Noise for academics

March 2nd, 2007 by shane

On the recent Google group The Efficient Academic, there was a short about the best music to study to. Obviously this is a matter of personal choice to what kinds of music creates a calm relaxed focus state of mind. Most people find that non vocal music is the least distracting. Favourites of mine are classical, with artists like Bach and Mozart, Chopin and most baroque period work. I also like to listen to droney ambient, such as Brain Eno and Stars of the Lid – and often leave a Pandora radio station with “artists similar to” them (if you haven’t tried Pandora I highly recommend trying it out). Internet radio station Dronezone on is also excellent for this kind of “music”.

Probably the best sound for study is silence, especially when you need to really concentrate. But silence is often hard to find. For noise elimination, I use Sony Fontopia earbuds, and cheap copies when they stopped working. Without music playing, they do a reasonable job just as ear plugs, and with sound piping in at a reasonable volume they pretty much block out all background noise.

Another option is noise canceling headphones. I haven’t tried them due to their relatively high cost. For a cheaper option, you can get industrial ear protectors from a hardware store (or even eBay, where I got mine), which I sometimes use to block out the fan of my PC and traffic hum to get the ultimate in pristine silence in my office. These combined with the ear-buds are a killer combination, if you don’t mind looking stupid.

If you need some white noise to block out distractions, the sounds of nature can be very soothing, though people in the office next door might wonder if you are keeping animals in your office. Free on the web are these services, which allow streaming audio: –

Sound sleeping –

There are is also the shareware software on the PC Atmosphere deluxe which I have tried, and liked, though it had a worrying memory leak that inexorably attempted to gobble up all my RAM until I confined it to ALT-F4 doom.

Another option is literally to have white or pink noise playing. The makers of Atmosphere deluxe have another program which does specialises in this, Sound Masker. There is also . Both do things like playing natural sounds like rainfall, as well as having background chatter, which does a good job at masking out distracting background noise. For the Mac, there is noise.

There are times however, such as late night before a deadline, when music can serve as a very motivating distraction. Here I find cheesy music works best, naturally this includes a lot of music from the 80′s. I have investigated this through a careful and lengthy investigation based on how much my speed increases whilst running up hills whilst listening to music on my mp3 player. This combined with and the nature of the lyrics, leads me to a top ten, in no particular order.

The top ten motivational songs, ever:

Simply the best – Tina Turner

The final countdown – Europe

Don’t stop me now – Queen

Rocky Theme – Bill Conti

 Eye of the tiger – Survivor

Let’s stick together – Bryan Ferry

500 Miles – The Proclaimers

Fame – Irene Cara

Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac

Lose yourself – Eminem

Ahh, the great musical legacy of the 80′s…


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11 Responses to “Noise for academics”

  1. BobNo Gravatar Says:


    one very nice program to shield noises from outside while working is Especially the ocean and traffic borbs are great for this. Try it, hardly anything gets through!

  2. Acoustics for Academics « Efficient Academic Says:

    [...] 4, 2007 Posted by bala in Interesting Reads, Productivity. trackback The moment i read this post by Shane, i remembered one of my friends who was a designer and he always had this acoustic setup [...]

  3. Blog Web World » Blog Archive » The definitive hack for your music collection and how to use it to help you reach productivity nirvana: MusicIP review Says:

    [...] talked about how managing music and academic paper collections are similar here; See also ‘noise for academics‘ by [...]

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  6. Buy SkullcandyNo Gravatar Says:

    I love the song Eye of the tiger. I use to listen to that a lot as a little kids. Its epics =P

    Lose yourself, is also a very good song. Eminem has produced some very good stuff.

  7. Noise Canceling HeadphonesNo Gravatar Says:

    Well, while it’s true that noise cancelling headphones can be a good alternative, wearing it for a long time while you study can hard on the ears.

    For me, I only use noise cancelling headphones when I’m listening to awesome music, be it motivational or classic. It’ really keeps me focused and takes the attention (and strain) away from my ears, while I work.

    Trust me, listening to wonderful music without noise from your dog barking can be a world of a difference!


  8. chrisNo Gravatar Says:

    My favorite music to listen while studying is classical music. But it also depends on what I am studying too.

    Beathoven is a great tool for the mind. There as been links to greater brain activity when listening to Beathoven while studying. Not sure how true that is, but I think I heard it somewhere as a research.

  9. Salenko, Money Making Ideas ConceptNo Gravatar Says:

    Hey Shane,

    I like to listen to relaxation music while I am working. I love anything with the piano in it. I would also agree with chris, classical music is also one of my favorites as well.

    Sometime I do get a little to relaxed, and fall asleep, but that happens usually when I work late into the night.

  10. Annie, Music for Relaxation ComposerNo Gravatar Says:

    It’s important to find the right music – you want your brainwaves to be in the right state! It’s no good putting on relaxation music when you want to study because you may relax too much. Although my first CD was designed for very deep relaxation (would be good to do BEFORE you study) I am currently working on a more upbeat CD with brain entrainment for study. This will help get the mind in the right mental state.
    Mozart is supposed to be very good for studying.

  11. Michael McCrackenNo Gravatar Says:

    I’ve used in the past and I find it really useful, esp. when editing/writing papers.

    However, the company hosting it seems to have gone away, so I’ll point interested Mac users to on google code:

    It does basically the same thing.

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