• Maisie Loh

How Music Can Help You Focus


If you are the type who turns on music while you are working or studying good news for you. Those who listen to music when carrying out certain tasks help you to improve focus, block out distractions, and make unenjoyable work enjoyable. But how does music help you stay focus?


Music & Brain Waves


A study by the Cambridge sciences team found that background music can alter a listener’s mood (happy or sad) and arousal states (positive or negative). Participants in the study listened to four types of music while performing three memory tasks:


1. High arousal, positive music with an upbeat tempo, and happy harmonics like Ghosts N Stuff by Deadmau5.


2. High arousal, negative music with upbeat tempo but with darker and ominous chord structures like Tempting Time - Animals as Leaders.


3. Low arousal, positive music with a slow tempo but with happy major chords, like Hello My Lovely by Charlie Haden Quartet West.


4. Low arousal, negative music with a slow tempo and accompanied by minor chords causing feelings of despondency like Prelude in E Minor by Frederic Chopin.


The participants also performed the same tasks without listening to music. The result? It turns out that memory performance was the best when participants listened to low arousal, negative music, and worst for high arousal negative music. Compared to silence, background music had either no effect on some participants or impeded memory performance.


Music Lessons Improve Focus


Although listening to low arousal, negative music helps to support focus, it is a passive activity and not as engaging as music lessons. The combination of learning music theory, chords, and technique of playing an instrument and memorizing music notes requires and supports focused attention.


Studying music has been found to increase intelligence in a long-term sustainable fashion. During the process of musical training, executive functions of the brain act as mediators in the increase of intelligence. Attention is most often referred to as the foundation of executive function as it is one of the two most influential functions when studying music. The other influential executive function is inhibition.


Beta and Alpha Brain Waves


A study of 30 subjects of participants aged 14 to 19 participated in a study to find out the effects of music on the brain waves. The brain gives out theta waves when asleep and delta waves when in deep sleep. Beta waves are produced when the brain is awake with mental activity and alpha waves measure the awake and resting state. Beta waves will be higher when a participant is focused or thinking while alpha waves will be more abundant when the brain is relaxed. For the study, only the beta and alpha brain waves are studied.


17 of the subjects had been studying music for at least five years and 13 had never studied music in their lives. EEG was used to measure brain waves in the various activities the subjects participated in. The first task was a reading and math exam of nine total questions to find out each subject’s maximum attention potential. In both tasks, the music test group had a narrower range in their beta brain waves compared to the non-music group.


Another task measured the level of relaxation by getting the subjects to try to relax or meditate as fully as possible for a minute. This experiment measured the participants’ alpha waves. Again, the range for the music group was narrower than the non-music group. It is apparent that while trying to relax and focus on meditating the music group was more successful. The conclusion of this study is that musicians had significantly higher maximum attention values than the non-musicians.


Want to Learn Music For Better Focus?


Ritmo Music Studio offers music lessons in the keyboard, ukulele, guitar, and percussion. The studio is able to accommodate and tailor their program to meet your schedules. If you would like to build your child’s attention at an early age, do sign your child up for a trial lesson to find out which instrument resonates with him/her.


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