Psychologist explains why Lofi Girl is perfect for staying focused, which music will keep your studies on track

  • The best study songs should be slow with a consistent rhythm and should not have distracting lyrics – also, don’t play your favourite tunes
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Doris Wai |

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Lo-fi music’s relaxing beats can help you focus on your work. Photo: Captured from YouTube / Lofi Girl

As the new school year kicks off, you might be looking for ways to relax while poring over incoming assignments. For many, music is not only a go-to source of calm but also keeps them in the zone.

Adrian Low, a chartered psychologist who specialises in stress research, tells Young Post how certain music genres can help people de-stress as well as set the tone for better concentration.

“Music can be useful in blocking out distractions, especially when there is background noise or visual interference in the surroundings,” Low explained. “Listening to music is a good way of anchoring down and focusing on the task at hand.”

How to find the best music for studying

With that said, not all types of music are conducive to studying. The psychologist explained that tunes without lyrics, such as classical music, jazz and nature sounds, could improve productivity for most people.

The best music for studying also varies from one person to another. Low cited a 2012 study conducted by Cardiff Metropolitan University researchers which showed that if people listen to songs they dislike, it decreases productivity. Surprisingly, grooving to their favourite tracks can cause them to lose focus, too. The researchers found that listening to music while doing an unfamiliar task could also be distracting.

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“Language plays a part too. It can actually be distracting if a song is in a language that we understand because we will be drawn into the music,” Low added.

Another factor to consider is the beat. The psychologist suggested choosing songs between 60 to 70 beats per minute (bpm), such as jazz, and avoiding those with jarring sounds or sudden changes in tempo.

The trick to making music work for you, according to Low, is sticking to slow, ambient music with a consistent rhythm. It is best if the songs have no lyrics or are in a language you don’t understand. It should also be a genre that you feel neutral about.

Why Lofi Girl’s beats work so well

Lo-fi, short for “low fidelity”, describes tracks recorded with flaws such as background noise or sounds like raindrops or soft taps.

A popular source of this genre is the Lofi Girl YouTube channel. The page is popular for its live-stream which plays relaxing lo-fi hip-hop music on a loop alongside a Japanese-style animation of a girl studying at her desk.

According to Low, lo-fi music is not only relaxing, but its tempo – usually between 60bpm and 90bpm – can also keep listeners engaged in their tasks without falling asleep.

“The music in Lofi Girl does not feature lyrics, so it does not take your attention away, especially for those who are reading and writing,” he noted, adding that the channel’s repeated tracks made it predictable, minimising distraction.

However, the psychologist pointed out the real-time comments in such streams could be distracting. He suggested keeping your eyes away from the YouTube page as much as possible.

Low also cautioned against raising the volume above 85 decibels, which is similar to the sound of a food blender or hair dryer. Keeping the noise at a moderate level is especially important when using headphones because this reduces the risk of damaging your ears.

“Studying to music can put your brain in the right frame of mind, but at the end of the day, we should not be too distracted by the song itself,” he said.

Click here for a printable worksheet and interactive exercises about this story.

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