Music undoubtedly is a universal form of creativity. But, can music also act as a tool to help us be more creative? Over the years, music has become apart of the atmosphere at most contemporary workplaces.

Sean Rose’s tweet explores the notion of music decorating time, just as art enhances space visually;

“Music possesses a strange temporal permanence; there’s nothing quite like the time travel experience of a song you haven’t heard in awhile.”

Most of us spend majority of our time at work, staring at computers. Music has evolved with us, creeping into our day ­to­day responsibilities. Music eliminates that open boring space of time at work; especially when starting at screens for hours. Research has helped us better understand music and how it can enhance our productivity.

Music and Repetitive Tasks

Music’s positive effects vary in how immersive the job is and how much creativity is required for the task. Research has proved that music is helpful when a task is repetitive and clearly defined.

“A series of experiments has investigated the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work and efficiency in
performing such a task. The results give strong support to the contention that
economic benefits can accrue from the use of music in industry.”

Factory workers have found it efficient to listen to music, whilst working – increasing their level of happiness.

Contemporary studies have also found that it isn’t just any genre music that improves attitudes, but in fact it’s our favourite songs which boost our productivity.

Music without harmony was found to have a negative impact on productivity. Music in major mode has far better outcomes: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major major mode.”

Music as Escapism in a Noisy Workplace

A noisy workplace may cause more harm than good, when it comes to personal
productivity. Headphones might be a great idea, despite what some companies think.

“Dr. Lesiuk’s research focuses on how music affects workplace performance. In
one study involving information technology specialists, she found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better
ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.”

Enhancing mood is a great tool for productivity. Open spaces do incite community and collaboration however working with noise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – especially when intense concentration is needed. Physical escapism, (to a private room) isn’t always possible and a pair of headphones is a great solution – taking you away mentally.

Ambient Noise and Creativity

Individuals who listen to music during their creative practice, find music as a useful to construct an atmosphere to amplify concentration. Researches have found that moderate noise can enhance creative flow within the brain, and loud noises can cause the mind to block. Roaring basses or shrieking synths
causing negative effects.

A study completed this year has found that white noise; using “natural” ambience can increase levels of concentration – sounds such as waves, rain, and birds. Encouraging people that listening to soft background noises can be highly beneficial.

Lyrics Can Distract

Studies have shown that lyrics within music can be harmful; especially when you’re trying to focus on an intense task. However, lyrics can be beneficial for physical activity and for tasks that need very little brain power.

“Intelligible” chatter, that’s overheard and can be understood is commonly what causes a disruptive environment. The mind unconsciously tries to concentrate on various activity going on – speech is often one of the most distracting. One study found that 48% of individuals within the workplace found intelligible talking the most disturbing.

Language related tasks, (such as writing) are one the most difficult to coordinate when conversations are being had around you. Lyrics therefore minimise your productivity.

Lyrics in the background during tasks which do not operate around “verbal architecture” have been found to help. Also, individuals such as software developers have found that lyrics have benefited their efficiency.

Familiarity and Concentration

If your task requires deep concentration, familiar music is the way to go. When listening to new music your brain unconsciously pays more attention; trying to figure out what comes next. Less energy and focus is needed when you listen to an old tune. Therefore, listening to new music during a heavy thinking task should be avoided – you’ll get more done this way.

What Works for Immersive Projects?

As suggested above, “playing music you like” works best to power joy; many don’t just listen to one genre of music but a range. It has been argued that various genres of music can enhance better outcomes for completing brain heavy tasks. Here are some examples.

Classical Music (Baroque)

WHY IT WORKS

Lyrics are often nowhere to be found in classical music, therefore the music focuses heavily on the melody and harmony. A study has found that music created in the Baroque period dramatically supports productivity. Classical music as a genre has many different sub­-genres within, which could sometimes be theatrical. theatrical music has been found to not be so helpful. Toccata & Fugue in D minor may not be the greatest decision, whereas the subtleness of Für Elise would be more than ideal.

WHERE TO LISTEN

EXAMPLES

These two delights are wonderful for concentrating:

Electronic Music

WHY IT WORKS

Electronic music’s ambience is repetitive and played so often as background music at cafes, restaurants and bars; making electronic music inconspicuous. Unlike symphonic tunes, electronic music has very few ups and downs – using very little “soundscapes”, which accentuates melodies within the music. The simplicity of electronic music can help you focus, as repetitive sounds aren’t so disturbing.

WHERE TO LISTEN

EXAMPLES

These two are perfect examples of the repetitive ambience:

Video Game Music

WHY IT WORKS

Video game composer’s job is based around that very notion that music should only elevate the listener’s experience, in a way that doesn’t divert the player’s focus. Reddit had listed the most suggested “music that helps with concentration” as the SimCity soundtrack. The music created by Maxis is gentle; maintaining all attention on running your city.

WHERE TO LISTEN

EXAMPLE

Two examples from Skyrim and SimCity 5:

Everything Else

Anything, everything that is subdued and doesn’t distract you from work, should be onyour playlist. If you’re one of the few that can listen to lyrics whilst working, then go for it.mJazz, hip­hop, indie rock, blues are all suitable just as long as they are “ambient”.

WHERE TO LISTEN

EXAMPLES

Oldies are wonderful for work, just as long as they have a softer tone:

No Music

If none of the above suit your taste or work process, and you can’t work in total silence try these tools:

SimplyNoise – Plays low pitch white noises in the background. It can be highly
beneficial especially if there is overwhelmingly loud noises around you (such as
construction work).

RainyMood – Try working by imagining that it’s drizzling outside (even when it’s
30°C) and the sun is shining. This plays a loop of a mild storm, turn on a fireplace
video and get cozy.

The environment which you choose to immerse yourself in affects you directly. Deciding the right music to play whilst working, is a bigger deal than most think. Experiment and find the right harmony to support your workflow.

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