What Music to Listen to for Improving Focus While Working

Khamosh Pathak

I don’t need to sell you on the fact that when you’re studying, working or just trying to focus, sometimes, some kind of music helps. Of course, blasting hip-hop isn’t going to help when you’re trying to memorize the periodic table. It’s the same when you’re trying to do complex tasks at work.

Music while you work

But some kind of music is always a great kicker. Something to get your blood pumping, get you out of the lazy trance and focused on the work at hand. Of course, this music can’t be just any music. It can’t be the latest Top 40 charts. It has to meet some criteria. Not having lyrics helps. Electronic music is amazingly appropriate here. Even Classical/Jazz will do.

If you’re still doubting if you should be listening to music while you work/study, read through this excellent Lifehacker article. And then join me below while I talk about some of my favorite songs/albums to listen to while I work.

1. All Day – Girl Talk (Mashup)

All Day is not a normal album (it’s also explicit). It’s a mashup album. It’s basically a 71 minute long DJ track that flows wonderfully. The artist samples a song for 20-30 seconds, while mixing it with the beats of another song. It’s amazing.

I first heard CGP Grey talk about it on Cortex and since then it has been my go-to pump up album. That’s because it has an amazing intro. It starts slowly, goes up to 11, and never comes back down.

Normally, I don’t like listening to songs with lyrics while I work but here, I don’t mind it. Because they’re not really lyrics, more like snippets. Plus, there’s always 3 different kind of music playing to drown out the lyrics.

All Day is mostly a mashup of electronic, rock and pop. If you’re more into rap and hip-hop, check out Girl Talk’s equally great album Feed The Animals.

Now, because these are mashup albums. You won’t find them easily on any streaming service. But you can get them on a pay-what-you-want basis directly from the artist’s website.

2. Amelie Soundtrack (Instrumental)

Now, the exact opposite of All Day is Amelie’s soundtrack. If you’ve seen the movie, you must have been awestruck by the soundtrack. I was. To me, the music is really soothing. And I put it on usually at night, or when I want to calm down.

The soundtracks of Midnight to Paris (iTunes) and The Lord of the Rings (iTunes) also have the same effect on me. Also, anything my Frank Sinatra I’ve already heard. I don’t have an extensive knowledge when it comes to Miles Davis or Nina Simone, but I bet any smooth Jazz will have the same effect.

Discovering more with Apple Music: I recently started using Apple Music to discover more music I might like and so far I’m really enjoying their Sunday Morning Jazz playlist. Also, they have a whole curation section dedicated to “working” and “studying” activities. You’re bound to find some good stuff there. To know how to get there, check out my article.

3. Going Classical

There’s a thing called “The Mozart Effect”. Basically, a bunch of studies show that listening to Mozart’s music may improve your performance – at least on a short-term scale. I mean, if science says so, it must be right.

I can personally say that it is effective. Listening to Beethoven’s Symphonies or Mozart or Bach. I’m not a sucker for classical music, really. It doesn’t orgasmically make my eyes roll back into my brain. But it’s nice. There’s a flow. There’s a rhythm. The instruments are clear, sometimes to a fault. But overall, it’s a solid alternative to listening to something like the Amelie soundtrack. It’s like Jazz before there was Jazz, you know. Yes, I’m super knowledgeable when it comes to music.

4. Duet by Tim Shiel (Game Music)

When I was playing the puzzle game Duet and getting frustrated every 30 seconds, what kept me going was the background music. It was really good. So I looked it up. The soundtrack is by Tim Shiel and it’s available on Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want model.

It’s been written about before, but game soundtracks work especially well when you’re trying to work. Because they’re designed to help you focus on the game and forget about the rest of the world. Duet’s soundtrack is eccentrically electronic and I like that.

The soundtrack to Fez is also similar. Check out more recommendations for game soundtracks here.

5. Retro-Active Pt. 1

Retro-Active Pt 1 is a project by Keiji Yamagishi, a musician who specializes in game soundtracks. And man is this album good. It’s kind of like All Day in that it’s eccentric, gets my blood pumping, but somehow it also manages to put a smile on my face.

I don’t know if it’s because it sounds like every 90’s game intro ever or if it’s the sick beats. Anyway, I like it a lot. The album is available on Apple Music and the remixed version is available to stream for free on SoundCloud.

What About You?

What do you listen to while you work? Feel free to share the soundtracks that help you focus in the comments section below.

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