Classes for the fall semester are just starting up, bringing with them an onslaught of new assignments, papers and tests. After a summer of relaxing by the pool, or even working a job, returning to a studious mindset can be difficult.
What’s one thing that I can’t live without when trying to self-motivate a study session? Music! The right tunes can help block out distractions and set the tone for your work. Whether you love music with lyrics while studying or can’t stand them, and no matter what platform you use (Spotify, Pandora or good old-fashioned CDs!), this list has something for the worker bee in everyone.
1. “The Head and The Heart” album – The Head and the Heart
The Head and the Heart are the folksy Seattle band your gray study days have been looking for. The band’s distinct music can be attributed to lead vocalists Josiah Johnson and Charity Rose Thielen, whose harmonies define the band’s standout sound from other folk artists.
Though all of their albums create a calm atmosphere, the original, self-titled “The Head and The Heart” is still my personal go-to for study sessions. Use this one to stay focused and calm when homework seems overwhelming.
2. “Paracosm” album – Washed Out
Washed Out has the chill tunes that will speak to the hipster college student in all of us. The music of Washed Out, a.k.a. Ernest Greene, has been described as “nostalgic, hypnotic bedroom electro-disco pop.”
The songs are mostly atmospheric sound with minimal lyrics, making it perfect for deep focus or reading for school. Start with 2013’s “Paracosm,” and then work your way backward and forward with 2011 album “Within and Without” and new release “Mister Mellow,” from 2017.
3. and 4. “Thank Your Lucky Stars” and “Depression Cherry” albums – Beach House
For even more dreamy vibes, but with a female lead, check out American pop group Beach House and their latest releases, only a few months apart, from 2015. Like Washed Out, Beach House provides the right mix of instruments and lyrics to keep a study session focused while also providing a mellow, calm feel. With these albums on in the background, your intimidating midterm won’t seem so scary anymore.
5. Film Scores Radio on Pandora
Not a big fan of lyrics, but still want something familiar? Turn to Film Scores Radio on Pandora. It compiles the best instrumental music from films of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The lack of lyrics provides good background noise, and many of the upbeat scores inspire action and success! Who doesn’t feel like they can conquer the world while listening to John Williams’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark” score, or the Harry Potter theme music?
6. Acoustic Covers Playlist on Spotify
These songs are familiar enough to feel comforting, but different enough to avoid distracting (albeit fun) dance parties. The arrangements are often slower and looser than their original radio-hit counterparts, creating a playlist that is both enjoyable and easily able to fade into the background.
Tune in for strummy covers of “Billie Jean,” “Hotline Bling” and “Despacito,” among others. Another perk? At five hours and fifty-nine minutes, it will last even the longest of study sessions.
7. Jane Austen Soundtracks Playlist on Spotify
Alright, I know what you’re thinking: What if I want instrumental music that is based off not movies, but my favorite historical author?! Okay, maybe you weren’t thinking this, but if there are any English buffs out there, this one is for you.
Spotify recently compiled songs from all of the movie versions of classic Jane Austen novels, like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma,” onto one neat playlist. I used this frequently over the summer to boost my mood, as many of the instrumental arrangements are cheerful, and to pretend I was as cool as Jane Austen while writing my own assignments! Use it to bring out the inner scholar in you.
8. Classical for Studying Radio on Pandora
Do you really need to buckle down, and tune out that annoying study group behind you at the library? Sometimes the best answers are the simplest. Pandora’s straightforward “Classical for Studying” radio station can be just the thing to pull you through an intense all-nighter, or help you get the most out of that free hour in your schedule for test studying.
Classical music has been proven through numerous studies to have positive effects on the brain while working, as reported by USC News, and this playlist is no exception. Keep it on repeat when you can’t avoid crunch time!
9. Any Noise Effect on the Calm Sound Website
Are you one of those people who doesn’t need music, just white noise to block out your noisy roommate? Check out www.calmsounds.com, where you can listen for free to a range of nature sounds, including “Rain,” “Country Garden” and “Thunderstorm.” The nature noises have a doubly calming and noise-cancelling effect, perfect for the most stubborn of distracted students.
10. Have a Great Day! Playlist on Spotify
Finally, the finish line is almost near! Are you working on a creative project, or repetitive task that requires less focus and more raw motivation to keep you moving toward that perfect A? Do you need a break from your almost-done midterm paper to get up and dance? Have A Great Day is the dance party your hard work has earned!
This playlist includes upbeat oldies but goodies like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” and early 2000s jams like OutKast’s “Hey Ya” and Smashmouth’s always-entertaining Shrek theme song, “All Star.” Break this list out when you need to inject some fun and joy into your studies, when you need to remember how important they are for your continued college success! Whatever music you listen to, it should help you become the best, most curious kind of student you can be.