Studyin’ Tunes

Version published April 27, 2011 on, American University’s student-run online radio station. Original here.

Running out of ideas for tunes to listen whilst studying for your countless exams and writing your endless papers? Please allow me to offer some guidance.

Often I’ll be jamming to my favorite song du jour, and I’ll unknowingly type the lyrics in my paper instead of the words I actually intended. The result? A sentence that looks like this: “By using the humor and satire, ‘The Daily Show’ effectively critiques the news media and politics and reaches WE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALLLLLLLLLLLLL.” The solution is simple — eliminate the lyrics.

Instrumental or non-vocal music makes for fantastic background music and drowns out the no-so-quiet people on the quiet floor, or when the Dav plays music not quite your style.

The Academy Award-winning score for “The Social Network,” with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s subdued, sinister, post-industrial electronica, is dynamic and driving, making it perfect background music for when your focuses lie elsewhere due to the absence of lyrics to serve as a distraction.

Jonsi’s incomprehensible Icelandic cooing on Sigur Ros’s albums also make for great studyin’ tunes. My favorite is the untitled album, “( ),” which features variations on the album’s main theme, creating moods from optimistic to bleak — similar to how we feel while studying and paper-writing

Sufjan Stevens’s little-promoted orchestral album “The. B.Q.E.” takes all of the lovely, swelling and quirky nuances that characterize Stevens’s usual albums. The album accompanies an original film by Stevens of the same name, and offers some of the idiosyncratic, electronic experimentation that he tried again to a much fuller extent on his recent “Age of Adz.” “B.Q.E.” bridges classical with current, and gives listeners the benefits of studying to classical music with the edge of indie.

Going back to the classics, George Gershwin’s jazz-influenced, 12- to 18-minute long (depending on the variation and recording) “Rhapsody in Blue” from the ‘20s has enough sass and subtlety to perfectly soundtrack any study session.

Now sometimes the softness of instrumental music just doesn’t cut it when the pressure’s on.
Justice is perfect for going into “get shit done” mode — they even have a track named “Stress” for when your blood pressure is really rising. Their newest single “Civilization” is driving, distorted and unbelievably catchy. And if you listen to the Adidas ad version, you can get cheered on as you beat the clock on that research paper.
I’m not an expert on dubstep, but a friend recommended it from his studying playlist of late, and I agree that an overpowering bass would also serve the same function — nothing like a blasting WOMP WOMP to kick your work into high-gear.

Good luck on your finals all, and tell us what music you like to study to!


George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as featured in Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.” “Why the Disney version,” you ask? Because it is awesome — watch and you’ll see why.


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