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Tuning Into Focus- How Music Can Make You More Productive

When you need to tune out the noise and get in the zone, do you like listening to anything to help you concentrate? Whether you like classical tunes, nature sounds, or even the background chatter of an office or cafe, it turns out there’s a science behind the relationship between music and your ability to focus. But what goes on in the brain when you listen to focus music, and how can certain music boost your productivity? 

How Music Affects Your Brain

Did you know that listening to a song activates different parts of your brain simultaneously? 

  • Your motor cortex and cerebellum process the rhythms of a drum or bassline.
  • The auditory cortex analyzes the pitch and tone.
  • The prefrontal cortex is activated by an unexpected differentiation from the beat. 
  • The hippocampus stores your memories of a song
  • The amygdala, cerebellum, and nucleus accumbens process your emotional responses to music. 

When you listen to an emotional song you like, studies suggest that your brain experiences its highest interregional connectivity between the hippocampus and the auditory, motor, and limbic systems. 

This coincides with the nucleus accumbens’ synapses firing to release dopamine and serotonin, two hormones associated with pleasure that may be able to help you concentrate on whatever task is at hand. 

Music’s Impacts on Focus

Have you heard that babies who listen to Mozart are born smarter? This is a common myth known as the Mozart Effect, which states that listening to classical music can boost your IQ. 

While the original 1993 study that sparked the misconception found that participants demonstrated improved spatial-temporal reasoning for 15 minutes after listening to classical music, the author has emphasized it does not actually affect general intelligence. 

However, there may be a grain of truth within the Mozart Effect. Classical music is instrumental, not lyrical, so without distracting vocals, it’s easier to focus on the task at hand. One study found that listening to the background music of Mozart excerpts increased the speed of spatial processing and the accuracy of linguistic processing. 

In fact, music may be able to help you achieve the flow state, which is a mental state of deep satisfaction while being completely absorbed in an activity.  One of the necessary aspects to enter the flow state is a feeling of serenity, and certain music can help evoke those feelings of inner tranquility. 

Many studies measure music’s impact on alpha and beta brain wave activity. Alpha waves measure between 8 and 12 Hz, and occur when the brain is in an idle, relaxed state. Beta waves measure between 12 and 30 Hz, where they occur during a state of conscious thought. 

Feelings of serenity are also associated with lower alpha brain waves, which coincide with increased cognitive activity. A study found alpha wave activity decreases similarly to the sounds of relaxing or activating music depending on the participants’ music preferences. It did not matter whether users listened to jazz or rock, their waves decreased when they listened to their preferred genre of music. 

So while ambient instrumental music temporarily improves cognitive activity, your favorite genres of music may have a similar effect. But what about those of you with ADHD? Would music simply split your attention span into another direction? 

Music as a Tool for ADHD Management

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a chronic mental condition associated with attention difficulty and impulsiveness. Because the ADHD brain’s cognitive resources are depleted more often than a neurotypical individual, it can be more difficult to maintain focus. 

However, enjoying music can play an important role for ADHD individuals, because like psychostimulant ADHD medications, it stimulates the nucleus accumbens to create dopamine, of which ADHD brains tend to have lower levels. Additionally, music that stimulates beta waves in the brain, which are associated with conscious thought and logical thinking, is most effective for people with ADHD.

Once again, the most effective type of deep work music depends on user preferences. Here are some different genres of music to try:

  • Binaural Beats stimulate both sides of the brain to force their intercommunication. However, one study found that binaural beats decreased the attention span of ADHD individuals, so be sure to search specifically for “Binaural Beats for ADHD.” 
  • Classical Music with a slower tempo has been found to help improve focus in children with ADHD. However, children who listened to fast-tempo classical music made more mistakes in their tasks. Try Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, and Chopin. 
  • White Noise seems to improve memory task performance in children with ADHD who were taking stimulant medication as well as those who weren’t. 

Overall, studies have found that music therapy positively affects the concentration of ADHD individuals. Avoid music you know well to avoid the temptation of singing along, songs with lyrics, songs you strongly love or hate, or listening to music on a platform with ads that will break your attention. But where do you go for the music you should listen to?

The Rise of Focus-Enhancing Music Tools

Luckily, there’s been a boom in focus music apps and tools in the past several years, so you don’t have to waste time searching for the best tunes to concentrate on your work. Here are a few of our favorite accessible music tools. has conducted extensive scientific research on their human-composed sounds that stimulate electrical activity and blood flow in the brain. Their music elicits stronger neural phase locking than binaural beats to allow populations of neurons to engage in coordinated activity that increases your brain’s intercommunication between regions for laser focus. 

After 3 days of a free trial, you can continue to access’s full library with unlimited sessions and offline access for either $6.99/month or $49.99/year. The application is available on Android and iOS devices as well as web browsers. 

Reviewer Robby Miles said on his website, “Every day has certain rhythms. After lunch, I tend to lose focus. That’s when I put on my noise-canceling headphones, turn on, and get to work. I’m focused, energized, and ready to complete my afternoon projects within a matter of minutes. My kids beg for us to “put on the brain music” so they can sleep at night.”

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Calm Radio

Are you searching for a way to relax? Calm Radio offers over 1000 channels for easy-listening wellness music, nature sounds, binaural meditation, spa soundtracks, podcasts, and even bedtime stories that help you relax your body to prepare for sleep.

You can subscribe for free with advertisements that may disrupt your calm flow, or upgrade to one of their three premium subscription offerings of $4.99/month, $69.99/year, or $119.99/every two years with the option to add up to three accounts for a slight price uptick. Calm Radio is available as an app for Windows, iOS, Android, Roku, Sonos, and Alexa devices.

“I quickly noticed that stations were broken down into different classical music periods and had a very large range of composers. After playing around with it for a few minutes, I was hooked. Most of the time I just want to listen to a certain period/style/composer and don’t want to bother searching for an album to listen to. Now I’m adding nature sounds into the mix.” –Apple Review by Woodyarmadillo


Does AI-created music intrigue you? Endel incorporates artificial intelligence to offer science-backed songs on various specific soundscapes for sleep, focus, relaxation, or high activity. These use the pentatonic scale and sound masking to create soundscapes that complement your circadian rhythm. 

Endel offers a 7-day trial to experience the app, after which it’s available for $5.99/month, $49.99/year, or an $89.99/lifetime subscription. You can find Endel on iOS, Android, and Amazon Alexa devices. 

“Endel enriches my life in more than one way. It underscores my daily walks, reinforces my meditation and relaxation routines, amplifies my focus during writing, and seamlessly aids my wind-down and sleep routines,” said Scott Alsmith in his review. “The app has grown to understand me so profoundly, surpassing even my dog, an accomplishment I consider high praise.”


Are nature sounds the best way for you to focus? Noisli allows users to mix and match any combination of their high-quality background sounds in varying volumes, and save your Favorite Comos. You can also listen to their curated playlists for focus, relaxation, productivity, and more. 

The Noisli website offers 16 sounds, 1.5 hours of streaming, three playlists, five favorites, and a simplified timer and text editor for free. However, you can upgrade to their individual plan for $10/month or a business plan for $12/person/month with unlimited users. These features unlock 28 sounds, limitless streaming, 10 curated playlists, and an advanced timer and text editor. Noisli is available as an app on IOS and Android devices and as a separate web application.

“The good: multiple sounds can be activated at once and individually balanced. (A little wind with your gentle stream?) Once that’s done, the clean interface phases gently between hues. Customizations can be saved and recalled. A couple of complaints: no landscape mode – an inconvenience for those who use an iPhone or iPad stand. More than once, I’ve had a second volume slider appear (at a different displayed level) directly on top of the already visible one.” –Starfia’s Review of Noisli

Freedom Focus Sounds

Are you looking to block out distractions while you stay focused, and listen to music whilst you work? Then look no further than right here – with Freedom, an online tool that allows you to create customized blocklists of different distracting websites. It also features the Freedom Focus Sounds of 10 tracks of 25 minutes each to fit in perfectly with the Pomodoro work session. 

The music subtly builds layers of instruments and intensity in the first 20 minutes to match your rising work productivity, then everything begins to wind down in the final 3-5 minutes as you prepare for your five-minute Pomodoro break.

Freedom offers seven free trials before you can upgrade to a subscription of $8.99/month, $39.96/year, or $199/forever. Freedom’s Focus Sounds are available on SoundCloud and YouTube for free, or included in the Freedom Dashboard and iOS and Android apps as part of its main tool to block distracting websites.

Maximizing the Benefits of Focus Music

No matter what focus music tool you opt for, it’s important to create and stick to a structure that will ensure you don’t break your concentration too early. 

Your task may call for different music; a lively jazz tempo will encourage your deep cleaning while a steady focus lo-fi may help you complete your work presentation. 

By incorporating mood-based music into a daily routine, you’ll be able to optimize your time to be productive and fully enjoy your time to relax. 

Whether you’re aiming to sync your Pomodoro workflow with Freedom Focus Sounds or settle into deep work with Brain.FM’s special science-laden playlists, the right music for you will make your brain sing with cognitive activation as your neurons, hormones, and waves create a beautiful orchestra of productivity.

Written by author Lorena Bally