Science-Backed Ways to Get the Most Out of Music

You don’t exactly have to be a scientist to realize that music can profoundly affect your emotions, but it never hurts to gain a better understanding of why that is and how you can take advantage of it in your everyday life.

Music has been scientifically proven to impact all sorts of different areas of the brain—from the movement-driven motor cortex (responsible for foot tapping and dancing), to the emotion and memory-involved hippocampus.  The reason why certain sounds and music genres make you feel the way you feel is because they stimulate different parts of your brain in various combinations and strength.

Now, here’s the fun part: you can use music to activate those parts of your brain when you need them most! Here are five ways you can use certain genres of music to possibly help you perform better in specific situations.

Listen to ambient music, noise or sound effects at a moderate volume when you need to do creative work.

Writers, developers, designers, artists and other types of creatives know how difficult it can be sometimes to do their best work. A number of studies have shown that ambient music, noise or sound effects can help them hit that creative sweet spot better compared to working in silence or while listening to other louder, lyrical varieties of music.

In this case, the lack of lyrics is just as important as the volume it’s played. Both lyrics and a higher volume tend to overwhelm your mind, which is why choosing songs without lyrics and keeping the volume at a moderate, background listening level is key for using it to help boost creativity.

Listen to disco, pop, hip hop, house, dance, or any other type of uptempo music when you’re exercising. 

If you think exercising is easier when you’re listening to your favorite upbeat tunes, well, you’re right! It turns out that music actually helps distract the brain from focusing on those feelings of discomfort or fatigue, which is why you feel like you can push harder for longer.

What’s more, the beat of your music can actually help you keep your performance from sliding. Try choosing songs with a fast and happy tempo of about 110 to 145 beats per minute to help you get the most out of your exercise regime.

Listen to classical music while you’re driving.

A study conducted on teenagers who chose their own music to listen to while driving concluded they were more distracted, drove more aggressively and made more mistakes compared to driving in silence, or while listening to “safer” types of music. In fact, the safer types of music, which were unfamiliar or even uninteresting to the participants, ended up performing the best.

Given the unpredictable nature of many classical forms of music, plus its ability to enhance visual attention, this particular genre may just be the perfect one to listen to while driving. After all, there’s nothing more important than giving your full attention to your surroundings as you drive.

Listen to heavy metal or any other “extreme” genre of music when you’re feeling irritated or down.

Don’t be too quick to assume that extreme genres of music like heavy metal, hard rock, punk and screamo make people angry. A very interesting study from the University of Queensland actually found that these extreme genres helped people regulate their feelings of frustration or sadness and actually enhanced positive emotions.

Of course, if you’re simply not a fan of extreme music, you may not benefit. What the study does suggest, however, is that angry music may act as an outlet for releasing negative emotions as opposed to a tool used for building them up further inside those who choose to listen to these genres.

Listen to ambient music that incorporates instrumentals and a 4/4 beat at 90 BPM when you need to sleep.

It turns out that you may need to get really specific about the type of music you to choose to listen to to help lull you to sleep. University of Cumbria psychologist Dave Elliot set out to find the world’s most relaxing music, and came up with this hour-long track you can listen to for free on YouTube.

According to Elliot, piano and strings are the two instrumental components that must be distinctly heard in music meant to promote relaxation. It also must feature a 4/4 beat at 90 beats per minute, with sequences of narrow notes in which they shift between high and low.

Keep in mind your personal taste in music plays an important role here, too.

Music affects us all in different ways. One person’s favorite song may be another person’s worst annoyance.

So pay attention to how you feel and how you perform when you experiment with the above tips. Don’t be afraid to shift things around with your music a little if it means it may help you get better results!

If you found these tips helpful, come on over and sign up for my list of 28 daily must-do rules for getting stuff done and becoming a better person.

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Photo Credit: Nickolai Kashirin


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Johnso R.
Past Member 2 years ago

I sent your articles links to all my contacts and they all adore it including me. improve vocal tone,

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer3 years ago

“Music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart.” - from Bahá’í Faith Writings I enjoyed the article.

Sharon Moore
Sharon Moore3 years ago

Gee, Carol R. ... Can't we have a gut reaction to anything without being taken to task?

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Gosh .... can't we just enjoy anything any more without analyzing it to death?

Sharon Moore
Sharon Moore3 years ago

Jeez -- You've reduced 1,000 years of artistic creation to background noise -- recommending driving while listening to classical music -- to this: "After all, there’s nothing more important than giving your full attention to your surroundings as you drive". Are Bach, Beethoven and Brahms now considered so worthless as to be relegated to a harmless hum? That's just too sad.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 years ago

Thank you for the tips.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

Wonderful article! I know for fact that listening to upbeat music while exercising really pumps me up to do more. Equally so for relaxing music in the evening when I want to unwind-Lite Piano at the aol slacker radio station is perfect for me. Very much like the hour-long track you can listen to for free on YouTube. Also lite piano, no lyrics.

Perfect. I also love the sounds of nature-a thunderstorm or rain. Sometimes singing birds.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago