Humans have been fascinated by music’s impact on productivity for years.
Back in the 90s, there was the ‘Mozart effect’, the idea that making children listen to the classical composer would make them more intelligent. Recently, Greek farmers even started playing classical music to their tomatoes to make them grow quicker and bigger. And now, Curtin University and Red Bull have undertaken a research project to find out how music affects concentration and learning performance, and shared the results with Australian beatmaker and creative Ta-Ku, who used it to curate the ultimate productivity playlist.
The study from Curtin Uni and Red Bull confirmed what we already knew—that instrumental music is better for work or study, as opposed to music with lyrics—but it had some other interesting takeaways too. They found that ‘slow instrumental music with a non-resolving melody and high-density composition’ was best at enhancing concentration and cognitive processing, as was choosing a tempo below heart rate. Perth musician Ta-ku took the research and made this expansive 13-track playlist with original music and tracks from Mark Pritchard, Salami Rose Joe Lewis, Hudson Mohawke and more, and it really does do what it says on the label.
But it got me thinking—what do all the other Chatty Cathys in the Monster Children office listen to for increased concentration when they’re not squawking about The Masked Singer and who lost more money on Sportsbet over the weekend? Could they hold the keys to unlocking productivity too? I found out.
Khruangbin, in no particular album order. It’s all good. Also, I listen to the A-List: Classical, a curated playlist on Apple Music. Might sound funny, but it actually helps me concentrate. – Domi
When I listen to this music, it feels like it gets me in a bit of a trance and I can complete work with no distractions… like I’m actually working to a beat. I like the Deep House mixes on NTS Radio, but some favourites are Touch and Feel with Brian Vidal, Perpetual Sound, Rhythm Connection, Yayo, and The Food and Liquor. – Kieran
Zhu, Rüfüs Du Sol, and Presets
When I need to get serious work done, I tend to stray from my usual music choice of rap and hip hop towards more upbeat electronic music that helps my workflow. They say a long-distance runner’s heart beats at approximately 120 beats per minute which, when translated into music, sets a pace that feels like the right zone for me to stay sitting in my chair, but let my mind run. So my go-to is something like Zhu or Rüfüs Du Sol, and sometimes old school Presets (Blow Up EP). I’m no scientist, but that feels like it pushes me into the 128bpm category; the elusive magic number that DJs use to get punters to the dance floor. At which stage it’s probably time to get up and stretch the legs anyway. – Matt
Yusef Lateef and Dead Fish
For the last couple weeks, I’ve been enjoying nice mellow jazz: Eastern Sounds by Yusef Lateef. But if there’s physical stuff to be done, I’ve been going down memory lane and getting pumped via teenage favourites, like the Brazilian hardcore band Dead Fish that I used to love so much. – Helena
Lo-Fi Hip Hop Radio
This is a good one. Great to zone out to and no lyrics to get stuck in your head or sing out loud to. – Tom
Environments 1 (1969) Side 1: The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore
The artist Tony Conrad and his wife, the actress and filmmaker Beverly Grant, recorded the waves at Coney Island for their film, Coming Attractions (1970). While editing the waves sound effects into the film, they noticed a marked improvement in concentration; they also noted better sleep, sex, and a strong sense of calm. So, they released a record on Atlantic Records, launching the eleven-record Environments series for the label. Side 2 is called Optimum Aviary. Bird noises. Not relaxing at all. But the ocean side is great. – Crombie
I have a playlist on Spotify called ‘Morning’ that I created with easy listening songs which I put on shuffle when I’m doing freelance or chilling in my room. Otherwise, I like listening to jazz: Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz etc. Instrumental music makes it easy to concentrate. – Jye