The Sounds of Study I Oxford Open Learning

The Sounds of Study

Why music could be the distance learning student’s best friend…

We’ve all been there; you’ve got an assignment due. You sit at your desk, fingers poised over the keyboard, but, whether it’s due to squabbling children, ringing phones or noisy neighbours, there are just too many distractions. What do you do?

One idea is to fire up your favourite music streaming service. Research has shown that some kinds of music can help you to concentrate, cut down background noise and allow you to focus on your work. This is perfect for the distance learning student who, often working from home, can be at the mercy of household life.

So, where to start when choosing your study playlist? It obviously depends on your personal taste to a certain extent, but with a world of music to choose from, here are some ideas.


• ‘The Mozart effect’ states that listening to classical music can improve memory and concentration. Try his Eight Minuets.
• Classical piano music can be especially soothing- Eric Satie’s Gymnopedies is a favourite in my study.
• Slow Baroque music, such as that by Bach or Handel, has been linked with optimal learning.
• Some more modern pieces which are perfect for studying include Phillip Glass’ Glassworks and Adiemus by Karl Jenkins.

Film soundtracks

These can be ideal for studying as they are designed to sit in the background and not distract you from the main focus. Some of the best are:

Blade Runner by Vangelis
Atonement by Dario Marianelli
Inception by Hans Zimmer
Amelie by Yann Tierson

Nature Sounds

Seascapes, rainforest noises, whalesong and the like could provide perfect background noise.

Modern Ambient

Genres such as ambient house and ambient trance create a really chilled out atmosphere. A great choice is Music for Airports by Brian Eno, of which he has said it is “intended to induce calm and a space to think”-exactly what is needed when studying.


Listening to the radio in a foreign language can be ideal for studying, allowing you to tune out of your surroundings and in to your work. You can listen to stations such as Radio France from their home webpages.

Do you listen to music while your study? If so, what do you listen to and why?

This article was produced with the kind assistance of Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo.

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Alice has an MA in English Literature and has taught at GCSE and A level. She now tutors distance learning students and is an examiner for AS and A Level English Language and Literature. When she's not teaching, Alice can be found devouring books, writing, crafting and chasing after her two small boys.

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