The majestic doors of the Concertgebouw will be opened exclusively to students and employees on Monday, November 13th. Accompanied by classical music, you can come and work or study there. After all, classical music is said to increase your ability to concentrate. But is this true? And does it also apply to other genres of music?
The sounds of Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludovico Einaudi will caress the ears of listeners at the Concertgebouw next Monday. This is because Entrée, the Concertgebouw's youth club, is once again organizing the Entrée Study Sessions for students and employees up to age 35. Accompanied by classical and neoclassical music interspersed with jazz, they can come and study or work in The Concertgebouw. The idea behind this is that this music should boost your productivity and concentration. But is that really the case? Folia asked music scientist Makiko Sadakata.
What is the effect of classical music on concentration and productivity?
“Many people think classical music makes you smarter. But that is a misconception. In the 1990s, the press frequently spread the idea that music by Mozart would make you more intelligent because of the so-called ‘Mozart effect’. But the original research the press relied on only showed that the music had a positive effect on tasks such as folding paper and solving puzzles. The claim that it leads to increased intelligence was never made.
“The effect of classical music on concentration and productivity is not unambiguous and varies from person to person. In fact, for half of the people, music does not stimulate at all. In any case, research shows that listening to music you like, regardless of genre, can have a positive influence on your mood and thus improve your concentration.”
So what exactly determines the increased ability to concentrate?
“Music, including classical music, leads to the release of the hormone dopamine. This hormone boosts the level of positive arousal. Some genres of music, such as classical music, are said to induce an optimal level of arousal in the body, thereby enhancing the performance of some tasks. Each person differs as to what can be considered ‘optimal.’ On the other hand, too much arousal can have a negative effect on one's concentration.”
Alpha waves, or the alpha rhythm, are brain waves in the frequency range of 8-12 Hz. Brain waves are the rhythmic activities of cells in the central nervous system. Alpha waves in music are said to cause a feeling of calmness, increased creativity, and increase the ability to concentrate. This has not been scientifically proven.
Lofi, or low fidelity, is a subgenre of electronic music that mixes elements of house, jazz, easy listening, and hip-hop. It emphasizes intentional imperfections, such as misplayed notes and ambient noise.
“Besides the physical effect of music, there are other elements that determine whether music helps you concentrate. Indeed, once music requires some listening ability, it can be counterproductive. Consider, for example, too much text or too many surprising variations in the melody. These elements distract from the task at hand.”
When you enter “study music” on YouTube, it seems that in addition to classical music, “Alpha-waves” and “Lofi” music are also being listened to a lot. What do you think might be the reason these genres appear first in search results?
“Among younger generations, lofi and alpha-waves do indeed seem particularly popular. Not long ago, I did research on Spotify playlists for studying and sleeping. That also showed that in addition to classical music, lofi as a genre is frequently represented in the playlists. The reason for this is not known, but it could be attributed to a certain frequency and rhythm in the music that is perceived as soothing. But this is more of an observation than anything based on scientifically proven facts. ‘Noise’ or background noise, such as people talking, rain, or sea sounds, is known to promote concentration. Lofi takes advantage of that.”
Click on this link to attend one of Entrée’s Study Sessions.