Don’t underestimate the power of music. Not only can the right song make you want to laugh or dance, but there is science to back up the benefits of listening to and playing musical instruments.
And listening specifically to classical music is especially beneficial for everything from your focus to your memory. As little as 15 minutes of listening to classical music could positively impact your brain.
Some say classical music is dying, but others argue it’s “classic” because it stands the test of time. Either way, there’s research backing up quite a few reasons to celebrate and tune in to classical music. Here’s why classical music should be on your playlist.
Classical music benefits for the brain
A particularly interesting study found that classical music could help the brain absorb and interpret new information more easily.¹ The researchers had 18 people listen to eight symphonies by the English composer William Boyce, divided into two nine-minute runs.
Those who listened to the classical music found it easier to make sense of new material. How does it work? The researchers found that classical music engages and trains your brain to pay better attention and make predictions.
Another study looked at people completing tasks in silence or with music and found that productivity while listening to music really depends on additional factors.²
Specifically, music’s effect on task performance depends on how complicated the tasks are, the type of music, and the individual. Some people might find classical music distracting or may only find it distracting or soothing when doing certain chores. But there are still plenty more reasons to give listening to this genre a chance.
The Mozart effect is a popular theory that listening to classical music can boost your IQ. Other research on this theory has found that after 15 minutes of exposure to Mozart’s music, spatial ability and the capacity to reason and understand improved temporarily.³
Another small study on adults aged 65+ looked at the impact of different types of background music on cognitive tasks, processing speeds, and memory. Those who listened to classical music performed better on memory and processing tasks, effectively boosting their memorization abilities.
Another 2012 study on college students backs up this finding too.⁵ One group listened to a lecture with classical music playing in the background, while the other heard the lecture without music. The researchers tested both groups and found that those who listened to classical music during the class had significantly higher quiz scores, as the music made their brains more receptive to learning.
Song recommendations: The researchers had people specifically listen to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Mahler’s Adagietto Symphony 5.
Overall brain health boost
Other research out of Finland looked at how classical music affects genes.⁶ The researchers found that listening daily to just 20 minutes of classical music alters the genes responsible for brain function and memory.
People who listened to classical music had an increase in dopamine and the genes associated with learning and memory. The same study also found that classical music suppressed genes related to neurological diseases.
Song recommendation: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major
Less stress and more relaxation
Give your brain a rest and turn up a Bach playlist. A 2018 study of 180 people examined how different music types impact anxiety.⁷ Although they found all kinds of music could reduce stress, listening to classical music was the most influential genre.
Listening to classical music for 30 minutes slowed heart rate and breathing, resulting in less distress. On top of that, classical music also lowers cortisol or stress hormone levels in the brain, which helps lessen anxiety.
There’s a reason people tell you to “sleep on it” before making big decisions. In fact, researchers found that people who were able to sleep were more successful at solving complex problems than those who did not, according to a study from Lancaster University.⁸
A good night’s sleep is important, and research shows that listening to classical music before bed helps people with sleep disorders fall asleep.9 The slow tempo, regular rhythm, and low pitch of classical music could be thanked for this benefit.
Bonus benefits of listening to classical music
Good for babies and mamas
Classical music can benefit people even before they’re born. Research on babies in the womb found that classical music stimulates fetuses to move their mouths more than other genres.¹⁰
According to the researchers, it’s unusual for these movements to occur during the second and third trimesters. And this early demonstration of neurological stimulation can activate areas of the brain that relate to language and communication.
The benefits extend to mothers too. One study found that pregnant women who listened to classical music were less likely to feel stressed throughout their pregnancy.¹¹ In short, turning up Bach helps both the baby and the mother.
Lowers blood pressure
The slow tempo often associated with classical music can positively impact your cardiovascular health. Not only can it help you relax, but a study looking at six different music styles found that classical music helped reduce heart rate and blood pressure.¹²
It’s believed that this is because classical music syncs with the body’s natural rhythm. Other research also backs this up, explicitly finding that listening to Mozart for 25 minutes reduced blood pressure and heart rate.¹³
Song recommendation: Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor.
Makes musicians smarter
Playing a musical instrument to make your own classical music is even better than listening to these old-school tunes. The research found that children who learned how to play the piano had superior reading and comprehension skills in comparison to those who didn’t learn this skill.¹⁴
Listening to live music can feel like a magical experience, but the same is true even when you’re just listening to a random playlist at home. Music is one thing, like food, that easily brings people together and can improve relationships.
Research in the journal Aging & Mental Health found that people with dementia listening to classical music helped them feel more connected to others and less isolated.¹⁵ It was associated with an improved quality of life too.
Life isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be. And when your life starts to get a bit complicated, a personal life coach from Wellavi can be there to help you!