Written by: Rachel Clancy on Mon Mar 27

Bach or Beyonce: Are You Bumping Beneficial Beats?

Discover how music influences productivity: From classical to game scores, find out which beats boost focus and creativity, and learn why personal preference plays a crucial role in optimizing your work rhythm.

off white background, graphic illustrations of guitar, record, and microphone in red

We all know someone who insists that their productivity levels are at their best when they listen to classical music. Some say they can’t focus while listening to music with words. Others swear by working to rap, which can be pretty wordy.

So, what’s the verdict? Is there any real proof that listening to a specific type of music boosts productivity more than others? Can music increase productivity?

Lots to ponder. Let’s first establish whether or not music contributes to productivity at all.

Some say music is distracting to work because it’s a form of multitasking, which has been proven time and time again to reduce the efficiency, accuracy, and quality of work.

However, personal tolerance to distraction and background noise plays a big part in whether it’s detrimental multitasking. Others say music with lyrics is distracting, but it comes down to one’s attention span and tolerance to background noise, which is highly individual.

The general consensus is that music can improve both productivity and quality of work, especially when performing repetitive, boring tasks. Upbeat music can boost productivity by maintaining attention in times where focus would otherwise wane.

Is one specific kind of music better for productivity than others?

While the matter is highly complex, here’s a few science-backed genres to get the gears turning.

Classical music

This one is obvious, but for good reason! Classical music has been shown to lessen anxiety, improve focus, and can even aid blood pressure. This kind of music works best in highly stressful working conditions.

Epic Cinematic Music

If you’ve never tried working to the Inception soundtrack, you don’t know what you’re missing. Epic cinematic music can increase productivity because it gives the illusion that you’re on a grand mission. Filing tax returns? No, heading into battle.

Video game music

Video game music is specifically crafted to maintain player concentration and engagement for extended periods of time. Similar to cinematic music, this kind is best when you’re tackling a task you aren’t thrilled about. Subconsciously, your work becomes a mission rather than an obligation.

Ambient music

In the early 20th century, composer Erik Satir set out to make music for dinner parties. It was meant to create an atmosphere, but not attract attention. This set the foundation for what later would be known as ambient music. It walks the line between interesting and ignorable, and is great for keeping focus.

White Noise/Sounds of Nature

Some swear by falling asleep to rain noises, others work to it. White noise and sounds of nature are credited with helping the brain relax. They’re noises we’re so familiar with, yet take attention away from intrusive thoughts and distraction. If you go for this one, just try not to doze off.

It’s all about finding the rhythm that works best for you.

While science is partial to a few kinds of music when it comes to productivity, humans are complex and nuanced creatures that defy statistics habitually. The influence that mood has on brain function is undeniable.

A study with Canadian undergraduate students exposed some students to up-tempo classical music, and down-tempo to others. It was found that those who listened to the upbeat music performed better academically, but the change was only evident in the students who displayed a reliable difference in mood.

The same study performed an experiment on 5-year-old Japanese children creating art. They found that kids drew for longer and produced more creative results after listening to popular children’s music, compared to those who had listened to classical music beforehand.

This study indicated that regardless of the type of music played, mood is a much larger influence on both cognitive and creative activities. There’s strong evidence that listening to the music you prefer can profoundly improve brain function, and therefore boost your work performance.

With so many factors impacting the effect of music on productivity, the best way to improve is to look inward. Be mindful, figure out what works for you, and what doesn’t. Be aware of other potential distractions. Is music really what’s hurting your productivity, or is it your daily doom scroll?

So go ahead. Burn the candle at both ends to Beyonce. Type it out to Taylor Swift. Get that bread to Gorillaz. We aren’t judging!


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