Classical Music, Crazy Concentration


Focus eludes me sometimes. When I’m supposed to be applying for jobs or working on a research project, I find a million more important things to do. The microwave will be spotless and my shoes will be organized, but the real work will continue to hover over my head.

So, while prepping myself to write a 6-to-8-page paper on two 19th-century short stories in four hours, I decided to do something different: listen to classical music. I remembered hearing about the so-called Mozart Effect and that classical music, to some extent, helped concentration. Tchaikovsky and Bach weren’t strangers to me, as I’d played the violin briefly in the fourth grade and always enjoyed movie scores. Still, I had never taken the music seriously in my adult life. Stressed but hopeful, I figured I had nothing to lose.

I went to Pandora, typed “classical” in the search bar, and pulled up my paper. When I put my fingers on the keys, something miraculous happened: my fingers started moving. Ten minutes later, my digits were still darting across the keyboard. I felt like Bradley Cooper in “Limitless,” working as if I were on some brain-expanding drug. In an hour, I’d clocked over 400 words–it was a miracle! Two hours later, I’d surpassed the 2,000-word limit by about 250 or so.

My paper was finished. I was floored.

I realize that several other factors may have contributed to my supercharged production. Maybe the fact that the deadline was in a few short hours pressured me to finish quickly. Maybe my five-minute yoga session before I began working relaxed my nerves. Maybe I just believed the music would help and sparked a self-fulfilling prophecy. Who knows? Frankly, I don’t care. I usually listen to India.Arie or Musiq Soulchild during my work, but I’ve never felt as efficient as I did with the classical. It was as if my surroundings disappeared and I became a robot, analyzing Kate Chopin like nobody’s business. I had sipped no caffeine and popped no Ritalin. And yet, I finished my paper as if I were updating my Facebook status. Amazing.

Can classical music–Baroque, specifically, as I’ve heard–turn you into a keyboard-clacking, project-completing drone? In my case, yes, and I’d do it again in a flash. However, I realize this was no scientific experiment. Results may not be typical or may be based on other variables: Any music without lyrics can possibly help you focus better. Still, I suggest you give those old composers a shot. If all else fails, at least you won’t get the crazy 5-Hour Energy jitters.