Studies show music helps students prepare to learn

Listening to music can help you study, reduce stress and depression and give you a general feeling of well-being, according to experts.

However, one size does not fit all when it comes to music and studying.

"The music that might help one person study might drive another up the wall," said Cynthia Green Libby, a music professor. "It depends on the person and his or her personal relationship to various types of music."

Some students enjoy soft background music when studying.

"My favorite studying song is 'Lucky 13' by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn," said Zachary Gearon, a junior anthropology major. "There are no lyrics, and their style is mellow enough to keep me concentrated on studying but intricate enough to get my mind working."

Listening to music prior to studying increases memory and attention by increasing stimulation and positive moods, according to a 2010 study from the School of Psychology at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff. The study found that listening to music while studying may actually serve as a distraction and negatively affect performance.

"I like to listen to 'Come Sail Away' by Styx right before I study but not always during because I often find myself singing," said Nicole Harshbarger, a second-year graduate student studying deaf education. "It's uplifting with a nice melody, which makes me happy and relaxes me so that I feel prepared to learn."

Other students, such as Lauren Veyrehen, prefer to study with no music.

"I don't like to listen to music while I'm studying because I get distracted and end up focusing on the music more than what I'm trying to study," said Veyrehen, a senior chemistry major who played bass, piano and alto saxophone in high school.

Libby said a trained musician will generally be distracted by music of any kind when trying to study because they have been trained to listen actively with their whole being: mind, body and spirit.

"Silence is the optimum environment for concentration," Libby said. "As a musician, I can attest to this."

The positive effects on studying that can come from music may be attributed to a mood-boost, according to the Pennsylvania State University research "Daily Music Listening Habits in College Students: Related Moods and Activities," published in Psychology and Education/An Interdisciplinary Journal in 2003. The study found that students reported more positive emotions after listening to music and their already positive emotions were intensified.

One size fits more when it comes to music positively affecting your physical health. Listening to music can reduce chronic pain by up to 21 percent and depression by up to 25 percent while increasing feelings of power, according to a press release from the Journal of Advanced Nursing in May 2006.

Libby, a certified harp therapy practitioner, said in a Missouri State press release in 2008 that documented studies reveal that 20 minutes of live harp music by a certified harp therapy practitioner can reduce pain and anxiety, elevate mood, increase a sense of well-being and spark pleasant memories.

"Ongoing studies have shown that stress reduction increases the release of endorphins, (which are) chemicals (that) promote healing and increase immunity," Libby said.

In the end, Libby said it depends on the person and their psychological and emotional associations with various types of music.

"This will help to determine the best environment for you and, hopefully, make you more courteous of the needs of others within earshot of your speaker system."