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Classical Basics

How classical music can help you study

Can classical music improve your brain function? Multiple studies have proved that listening to the classics stimulates focus, lowers blood pressure and aids relaxation, all of which help students become more receptive to information as they prepare for their academic challenges.

“Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory,” says Dr. Masha Godkin, a professor of Marriage and Family Sciences at National University in San Diego.

Listen Best classical music for studying

She adds that music burrows deep and alters our very brainwaves.

Research from France’s University of Caen, published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who attended a lecture accompanied by classical music scored significantly higher on a post-lecture test compared with those who heard no music.

“It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple-choice quiz,” the Caen researchers write. 

Do you suffer from sleepless nights before the big test? Tossing and turning can be a thing of the past when you add classical music to your bedtime routine. (Listen to YourClassical’s Sleep Stream.) Researchers at the University of Toronto found that works by Johannes Brahms, George Frideric Handel, Johann Strauss Jr. and Johann Sebastian Bach were effective sleep aids because their rhythms and tonal patterns slow brainwaves and create a meditative mood.

It apparently works even if you aren’t paying attention. A Russian study published in Human Physiology found that children who listened to classical music for an hour a day over six months while performing other tasks showed brain changes indicating greater levels of relaxation. (Listen to YourClassical’s Relax Stream.)

The Duke Cancer Institute found that music (in this study’s case, Bach’s concertos) lessened anxiety in patients about to undergo medical procedures. And a University of San Diego study found that people who listen to classical music have lower systolic blood pressure than those who listen to jazz or pop music.

Of course, there are many modes of classical music, and it’s important to choose the right pieces to foster the most effective mood. In other words, stay away from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture or John Williams’ dramatic movie scores. Most choral music, which can become a distraction, is unconducive as well.

Music that imitates the heartbeat, with 60 to 70 beats per minute (think Ludwig van Beethoven’s Für Elise), is a good choice. And although the 1993 study detailing the “Mozart effect” on spatial reasoning that created such excitement (and CD sales to parents) has been somewhat discredited, that composer’s work is still a fine option.

Are you convinced, but still need ideas? Check out YourClassical’s playlist of the best classical music for studying.

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