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If you are in the midst of finals, as I am, you might be struggling to find a good playlist. I prefer listening to music as I write copious papers. At any other time, whether in the car or going for a walk, I am most likely listening to Taylor Swift. While trying to focus, however, I sometimes get too distracted by her talent to remain productive. 

The right study music can be hard to come by. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. Listening to upbeat pop while trying to write this Jack the Ripper paper I am working on would be too cheery for the occasion. Heavy metal? Way too intense. 

It turns out my perfect balance has actually remained the same since middle school. I have tried nature sounds, which is sometimes nice if I just need a little background noise. I am also always a fan of a good crackling fire during first semester finals week, which ends around the winter holidays. But the one genre that has never failed me, that has always been right for any study occasion, is instrumental. Lately, I’ve been listening to “Instrumental Popular Songs” on Spotify.    

Back in the day, I used to listen to instrumental music on Pandora. Now, I head to Spotify and listen to this curated playlist. I hit shuffle and receive acoustic versions of some of the biggest hits, including some of Taylor Swift’s music. Occasionally I’ll return to the more general instrumental category to get a mix of some of the real classics…Beethoven style classics. My favorite part about listening to the pop versions is that I often find myself singing along. Singing along to an instrumental song, though, means I am really just giving a mini-concert. 

I don’t know how the science works behind this, and I’m sure there is some explanation, but singing along to an instrumental track seems to be much less distracting than singing along with a vocal track, despite me singing in both scenarios.  But I don’t want to question it. Instrumental music enables me to get and stay in the zone, and *knock on wood* that pattern will hopefully continue through the next week. 

So, maybe instrumental pop would be a good fit for you. Or maybe you would rather listen to a podcast. I just hope you are inspired to find the music, background sound, comfy chair, cute lamp, or do whatever it takes for you to build an environment that best empowers you to do your best work. Which, in case you need a reminder, will come to fruition so long as you are trying your best.   

Emma MacIntyre

Stonehill '22

I am a senior studying English, Spanish, and creative writing. Besides writing, I love baking, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with my dog and my friends and family.
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