Music for remote learning and work can boost cognitive function, boost productivity, and improve mood.

Hit a High Note: Music for Remote Learning and Working

Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music. When it hits you, you feel no pain.” Only the reggae king himself could sum up something like music so effortlessly and accurately. And it’s true on multiple levels. Not only does music provide an emotional response from deep within, but it also has a number of positive effects on the brain and the body. According to researchers from world-renowned Johns Hopkins University, playing or listening to music has been proven to improve sleep quality, mental alertness, memory, and mood. In addition, studies show that music can also jump-start your creativity. As a result, using music for remote learning and working is a proven method for getting the most out of your work and study.

But what’s the best type of music for work and study? While there’s no single correct answer, research shows that certain types of music can boost your focus and productivity. So before you pump up the latest dance jam from Maroon 5 or a headbanger from Mastodon, listen to a few of these genres—proven to get the most out of your intellectual and professional pursuits. You just might find music for remote learning and working a boon to your normal routine.

Why Music Helps You Learn and Work

Music has an effect on the brain, providing an excellent bonus to productivity when working from home.

Although music is often beneficial for physical exertion, such as sports and workouts, it can also impact the brain in ways that scientists don’t entirely understand. And while physical labor seems to be more intertwined with productivity due to music—think of sea shanties and field songs—some studies show that music can also promote a more efficient workload in complex forms of work. According to one study, more mentally demanding jobs were found to listen to more music, including:

  • Marketing and advertising
  • Data analytics
  • Computer programming

Interestingly enough, similar studies show that music can boost cognitive abilities. But typically only in people who had strong cognitive skills to begin with. Conversely, music was found to worsen the abilities of those who struggled with studying or more difficult tasks. Therefore, many researchers believe that you’re either one of two people:

  • Music is background noise that subconsciously boosts your abilities
  • Music detracts from your ability to work and does more harm than good

Keep in mind that these are theories. But one thing that’s been theorized is that the choice of music has a profound effect on studying and working. In this regard, you may have to scour Spotify, Pandora, or Amazon Music to find something that works for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so experimentation and an empty mind are crucial to finding music for remote learning and working.

Best Music for Remote Learning

Music has a certain calming effect. As such, it promotes focus which can improve cognitive function and allow you to hit the books with great focus for longer periods of time. In this regard, throwing on a few tracks while studying is highly beneficial. Not only does this work for college students, but also for professionals looking to expand their knowledge. Nevertheless, the wrong artists and songs can distract you from learning. As a result, a fine line exists between the advantages and disadvantages of listening to music. If you’re at a loss of what to listen to, here are some suggestions of music for remote learning.

Classical Reigns Supreme

Classical music has been proven to be one of the best forms of music to improve cognitive function and memory.

Never underestimate the power of classical music. While it’s not the first choice of many music listeners, classical music has been proven as one of most effective types of music to improve studying and learning. According to a French study, students that listened to classical music during a one-hour lecture scored higher on a corresponding quiz than those who didn’t listen to music. Furthermore, classical music has been proven to put listeners in a deeper emotional state, which may increase a person’s receptiveness and absorption of information. Just make sure to avoid the overly hectic or intense music of composers such as Shostakovich or Holst—unless you’re trying to get pumped up a bit.

Suggested Listening: “Sonata for Two Pianos in D, K. 448” by Mozart, “Canon in D” by Pachelbel, and “Claire de Lune” by Debussy

It’s All in the Tempo

Sometimes, musical genre doesn’t have nearly as much to do with improved memory or productivity than the tempo. According to a study by Spotify and clinical psychologists, music with a tempo of 60 to 70 beats per minute can stimulate learning by inducing a balance of alertness and concentration. While you probably wouldn’t want to blast death metal—even if does meet the tempo test—other genres of music may help you get the most out of your remote learning experiences.

Suggested Listening: “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, “Desperado” by The Eagles, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” by Elton John

Nature Sounds

If you aren’t into classical music or 60 beats per minute seems a bit small, don’t stress. Nature sounds are one of the best accompaniments for professional learning and studying. Whether you love the soothing sounds of the ocean surf or the beautiful bird calls of the forest, nature can help you meditate and increase concentration on a subconscious level.

Suggested Listening: Whale songs, sounds of the forest, ocean sounds, or whatever suits you

Best Music for Remote Working

Although more complex, jazz has pleasant qualities that can improve brain function.

Long bouts of staring at a computer screen can take its toll. Whether you’re tackling a complex project, doing your normal workload, or handling a mundane but necessary task, you may not feel like you’re in “the zone.” But what music can do for studying, it can also do for remote working. To give your productivity a dose of something extra, throw on a few of these tracks.


Soundtracks, or film scores, are some of the best types of music to work to. Not only do they provide a bit of familiarity, but they are also usually classical music. Yet oddly enough, modern classical music such as film scores resonate more with those often opposed to classical music. So if you loathe the thought of listening to Bach or Beethoven, crank up one of your favorite scores from the movies or television. Or you can go with a score that’s compelling, interesting, and non-classical, as long as it’s not overly distracting.

Suggested Listening: “The Godfather” by Nino Rota, “The Mandalorian” by Ludwig Goransson, “The Social Network” by Trent Reznor

Native American Music

Few people give Native American music a chance. It’s not often heard on radio stations, nor does it pop up on most streaming music services. To find it, you have to seek it out. But once you grab a few tracks of this lovely flute music, you’ll wonder how you worked without it. Although the music uses the same tones as Western music (flutes tuned to a minor pentatonic scale), the patterns and melodies are airy and contemplative.

Whatever Works for You

Everyone works differently. What’s distracting to one person might be uplifting and enlightening to another. That’s why you should constantly try new forms of music to see what boosts your productivity. Always remain willing and open to different genres of music, and you may stumble across some tunes that invigorate your work life.


Jazz can often seem jumbled and confusing to the uninitiated. But underneath the sounds lie interesting song compositions, altered chords, and a chill vibe unlike any other. One study also supports the theory that jazz can reduce stress, which in turn, leads to an improvement in memory, happiness, and concentration. Plus, the more you listen to jazz, the more it starts to wear on you. Perhaps one of the best facets of jazz is that you don’t like a particular genre or artist, you have a seemingly endless amount of options.

Suggested Listening (full albums): “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, “Blue Train” by John Coltrane, “Time Out” by Dave Brubeck Quartet


Although the “Mozart Effect” has been proven in many circles to improve cognitive function and memory, research points to golden silence as the most effective way to work. Or at least compared to music. In this study, workers who listened to music were less productive than those that listened to nothing, showing that for many workers, music can actually distract them. However, the same study points out that music with lyrics was far more distracting than instrumental music. Still, the case for silence remains. But if you need a bit of motivation, don’t be scared to fire up a few jams. Just do it in moderation.

Music has the rare ability to touch the soul and provide a stunning backdrop to the soundtrack of our lives. But adding a few tracks to your studies and professional life can also provide a spark that takes your productivity to the next level. So fire up Spotify or YouTube, put your headphones on, turn your stereo up, and let the music take your learning and working to another octave.

Do you have a favorite musical artist or genre of music for remote learning and working? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to share your faves. We’d love to hear from you!

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