I listen to music every day - during meals, in transit, while studying.  It is woven into the underpinnings of my life. I use music to unwind and bolster my moods, so I thought it would be both interesting and worthwhile to conduct a self-guided study on myself while having a listen.

A good part of my (every)day is spent at work or school, and usually in front of my laptop. During this time, concentration and focus is crucial, so I use music as a mechanism to remove outside distractions and to set the tone of my environment. Recently, my office mates started an open discussion on who listens to what type of music for different tasks, and it inspired me to search for an organized study to self-conduct. Through some light digging, I came across a study conducted by Teresa Lesiuk in the School of Music at the University of Windsor in Canada, which included a Quality-of-Work Questionnaire I used as a guideline for my self-study on music and productivity.  [For an overview on the study, click HERE.]


  • Three consecutive days - in the morning and afternoon of 30 min ‘plug-in’ periods during which I will be doing computer research while accompanied by a different selection of music. I intentionally chose mornings and late afternoon times to rule out time-of-day bias and to explore if there are different effects when listening to a selection in the morning vs during that last hour of a workday.

        -My music genres chosen were Folk, Electronica, Classical, and Hop-Hop.

  •  Apply a post-test survey to measure the productivity of my time following each session.  The survey asks you to choose a task, to answer five questions on a 1-4 scale, and how you would measure yourself against your intended expectations (the control).  To review the Quality of Work Questionnaire I used, click HERE

The Research:

On the first morning, while reading about microeconomics in school, and working to complete a research assignment at the office, I listened to folk music- The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and Mumford and Sons. I felt at ease. The music played as a background melody unimpeding my thoughts. As such, I was relaxed and focused. Moreover, I was able to finish my tasks quickly. Taking the questionnaire afterward, I scored 17 points out of 20.

On the second day, I listened to Electronica music. I rarely indulged in this genre. However, I took this experiment as an opportunity to explore. I listened to Bibio’s album, Ambience Avenue. Most of the records on his album lack vocals, thus, the songs functioned as background music. Like Folk, Electronica kept me in a good mood and helped me relax. I was able to concentration on my tasks - a research assignment for work in the morning and afternoon and completed them with ease. Upon taking the questionnaire afterward, I scored 19 out of 20 points.

On the third day, I listened to Classical music. Like Electronica, I seldom engage with Classical music. Yet, I sought to choose classical music to test whether or not the “Mozart Effect” was substantial - The “Mozart Effect” is a notion in which listening to symphonies developed by famous composer Wolfgang Mozart, would induce a short-term improvement on one’s performance. Interestingly, I felt the opposite effect. Listening to Mozart made me irritable and stressed. In the morning, I failed to understand the context of the microeconomics chapter I read. At work, I struggled to complete day-to-day tasks. Mozart’s music slowed my productivity and increased the amount of time I spent on each assignment. As such, after taking the questionnaire, I scored a meager 10 out of 20 points.

On the last day of the experiment, I listened to Hip-Hop music. Unlike Classical or Electronica, I habitually listen to Hip-Hop, except while I work. Hip-Hop music is intricate. The artist I enjoy – Kendrick Lamar, Noname, J. Cole, and Kid Cudi to name a few – often employ extensive imagery and compelling stories in conjunction with mellifluous rhymes. As such, I’m always forced to listen carefully and consider their lyrics. As expected, I failed to concentrate while listening to Hip-Hop music. Instead of working on my online assignment for my microeconomics class in the morning, I passed the time reviewing and analyzing the lyrics of Kid-Cudi’s new album, KIDS SEE GHOSTS.  As such, taking the questionnaire, I scored 9 out of 20 points.

Results and Findings:

I discovered music I enjoy listening to in my free time doesn’t necessarily equate to focus and productivity, and when I need to concentrate, finding neutral music that puts me in a good mood is the most ideal.  When I’m in a good mood, I’m more comfortable, and when I’m more comfortable, I’m more focused, therefore I am more efficient at task completion.   

In my experiment, Folk and Electronica helped me to establish a good mood, score the highest on my Quality-of-Work questionnaire and increased my productivity levels during working hours.  Hip-Hop also put me in a good mood, however, I was intrigued and attracted to the lyrics of the music, spent less time focusing on my tasks and received the lowest score on the questionnaire. Thus, it’s important to note that your most ideal music choice may not always be from your favorite music genre – Unfortunately, I realized this with Hip-Hop during this

Alex Gannes