Something that a lot of people, myself included, are struggling with in quarantine is trying to stay focused and keep away from distractions while studying at home. Listening to songs (with lyrics) often hinders my focus. I tend to get swept away into the words and start performing a mini-concert. Listening to classical music on YouTube has been the biggest lifesaver because it not only blocks out the distractions, but it also helps to create a different world where writing essays, reading books, and working on assignments become adventures. Some pieces are dramatic, some are full of love, and some might be full of sadness that make you want to cry—here are six of my favorite go-to classical pieces that will help you stay focused!
- "The Last Letter From Murdoch" - Masanori Taruya
"The Last Letter From Murdoch" takes us on a journey through the streets of Europe, where one witnesses love, battles, rage, and festivities. Masanori Taruya, the composer of this piece, is a forty-two-year-old Japanese musician who has created some of the world’s most famous musical compositions. "The Last Letter From Murdoch" is the most performed piece in Japan, and for my fellow musicians, this is a piece that we all want to play at least once before we die. I usually listen to "The Last Letter From Murdoch" while reading; when the continuity of emotions in the song align with the events in the book, it's like a cherry on top of the cake.
- "Danse Macabre" - Charles Camille Saint-Saëns
"Danse Macabre" is a piece often used in European art museums and galleries because of its softness and ability to fade into the background. Charles Camille was a French composer who composed mainly through the late 1800s and the 1920s. He mostly created pieces for the opera and musical plays, which gives his work a sense of softness and elegance allowing it to blend seamlessly into the everyday. Whenever I have to work on an assignment or write a research paper, I always find myself listening to "Danse Macabre" and diving into my work.
- "The Sakura Song" - Yousuke Fukuda
"The Sakura Song" or "Sakura No Uta" is one of my ultimate favorites. It is more modern than the pieces mentioned above, but manages to be equally as popular and widely performed around the world. Yousuke Fukuda conducted this piece for the first time with the Yamanashi Gakuin University Brass Band in 2012. I have a special bond with "Sakura No Uta" as I performed it with my high school brass band in 2019 and had the opportunity to be instructed by Mr. Fukuda himself. Through that experience I learned the true meaning that this piece holds through the eyes of the composer. I usually listen to this piece during my twenty-minute breaks between study sessions to relax and tune out for a bit. I highly recommend listening to "The Sakura Song" for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway.
- "Clarinet Concerto" - Mozart
"Clarinet Concerto" is a Mozart creation, originally composed for a symphony of clarinets to perform. Still, Hauser’s (a Croatian cellist) cover, replacing the clarinets with an orchestra of violins and a cello, is another excellent short piece to listen to while trying to focus. The sound of violins is scientifically proven to relax and, believe it or not, make people fall in love. That is why many people request a violinist to perform during a marriage proposal, and most of the romantic songs include a violin epilogue. So, if you listen to this while studying for a subject you despise, maybe you’ll start falling in love with it. Or perhaps not, but listening to the sound of violins helps me memorize and understand material better while studying for a test, making this my most listened to classical piece during finals weeks.
- "Song From a Secret Garden" - Alone, Together
"Song From a Secret Garden - Alone, Together" is another creation by the artist mentioned above, Hauser. Hauser is an upcoming artist who covers famous pieces throughout history, with a million subscribers on YouTube and a huge following around the world. His music consists of pianos, other string instruments, and him with his cello. Having to focus all day requires a lot of energy and can sometimes be very stressful. Listening to the soothing sound of violins and a dramatic cello can work its magic and kick in the motivation. Hauser also covers a lot of pop songs on his cello, which you should check out as well!
- "The Seventh Night of July" - Itaru Sakai
"The Seventh Night of July" or "Tanabata" was the first creation of Sakai Itaru in 1988 and is well known in Japan. Many Japanese people have heard of this piece, as it signifies the meaning of the Tanabata festival (the seventh night of July) in the Japanese culture. This piece is very unique among its kind as the main instrument is the saxophone, and the melody is what keeps the audience enticed throughout. I feel that this piece has a powerful sense of imagination and listening to it while brainstorming, can bring out a lot of fantastic ideas.
That’s it for my list of favorite classical songs to jam to while being productive and getting work done. Classical music can be a difficult genre for a lot of people because of how abundant and intricate it is. Still, I think that if you find the right kind of music for you, it can do wonders for your productivity AND your mental health.