Music to Improve Focus in the Workplace

Motivation and a conducive environment are key to building and maintaining a productive workplace. Consider proactively implementing proven methods to increase motivation and enhance the environment around you to boost your productivity in the workplace. One way to boost productivity is by listening to the right kind of music while you work.

Music can make it easier to improve your concentration, relieve anxiety, and provide a better environment for focus and productivity. There is a psychological principle in music therapy known as the “iso principle,” which essentially provides a frame of reference for how different styles and genres of music can have a lasting impact on a person’s mood, mindset, and motivation.

Some types of music are more effective tools for focus than others in the workplace. For example, even if you love show tunes, listening to songs that you know all the lyrics to may prove to be more of a distraction than a tool for improved focus. The factors that determine if a particular type of music is ideal in terms of focus and concentration include:

Complexity of structure: Music that has a more intense or complex structure tends to be less effective in terms of focus and concentration.

Lyrics: Music with lyrics is shown to be less effective in terms of focus and concentration and may prove to be a distraction.

Personal habit: If you are not used to listening to music while you work or study, it may pull from focus.

Thinking style: Some people are creative thinkers while others rely more on scientific or analytical reasoning. People who struggle to shut out external factors or think more in-depth or analytically about the tasks before them may not benefit from music, whereas creative thinkers typically show improvement with the addition of music.

The task at hand: Some tasks may not be well-suited for having music in the background. For example, accounting or mathematical tasks may require intense focus that should not be interrupted.

Many different genres of music can improve focus, but the following genres are ideal for improved concentration in the workplace:

Classical music

Classical music is an effective type of music to listen to while working because its sounds are developed around piano, string or woodwind instrument composition. This type of music also has no lyrics, which may make it easier to focus and stimulate the mind. Some examples of classical music composers include:

Ludwig van Beethoven: A German composer known for works such as Moonlight Sonata and Für Elise.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: An Austrian composer who excelled in writing and composing for every musical genre of his time. Some of his notable works include The Marriage of Figaro and Elvira Madigan.

Johann Sebastian Bach: A German organist and composer known for works such as Brandenburg Concertos and The Well-Tempered Clavier.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: A popular Russian composer best known for his works for ballet, including Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.

Frédéric Chopin: A Polish-French composer well known for his piano compositions, including Nocturne and Heroic Polonaise.

Nature sounds

Both music that contains an overlay of nature sounds and music that is wholly composed of sounds from nature can be relaxing and increase focus by cultivating a peaceful atmosphere. Nature sounds may consist of animal noises, weather or other forces of nature. For example, nature sounds often include:

Birds chirping
A flowing stream
Rain hitting the roof
Crickets chirping
Ocean waves
A crackling fire

Video game music

Video game music is a good way to increase productivity for gamers and non-gamers alike. There is a wide spectrum of video game music available to choose from in terms of ideal sound and structure. Video game music very rarely has words and can be fantastical and melodic or upbeat and motivating. Video game music is specifically designed to incite a certain mental state. This state can make it easier to stay motivated to focus on your work.

Ambient noise

Ambient noise can be played with or without music and provides a calming environment for focus. This is because ambient sounds are those that humans hear often, and this familiarity means they are not processed as new or distracting noises. For example, ambient noise could be:

Coffee shop chattering
City sounds
Children laughing
A cat purring

Instrumentals

Instrumentals are a great choice for focus music because not only do these selections not include lyrics, but they can also be derived from any genre of music. This allows the listener to decide on what genre or style of music they would like to listen to without having to worry about getting distracted by lyrics.

An example of this type of music would be a piano cover of a popular pop song. Also, there are numerous instrumental playlists available on streaming services and content creation platforms that feature a wide variety of genres, so finding the right playlist for you is a simple task.

Epic fantasy music

Fantasy music often comes from film or television scores. These types of arrangements are typically already intended to be motivational. Some examples of popular culture fantasy and sci-fi films and series that are known for their epic music include:

Lord of the Rings
Harry Potter
Star Wars
Game of Thrones
Indiana Jones
Labyrinth
The Mummy
Edward Scissorhands

Lo-fi beats

Lo-fi is short for low-fidelity, and this type of music often specifically enhances imperfections in sound mixing that act as a sort of white noise. Songs of this genre are typically notable for their steady beat and very rarely feature lyrics. Lo-fi is created through the conscious implementation of the following elements:

Sample: A sample or small selection of a song’s chorus or melody is isolated and used throughout the arrangement.

Beat: Lo-fi usually consists of a steady, rhythmical beat.

Bass line: The bass line in lo-fi is typically elevated, but it is also steady and smooth.

Mixing: Lo-fi tracks typically don’t mirror the original audio’s patterns, but instead, they present as something entirely new.

Effects: Record scratches or imperfections may be added to act as background noise.

White noise

White noise is a type of sound that has a flat spectral density. In other words, it is sound developed with a continuous frequency designed to block out external sounds, which can be used to help you focus, concentrate or sleep. This particular frequency of noise does not disturb a concentrated or restful mind and can be found via some of the most common household items, such as:

Fan sounds
Television static
Air conditioner noise

Source: Herrity, J. (2023)
Music Psychology Center – MPC
[email protected]

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