As we scroll on YouTube, there’s a chance that you would see a cartoon character listening to music while studying. The ‘Beats to study/relax to’ type of videos usually garner a lot of views. Some say that they are studying for a test or are doing their assignments. Some also say that they are relaxing or sleeping to it. But the focus of this article involves the former, studying. As questioned by the title, are there any reasons to listen to lo-fi while studying? Are there any benefits of listening to it? Let’s find out in this article.
Graphic by Sarah Harman | U.S. Department of Energy
Let’s start out by debunking some claims. The claims that lo-fi or music helps focus and boosts memories are not wrong but not totally correct. Those claims are just side effects of what music does to the human psyche. Listening to good enjoyable music does not directly improve your concentration and memories; it just puts you in a good mood.
This conclusion was reached when multiple studies were conducted to determine whether the Mozart effect was real. The Mozart effect refers to the theory by Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw, and Catherine Ky (1993) that listening to the music of Mozart may temporarily increase spatial intelligence. According to the research paper titled “Prelude or Requiem for the ‘Mozart Effect’?” (1999), it states:
“Any cognitive enhancement is small and does not reflect any change in IQ or reasoning ability in general, but instead derives entirely from performance on one specific type of cognitive task and has a simple neuropsychological explanation” – Chabris (1999).
The factor behind the result was not directly from the music, it is the effect of music on our emotional state. When put in a positive and good mood, it increases our capabilities to further concentrate and boosts our performance on visual-spatial tasks.
Putting Mozart aside, what about lo-fi?
As discussed, it’s not the music or the genre of the music that gives the effects. As long as the music can put you in a better and happier mood, it can temporarily buff your cognitive capabilities. So, if you enjoy lo-fi, you can listen to it. Enjoy jazz or classical? Listen to it.
But this is not to say that all music is created equal. Though it was stated that listening to music that you enjoy can help, there are some types of music that are better avoided. The worst enemy of concentration is distraction. Music with lyrics or have fast tempo is more likely to distract you than help you concentrate. But that’s not the only factor. If you listen to some calm and soothing jazz, cranking the volume up is also another way of getting distracted. That’s the most optimal type of music is those that are slow and only contain instrumental that is played at a low volume.
This perfectly circles back to our topic and main question, lo-fi. My simple answer is, yeah. Lo-fi definitely checked all the boxes of not being distracting, and if you enjoy lo-fi it’s more reason to listen to it. But this also applies to other genres as well such as classical, jazz, reggae, ambient, etc. With all these said, it is also based on each individual. Every individual is unique. While some people may prefer listening to music or have some noises playing in the background while they do work or study, some may also prefer complete silence. Me? I like classical.
*Cover photo credit: Karolina Grabowska | U.S. Department of Energy
Ahmad Hashri | Degree in German Language and Linguistic, University of Malaya