Plan the Path’s Guide to the Best Music to Study By

Music can often get a bad rap as one possible studying distraction, and for some students this can be very true. Yet every student is a unique and individual learner, and many students report that the right type of music (usually instrumental and calming) increases their productivity and focus. Listening to the right type of study music can help students enter a ‘flow state’ by decreasing background noise and boosting creativity. Choosing music that will help foster focus, instead of create distraction, isn’t always easy; this list of seven albums helps make that choice a little easier. These picks straddle an array of musical genres, and have each been selected by a current college student as their personal ‘go-to study sound’:
  1. Ólafur Arnalds – Living Room Songs – Arnalds is an Icelandic composer known for his deeply moving and delicate neo-classical and ambient music. This album provides a snapshot into his evocative artistic style, which combines various elements such as classical violin, drum machines, and sparse piano.
  2. Tipper – Surrounded – For students and bookworms who prefer music on the more electronic side of the spectrum, this classic Tipper album — released in 2003 — may provide some much-needed focus time. Tipper is a highly eclectic and experimental electronic producer who rose to fame in the UK’s 1990s electronic scene. On Surrounded, Tipper uses original compositions to create an eerie and minimalist ambiance ideal for late nights in the library.
  3. William Tyler – Goes West – Tyler is a folk guitarist who creates stunning, nostalgia-laden instrumental albums that are entirely self-produced. Fans of Folk and Indie music who are looking for instrumental study music will resonate with this 2019 album, whose songs create a lush and joyous background to any study session.
  4. eevee – ep seeds – Despite the lack of capital letters in this Dutch hip-hop producer’s moniker and album titles, eevee’s music leaves little else to be desired. Her music could best be described as lo-fi hip-hop (instrumental, calming hip-hop beats, stripped down to their most gentle and ambient versions), and some of her tracks sound like they were produced with Finals Week in mind. For cranking out assigned reading, or even cozying up with a good book for pleasure, the soft sounds of eevee seem ideal.
  5. Ashley Henry – Ashley Henry’s 5ive – If more students listened to Ashley Henry when studying for exams, the library scene might feel a little less stressful! Henry is a British jazz composer of Caribbean descent whose jazz compositions are complex and upbeat, without being overly distracting. Perfect for fitting in a little study time over coffee in the morning, this five-track album is quintessential ‘study jazz.’
  6. Lusine – A Certain Distance – Lusine is a Seattle-based producer whose music calls to mind the cool, cultured, and foggy vibe of the Pacific Northwest. Though it is hard to fit this veteran musician neatly into a single genre, fans of pop, electronic, and ambient music alike will find Lusine’s music both haunting and beautiful. It serves as great background sound for both creative assignments and crunchtime cramming sessions, as Lusine’s music straddles the line between mathematical precision and sweeping melodies.
  7. Emancipator – Baralku – Any list of contemporary study music would be incomplete without the inclusion of an Emancipator album. Blurring the divide between electronic and acoustic music, Emancipator is a multi-instrumentalist, DJ, and producer who creates his own unique and beautiful blend of classical, dub, and electronic. Emancipator’s instrumental music takes listeners on an audible journey, yet is repetitive enough to make a great background beat. Inspired by world music, electronic production, and the natural world around him, Emancipator’s music reflects the ideal mindset with which to study: relaxed yet concentrated, open-minded, and upbeat.