Try this out real fast: before reading the rest of this post, pick out the song that, for you right now, is the song that you just have to sing along to. For me, it’s that “Nothin on you girl” song by B.o.B. Don’t judge…it’s catchy.
Whatever it is for you, find it now.
Press play. Now read this:
Music is an integral part of an optimal study environment. The reason is that music actually corresponds and affects your physiological conditions. During heavy mental work, your pulse and blood pressure tend to rise, your brain waves speed up, and your muscles become tense. During relaxation and meditation, your pulse and blood pressure decrease, and your muscles relax. Normally, it’s difficult to concentrate when you’re deeply relaxed, and it’s difficult to relax when you’re concentrating intently.
Think for a moment: was it easy to read that paragraph while listening to the song? Without looking back, how much information were you able to comprehend and retain while listening? Were you distracted by the music at all?
Try reading the paragraph again.
Did you get more out of it this time around? Why?
Most likely, with your fave song playing, you felt some degree of distraction. Of course, some people have an easier time drowning out lyrics than others. Regardless, our brains all work relatively in the same way.
Ready for some awesome brain info?
We know that the brain has two hemispheres – left and right. For the most part, the right hemisphere handles creative, abstract, aesthetic information, while the left hemi deals mostly in logic, recall, and structure. Most of this sounds familiar so far, right?
What you may not know (unless you attended our Facilitator training a couple of weeks ago) is that retention and learning happen most effectively when the two sides of your brain are balanced. What do you mean by balanced brain, Jake? Well, this simply means that neither side is processing more than the other. For instance, if you are listening to Jason Derulo or something (and of course you know every word), the left side of your brain is concentrating on recalling the lyrics, drowning out most other thoughts. The right side is enjoying the beat, keyboard sounds, melody, and other aesthetic wonders – but it is definitely not as active as the left side.
If you tried to get down to Jason while doing homework, the left side of your brain (which you need to recall what you learned in class) will be almost exclusively focusing on the words of the song, keeping you from reaching that precious info buried in your head. I’m sorry to say it, but your favorite singer needs to go away during homework/study time.
But, if you’ve been to SuperCamp, you probably noticed that we use music – a lot. We use music to set the mood as well as to match it. For example, when you’re trying out some awesome strategies in academic rotations, there is most often baroque music played at low volume in the background. However, during breaks, we play loud, upbeat popular music because it encourages physical activity (dance circles, anyone?) and helps to create a positive, upbeat mood.
Obviously, music is great for learning. Dr. Georgi Lozanov, whose accelerated learning techniques are the basis for our summer enrichment programs, was one of the earliest researchers to discover the benefits of music in learning.
So how do I use music to maximize study time at home?
Well, the music Dr. Lozanov found most conducive to learning is baroque music, like that of Bach, Handel, Pachelbel, and Vivaldi. These composers used very specific beats and patterns that automatically synchronize our minds with our bodies. For instance, most baroque music is timed at sixty beats per minute, which is the same as an average resting heart rate.
Going back to our left/right brain struggle, baroque music also helps get the two hemispheres balanced. The right side of your brain is going to focus exclusively on Bach’s Oboe Concerto in D minor, while the left will be able to zone in on whatever you are studying. The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learning and retention of information. Huzzah!
Don’t have any baroque music lying around the house? No worries, you can stream a great deal of music for free on the internet at sites like Pandora.com or Grooveshark.com.
Classical music not your thing? That’s ok, try it out for a little while and see how it feels. As a self-proclaimed music addict, I’ve definitely experimented with other types of music while studying/working. I’ve found that Minimal Electronic music is also very effective in studying. Don’t just try anything though. You are looking for music that is non-lyrical and consistent in rhythm. Anything that switches up beats, sounds, or melodies quickly will be crazy distracting. My favorite songs to work to are by a band called “The Field.” Definitely worth checking out if you want to get an idea of what I mean.
Start studying to the right kinds of music and you could be amazed at the results. And next time your mom storms upstairs during homework time to tell you to turn your music down, you can say, “Mom, it’s good for my brain!”