The Quill

The Student News Site of BASIS Independent Silicon Valley

The Quill

The Quill

The Quest for the Perfect Study Playlist


I stare blankly at the screen of my laptop. My homework stares back. I know I should probably get started on it, but before I can do that, I need to choose some background music. After all, listening to music while working has been known to improve productivity. Thus, in an advanced effort to disguise my procrastination, I set off on a more pressing task—no, a quest—to find the most productivity-boosting music. I will now present my findings so you don’t have to spend as much time clicking on YouTube links as I did, although they most likely do not apply to you due to my somewhat questionable taste. User discretion is advised.

So, why not just listen to one of your regular playlists? If that works for you, then good for you, but lyrics quickly devolve into distractions, and so do the incoherent music videos I end up imagining instead of working. There are a few exceptions to this, however—lyrics in languages you don’t understand tend to be much less distracting. Additionally, on assignments that don’t contain words, such as some math homework, the words in the music typically don’t interfere with the numbers on the paper.

Over the course of listening to multifarious songs, I discovered that different genres of music seem to be more effective for different kinds of work. This article will be organized on that basis.

The first category of work is assignments that require a lot of reading and processing. The music in this category is the calmest because more fast-paced and energetic songs tend to interrupt the flow of whatever you’re reading, and slowing yourself down allows you to process more details. (I prefer reading books without any music on since it’s practically impossible to find something that fits the exact mood of the story, but for nonfiction readings, these genres work pretty well.) In my experience, the music in this category is somewhat ineffective when used for other purposes as it isn’t stimulating enough to satisfy the entertainment brain cells (we’ll get to that later), but that may just be a result of my horribly-decayed attention span. 

We begin with the obvious: lo-fi. While lo-fi is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, genres of music for studying, I personally don’t find it as helpful as the other genres on this list. Still, I’d like to recommend City Girl ( as well as Seycara’s albums illusions of the heart ( and everlasting summer (, which are both blends of jazz, orchestral, and lo-fi music.

The other main genre in this category is classical music. It’s an extremely broad genre that encompasses multitudes of subgenres, which I know very little about, but still enjoy listening to. The diversity of classical music makes it highly versatile, and this versatility is displayed beautifully by nobodyplaylists ( on YouTube. The channel displays playlists for any mood, even ones you didn’t know existed. One of my personal favorites is titled, “when you have to finish your homework in less than 1 hour” (, which often turns out to be a very accurate descriptor. Another good channel is Seycara/Seycara Classical ( /, which posts Studio Ghibli-inspired orchestral music.

The second category is where the entertainment brain cells come in. While completely scientifically inaccurate, I like to think of people having two sides of their brains with completely different motives. One wants entertainment, and the other actually wants to do its work. If you’re just working normally, the entertainment brain cells will get bored and start distracting you. But if you have loud music playing, that somewhat satiates the entertainment brain cells and drowns out all their distractions. However, if the assignment requires more thinking for the productive brain cells, the loud music might end up drowning the productive ones out too. Difficult assignments that require more thinking will automatically make the productive brain cells louder, so less noise is needed to drown out the entertainment brain cells. This category is for assignments where the entertainment brain cells need to be drowned out a bit more.

One of my favorite genres for this purpose is something the internet has labeled Kawaii Future Bass. Kawaii Future Bass is a subgenre of electronic music originally created in Japan that is defined by its high-tempo, high-energy beats; samples from anime and video game soundtracks; and cheerful, cutesy vibe. I initially started listening to it as a joke a few years ago, but I was amazed at how effective it was. It tends to be very upbeat, so it can also put you in a better mood on top of helping you focus. Dayrin ( has a great selection of Kawaii Future Bass music, and a few artists I enjoy in this genre include cute girls doing cute things ( and PSYQUI (

Another genre (or genres?) I’ve started getting into more recently is something that online playlists will usually refer to as breakcore, though the entire comment section argues about whether it’s actually breakcore, jungle, or DnB (drum and bass). I’m a bit new to this corner of the internet, so I won’t try to pick a side in this eternal debate. Instead, I will offer my limited advice. These genres are much less upbeat than future bass, and somehow simultaneously have both a calming and energizing effect. For whatever reason, artists of these genres often have rather explicit aliases despite having completely non-explicit music, so I won’t be leaving any specific artist recommendations, but luunace / sylphiette’s ( playlists are a good place to start.

The third category is essays. For essays, I don’t have any specific genres that I prefer, as I’ve found that just playing the same song on a loop works the best. My theory is that repeatedly listening to the same song helps you stay focused on the same train of thought. Music from the previous category can work well here, but my go-to for the past two years has been Nippon Egao Hyakkei (, a song from an anime I have not watched. 

Last but not least, there is torture. Torture is not a category of assignments – it is something you can choose to inflict upon yourself as a motivator. Pick an earworm, any earworm. Play it on repeat. Do not stop playing it until you finish your work. I have stopped doing this for my own sanity, but it works very, very well. I used to listen to Nightcore (sped-up and bass-boosted) remixes of Everytime We Touch by Cascada and Sweet Little Bumblebee by Bambee. I am not liable for any pain, mental or auditory, that you may receive attempting this tactic.

After years of scrolling and link-clicking, I believe I have perfected my own study playlists, although your mileage may vary. Regardless, I hope you emerge from this article with something, be it a few new songs in your playlist, one more pinch of productivity, or the realization that from now on, you should never take any music-related advice from me. 


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Quill Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *