

  • Choose music that keeps you awake (important for an all-nighter).

  • But don’t pick something that distracts you or causes you to start tapping your toes.

  • Quiet and reflective is better than bombastic.

The Relax stream, linked above, offers many works that can help you focus. In addition, here’s a playlist for your next study session.

“To a Wild Rose,” by Edward MacDowell: Part of the composer’s Woodland Sketches, it captures a contemplative walk through a garden. Often played as a piano solo, here it is scored for plaintive flute and gentle guitar.

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MacDowell: To a Wild Rose
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“Au Lac de Wallenstadt” (“At Lake Wallenstadt”), by Franz Liszt: The undulating melodic waves of this movement from Years of Pilgrimage will make studying seem like a day at the beach.

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Liszt: Au Lac de Wallenstadt
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Canon, by Johann Pachelbel: The tune that launched a thousand brides has a recurring melody that nicely accompanies the repetition involved in hitting the books.

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Pachelbel: Canon
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“The Swan,” by Camille Saint-Saëns: This penultimate movement from Carnival of the Animals conjures the bird’s grace with its elegant legato, reminding the scholar to take things slow and easy.

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Saent-Saens: The Swan
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“Hear Us in Heaven,” by Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Yes, there are those pesky, distracting words, but they are sung in a mesmerizing Icelandic chant that provides a meditative backdrop.

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Thorvaldsdottir: Hear Us in Heaven
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Rêverie, by Claude Debussy: The title means “dream,” but there’s just enough movement in this lush melody to keep you awake and on task.

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Debussy: Reverie
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“Alla Sarabande,” by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: The composer said that this achingly lovely movement from Generations (Sinfonietta No. 2) was dedicated to the matriarchs who offered “guidance for life’s journey.”

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Perkinson: Alla Sarabande
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Echorus, by Philip Glass: The composer’s looping, layered soundscapes are tailor-made for studying. Glass has said this work was meant to evoke feelings of serenity and peace.

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Glass: Echorus
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“Sarabande,” by Edvard Grieg: Remember the no-toe-tapping rule? This pensive movement from Holberg Suite has been described as “not too danceable.”

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Grieg: Sarabande
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“Arioso,” by Johann Sebastian Bach: The familiar sinfonia from one of Bach’s cantatas gets the oboe treatment in this recording, with strings providing the tranquil counterpoint.

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Bach: Arioso
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“Memory Waltz,” by Bernard Herrmann: Movie scores often lean toward the, yes, cinematic — that is, dramatic. This number from 1952’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro is more delicately expressed, and even its name is apt.

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Herrmann: Memory Waltz
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Recollection, by Rachel Portman: To tie it all up, finish with another “memorable” title. Portman plays her own composition, bolstered nicely by Caroline Dale’s mellow cello.

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Portman: Recollection
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