With exam season slowly dipping below the horizon, many of you probably don’t want to think about them again in a hurry. But, for when they inevitably roll around once more, Universal Production Music has something that may just give you the upper hand.
It’s no secret that music has a huge impact on our emotions and state of mind. Instruments, genres and keys have an innate and moving effect on us. As such, they’re used in almost every aspect of our lives. Our cars seem vibrant and cool like the rock music they’re advertised with, our films are deep and sad from the mountain of minor chords, and spas are relaxing simply due to the inexplicable power of pan pipes.
But alongside the tracks designed to make you feel powerfully emotional, there are ones intended to calm you down, help you focus and concentrate. These are particularly interesting when applied to work. Throughout my time at high school, a ‘no music’ rule was imposed almost universally for quiet study – having a supply teacher malleable enough to allow it was a rare treat. Yet, for pretty much every hour of revision I do, I have music on. I find blocking out other sounds and only having the work to focus on is hugely more productive.
In the past, I’ve personally leant towards familiar tracks I know well that fade into the background or else ambient sounds like rain or waves. However, people swear by electronica, whale sounds or even techno. It would it seem it depends on who you ask. Some might say that classical music is incredible, whereas for others it’s white noise or nothing. I’m sure as well that you have your own preferred choice, be it lo-fi or death metal.
Concentration music is incredibly popular – it’s hard to have a scroll on Spotify without stumbling across some of their many playlists, featuring instrumentals, lo-fi beats and more. Used by so many and so often, logically we want to find out – from instrumental guitar tracks all the way to brown noise – which is best?
Universal Production Music, along with Dr Catherine Loveday, has done some serious research into this. They’ve created a concentration playlist you can find here that is quite remarkable. Calmingly predictable but not boring – walking the fine line between the two brilliantly.
The science behind it is very interesting. Subconsciously we are always scanning for outside stimulus, even when we’re engrossed in a task. Anything unexpected – sniffles, conversations, giggles – are all deadly to concentration.
If your brain hears something surprising, it’ll tear you out of your focus. The best way to avoid this, it turns out, is with soothing electronica and techno. Specifically, tracks with a broad range of frequencies that ‘keep our vigilance system engaged but not alerted’, ones that are soft and not too complex. Dr Loveday references the album ‘After Dark’ by Douglas Holmquist as being especially good at this.
The compiled mix makes for interesting listening. It’s not the type of music you’d put on to actively listen to – whether that be to wind down or just for fun, but it does help with focus and concentration if you buy into it properly.
If you want my advice, recover from whatever post-exam antics you had and enjoy these few weeks of bliss without thinking out the set of summer exams. But when the time comes, try out this concentration playlist– it’ll be a whole lot better than the death metal you usually revise too, I promise.
If you want to read more about this and listen to the music for yourself, check out Universal Production Music’s website.
Image: An Min


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