The best way to study is to get lost. Though sounding counter-intuitive the idea of getting lost really helps me when I study. I hate memorizing, but when building up a catalogue of regurgitated information it’s necessary. This mental brick-laying is an arduous process and is probably why we see so many of our college compatriots put down the books and boot up Netflix. I have to trick myself into playing a kind of game with studying, by making it unique. I like to get lost in the material, to be fully immersed to the point of internalization. But getting lost needs to be complete. I never sit in the same desk or room. I study for 20 hours one day and four hours the next. But, as every study aficionado knows, blocking out distractions is critical to success. That’s where music comes in.
Early on in my college career, I realized that my standard playlist would not pair well with effective studying. As much as I loved grunge and classic rock, I knew I would never be able to listen to “Running With the Devil” while memorizing biosynthesis mechanisms. None of this stemmed from their tone, genre, or content. The problem lied in the fact that I knew the songs and therefore was distracted as I mentally traced lyrics and followed melodies. So I listened to soft rock, to bands I didn’t know. This served the twofold purpose of growing out of my isolated tastes, but also keeping the music as a supplement to studying, rather than a substitute for it.
I continued along the that track, changing genres, even mistakenly delving into country. And a lot of genres work to isolate you in a world of study. From heavy metal to noise pop to EDM, all put me in a zone of isolation perfect for study. But the music served to be there in the background to suppress the outside world from intruding. This was the case, until recently, I found what I believe to be the Holy Grail of music study aids: classical.
Classical music will make you feel like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, even if you are not wicked smart. Every turn of the page, paired with a storm of violins will make even the dullest of studying seem sophisticated. When listening to classical music on a good studying bender you become an academic heavyweight. You are probably just memorizing amino acids, but you will feel like you are curing cancer. Thanks Maher.
But the classics don’t just make you feel smart, they probably make you smarter. I have acquired a taste for the genre after several repeat listens. Several of my personal favorites are Sergei Prokofiev’s “Dance of the Knights” from Romeo and Juliet, and anything from Tchaikovsky or Chopin. There is something imposing about many of these classical pieces which invoke feelings of power. In a quest for knowledge, that added elegance and grandeur of orchestral sounds imbue the listener with a sense of power.
I have dabbled in listening to some Gregorian chants, which offer a similar kind of droning power that orchestral music does. Those core, deep, and elegant sounds hone in the listener into a sort of droning studying.
In all, my musical studying endeavors have really helped me expand my horizons and put myself in the right frame of mind when cramming information haphazardly into the brain. Much like studying itself, the hardest things to internalize are the ideas that are foreign or counter-intuitive. By losing yourself in a new sound or medium, you can more effectively lose yourself in materials that are just as new.
And wrapping up information in a unique setting can help you remember more effectively. How can you forget anything being read over Beethoven’s 5th?
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