Everyone knows that classical music makes you smarter. It’s scientifically proven.
Numerous research studies have revealed that listening to classical music while studying or performing other intellectually demanding tasks can significantly improve cognitive ability, especially with regard to short term memorization. The generally accepted explanation for this phenomenon, appropriately termed the “Mozart Effect“, is that complex music affects the wavelength and amplitude of brain waves. The tempo of most music from the baroque period is close to the number of times the relaxed human heart beats per minute; this synchronization increases the output of serotonin in the brain which improves one’s mood and boosts concentration.
Aside from all the scientific theory crafting, classical music is actually really enjoyable if you can sift through the vast amount of contrived, formulaic pieces to find those select few that draw upon a particularly beautiful melody or express a timeless emotion. And that is exactly what I’ve done for you. Below I have assembled a list of five classical music pieces, in no real order, that I think you will enjoy listening to while you study for your final exams.
1. Bach’s Toccata in E Minor
Bach is one of the most mathematical composers of all time. His music is generally confined to certain tonal and rhythmic patterns, which makes it sound “square”, but it should be particularly effective for studying due to these factors. The toccata is a classical form that expresses virtuosity through a series of difficult passages strewn together in one piece. Wait for it — the best part of this piece is the fugue section during the last two and a half minutes.
2. Any of Chopin’s Nocturnes
Nocturne means “night piece.” Nocturnes typically contain singable melodies over arpeggiated accompaniment. Chopin’s nocturnes are both beautiful and relaxing. They are fairly simplistic in structure but contain just enough melodic variation to keep your brain interested until the end.
3. Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 in C Minor
The first movement of this piece is an ideal soundtrack for the classic desperation cram. It’s epic, fast, and contains a lot of virtuosic runs. Guaranteed to make you feel like some sort of genius while you rapidly complete math problems.
4. Rachmaninoff’s 2 Six Handed Pieces: II. Romance
This piece is performed by three people on the same piano. It’s extremely relaxing and pretty, containing a soaring melody over a fluffy, cloudlike pillow of twinkling accompaniment. It should definitely help keep you in a positive mindset while you study.
5. Any of Debussy’s Images
Debussy was a brilliant musician who secretly wanted to be a painter. When analyzed, these pieces of music paint vivid pictures with an innovative palette of tonalities. When not analyzed, these pieces are excellent for studying as they are pleasant, calm and engaging.
These five pieces should help you determine which composers you prefer, if any. In addition to the YouTube links provided, you can find these pieces (and countless more) on Spotify. Happy studying!
Travis Dorman is a Journalism and Electronic Media major and a music enthusiast.
Edited by Jessica Carr