Should You Listen to Music While Reading?

Listening to music while reading can improve your mood and make you more relaxed, which can improve your reading performance. However, many types of music can also be very distracting, which will lower your concentration and decrease your reading performance.

Your personality, as well as the type of music you listen to, play quite a significant role in this.

The old “Mozart effect” theory which claimed that listening to classical music makes you smarter has been debunked. However, there are still plenty of reasons why music can be a great aid when reading.

At a Glance

  • Listening to music while reading can have several benefits such as getting you in the mood, helping you relax while reading, improving your focus, and enhancing your cognitive performance, in general.
  • Listening to music while reading can also be distracting at times. Distractions can occur if you’re listening to new music, or reading through difficult passages, and the overall retention of information can be greatly impaired.
  • Listening to music while reading is all about choosing the right type of music. For example, instrumental, classical, jazz, and ambient/chill music are all good options to listen to while reading as they are less distracting.

The benefits of Listening to Music while Reading

Listening to music while reading is beneficial for several reasons including the following:

Music Can Help You “Get In the Zone” When Reading

Researchers have examined in depth the impact music has on our daily lives. You may have noticed how quickly your mood can change when you listen to music. People often use music as background noise when doing activities such as cleaning or driving, making it easier and more enjoyable to do those tasks.

Depending on the genre, artist, or song, music can affect how intently one listens to a song. Furthermore, personality traits determine how someone reacts to music. For example, an introvert may react differently when listening to music compared to an extrovert.

Music can impact your mood while you are reading by helping you unwind. For example, listening to classical orchestral or piano music while reading a coursebook for studies can help you feel relaxed. The right music for the right book can set the right mood and enhance your reading experience.

Music Helps You Relax

It’s no secret that music can help you relax. Taking that into account, a relaxed state of mind is beneficial for many reasons, one of which includes bettering your reading performance.

As opposed to being stressed or under pressure, when you relax (with the help of music), your reading experience will be smoother and much more effective.

Music Enhances Your Cognitive Performance

A study has shown that listening to music while reading can enhance your cognitive performance. What this means is that music helps you better recognize certain patterns and comprehend complex passages.

The end result is better recognition of word patterns, understanding complex and abstract passages, and faster reading in general.

Music Improves Your Focus

If you’re the type of person who reads outdoors or in different settings and (noisy) environments, music can actually help you focus better. By drowning out the background sounds with music, you can concentrate better on what you’re doing.

However, this would be more effective if you’re wearing headphones or some kind of earphones. That added isolation will greatly improve your reading performance, granted you lower the volume to a normal state to avoid getting distracted by the music itself.

Finding the Right Type of Music

Students often use music while studying or revising since they feel it improves their concentration. Some even say that it is more difficult for them to study in quiet settings. On the other hand, some students can not read or study unless they are in a perfectly silent environment as they find music to be distracting.

If you are confused about what type of music would work for you, here are some options to consider:

1. Instrumental Music

Instrumental music is a good option for those who require a relaxing and stress-free environment when reading.

The effect music has on you while reading depends on factors such as the volume and type of music. If it is difficult for you to read text while listening to music, wordless music might work well for you.

Instrumental music can consist of sounds of nature or songs without lyrics, and they help decrease the white noise or voices that may be distracting for some when they are reading.

If you have difficulty concentrating, you can also try to keep music on in the background or at a low volume instead of playing it at a loud volume or through earphones.

2. Classical Music

Classical music has also been said to create a mind-boosting effect that can help when reading. Although the original theory of the “Mozart effect” has been debunked, classical music can still certainly make for a great reading environment.

3. Ambient/Chill

The ambient/chill genre contains electronic, downtempo, and atmospheric music which is easy to listen to. The slow builds in songs of this genre help readers boost their mood while reading and improve concentration. The absence of melody makes them far less distracting.

4. Jazz

Mellow jazz songs that consist of lower tempos are similar to classical jazz, in that they are not highly engaging, making it easier for readers to focus on reading text while listening to the genre.

How Does Music Distract Readers?

Listening to music can sometimes prevent the mind from focusing. It may be difficult for listeners to understand text if their thoughts are focused on the lyrics of a song. There are a few specific situations where music can distract readers. These include:

1. Listening to New Music

Studies have shown that when readers listen to music in the same order, they are less distracted than when they listen to new songs or songs on shuffle.

2. Reading Difficult Passages

Music can distract readers if they are trying to focus on words that are difficult to understand or they are unfamiliar with.

This is because when our brain processes music, it uses the same function areas as language processing.

3. Retention of Information

When readers are trying to memorize text, music may interfere with their concentration. They may absorb less information, and it may be difficult for them to recall what they have read later on.

Does Listening to Music Make You Happy?

Research has shown that listening to music can improve your mood. When someone listens to music, the brain releases dopamine, which creates feelings of happiness and reward. The pleasurable feeling is often relaxing and can help people tune out any distractions or stress they feel while reading.

This explains why students use music while studying for exams. The effect of music in the background or through earphones helps students feel more concentrated. They can complete tasks quickly and maintain focus during long hours of study.

Students are also able to remember what they read when they listen to music. Much of this is due to the positive mood created by listening to music.


The stance on the subject of whether you should listen to music while reading remains subjective. Some people prefer to read in silence while others can read while blasting any type of music in their ears.

Your preference is what matters at the end of the day. We hope this article helps you decide whether listening to music while reading is the right practice for you.