As we reach the end of finals and of the semester, I’ve been reflecting back on these past four months of exams and assignments. For me, finding the perfect songs to study to is never easy. They’ve got to fade into the background, but not put me to sleep. I want it to be good, but not catchy. If it has lyrics, they need to be near-indiscernible or else I get distracted. To help out anyone else who has this struggle, here’s five great songs to put on while studying that I’ve found.

  • Fingerbib – Aphex Twin

This synthy instrumental song is just upbeat and fun enough to keep you awake, but also repetitive enough to fade into the background while you read a textbook. The fast pace is also great if you need some speed encouragement when writing a last-minute essay. I only wish it was longer—but sometimes I put it on a loop when I really need to focus.

  • How Does My Mind Work – Dirty Projectors

Driven by eerie piano and drums, this instrumental piece has a good amount of variety to offset the melancholy tone that might otherwise slow you down. The end of the four-minute song has a great build up of emotion that’s a perfect soundtrack for conclusion paragraphs. Sometimes the intense emotions of the song can pull me out of studying just a bit, but once you’ve heard the song enough times it becomes predictable.

  • Par 5 – Kitty Craft

This song has lyrics! Actual words! But the beat is so repetitive and calming and the vocals are so soft that it fades into the background super well. The slower pace can lull you into a studying trance, but its just happy and springy enough to keep you moving.

  • Cannibal Holocaust (Main Theme) – Riz Ortolani

Movie scores are usually a solid choice for studying. My favorite scores are from Emma. (2020), The Virgin Suicides, Howl’s Moving Castle, and this one—Cannibal Holocaust. Don’t be fooled by the name, because this song is actually very calm and melodic, but has good shifts in emotion. The strings take precedent for a very smooth listening experience.

  • Valerian Root – MF DOOM

MF DOOM’s Special Herbs collections are all melodic hip-hop beats—sometimes I’ll just shuffle these collections while I do some readings. MF DOOM’s production prowess shines through, but without the raps that might pull you out of a studying lull. The beats are fun and non-repetitive, perfect for the background.

For a playlist with these and more studying songs, check out this link.

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