Research Essay on Music

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The number of people listening to music has increased over time which brings about the purpose of this study. The aim is to find out the relationship between background music and its effect on the student’s academic performance. Two research questions were constructed to help in carrying out this research: 1) Does background music affect academic performance? and; 2) How does background music affect academic performance? 40 respondents from Sunway College took part in the research and they were required to complete a survey form regarding this research. The results concluded that background music had positively affected the student’s academic performance. Moreover, listening to background music while studying creates a positive atmosphere which motivates the students to perform better.


1.1 Background of the study

Music is a form of art that includes basic elements such as pitch (melody or harmony), rhythm, and also dynamics (loudness or softness). Music is also performed using various instruments or vocal techniques. The word ‘music’ is derived from the Greek ‘mouse’ which has the meaning of ‘art of the muses.’The ancient Greek and Indian philosophers have defined music as tones in which the melodies are ordered horizontally while the harmonies are arranged vertically.

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In most cultures, music has already become a vital part of people’s lives as music plays an important role in society. Background music is often played in a low volume as it is not the aim of the music to capture the audience’s attention. Background music is commonly used in various ways such as in films, video games, or even short videos.

There are countless ways to access music for instance YouTube, Spotify, CDs, or even FM radios. Listening to music while doing homework is preferred nowadays. However, many trust that listening to music is a distraction for students. This research pays more attention to playing classical music as background music. It is because classical music is said to have both calming and soothing effects. Due to these effects, it is proven that classical music can help students absorb and concentrate better while they are studying.

More researches are needed to help people understand further the effects of background music on the student’s academic performance. Therefore, this research has the main intention of figuring out the relationship between background music and how it affects the student’s academic performance.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Music has become more popular in society, mainly among college students as they prefer to listen to music while doing their assignments or even when they are reading. However, a minority of them feel that listening to music is a distraction. Without being affected by the minority, there are still people who believe that classical music helps them to feel relaxed and calm. Hence, this research introduced a hypothesis that assumes that background music has a positive effect on academic performance.

1.3 Purpose of Study

Due to the problem stated above, this research aims to find out the relationship between background music and how it affects the student’s academic performance.

1.4. Research Questions

    1. Does background music affect academic performance?
    2. How does background music affect academic performance?

Literature Review

Music has become an essential part of many people’s lives. We hear music everywhere we go such as the malls, restaurants, or even in the car. Music is very popular, especially among college students. Besides, more and more portals are created which allows the public to access music at the tip of their finger. For example, Spotify, YouTube, and radio stations. This has become a factor leading students to form a habit and listening to music while doing something else. Hence, it is crucial for the students and also their parents to acknowledge the effects of music on the student’s concentration which is connected with the student’s academic performance.

2.1 Classical Music

One of the most well-known appeals, also known as the Mozart effect is the idea that when students listen to classical music, it can help to increase the students’ cognitive performance. However, other researchers disagree and claim that classical music has no relationship with cognitive performance (Avila, Furnham, & McClelland, 2011). Besides, Huang and Shih (2011) observe that music acts as a distraction if a person strongly likes or dislikes it.

Background music can be defined as music that is meant to be heard but has no intention of distracting one’s attention. Classical music is to be selected as the background music in this research. This is because classical music can help to soothe one’s mood which can indirectly help students to concentrate better on their studies. Previous studies by Thompson, Schellenberg, and Letnic (2011) reveal that only soft fast music brings positive influence while loud fast music causes distraction including soft slow or even loud slow music.

2.2 Mood and Emotion

Music has different elements which are loudness, pitch, rhythm, and tempo. Music with a slow tempo is said to affect one’s emotions and make them feel sad. On the other hand, music with a fast tempo tends to make an individual feel happy or angry. People usually like to listen to music that corresponds to their current mood (Wilhelm et al., 2013). For instance, they tend to listen to sad-sounding music when they feel sad or depressed. The volume level of the music is also a factor that may affect one’s mood (Staum & Brotons, 2000). The results show that most people prefer to listen to classical music but males prefer to listen to loud music. Jordan-Mena (2007) proves in his research that when a person listens to classical music, the positive mood of the person increases while the negative mood of the person increases when listening to heavy metal music. Despite the results, the experiment was only conducted for four minutes. Music also tends to lead people to purchase more expensive products. In a study, a club playing classical music compared to pop music causes people to buy more expensive wine (North, Hargreaves & McKendrick, 1997).

2.3 Memory

Memory as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. Memory has several structures such as sensory memory, short-term memory, long-term memory, and also the working memory. Each structure is unique in its way as it provides different stages in the memory process. Previous research on working memory focused more on short-term memory (STM) as being responsible for immediate recall as it holds information for a short period (Baddeley, Eysenck & Anderson, 2009).

Majority of the people tend to forget the information stored in STM. On the other hand, only a minority of people manage to access long-term memory (LTM). Despite the studies carried out to study working memory, each individual differs from one another. Different individuals have different recall abilities as some can recall faster and more accurately than others. The recall ability may also differ according to gender.

A study by Lawton and Hatcher (2005) investigates gender differences as regards visuospatial short-term memory. Two pictures were shown separately to the participants and they had to identify again after the two pictures were merged. It was found that the male participants were better, faster, and more accurate than the female participants in identifying the picture.

Most of the researchers only pay attention to the recall ability of words, images, and letters. This causes them to take no notice of the research that deals with numbers or digits. Therefore, Jameson (2013) investigated to find out the recall ability of words and digits. Even so, some of the results supported the hypothesis while others did not. The author concluded by stating that music did not affect on the recall of digits. Even so, music did have a negative influence on the recall of words.

2.4 Concentration

Sigman (2005) researched to study the relationship between background music and the concentration level of high school students while they were given a task that had to be completed in class. Based on Oxford Dictionaries, concentration is the act of power when all one’s attention is focused on someone or something. The author highlighted certain limitations such as distractibility which was caused by listening difficulties and also psychological responses to music.

The research was conducted at the Washington Country Career Center in Marietta, Ohio. Junior and senior students were chosen and divided into two groups. They were assigned to complete tasks involving multiple choices, short answers, and essay questions. For the first 15 minutes, they worked in silence and a pre-test survey was distributed to the students. Later, the students continue completing their assignment but this time with Mozart music playing in the background. The music was stopped 15 minutes later and the students had to fill in the post-test survey. The same procedures were carried out with the other group with the difference that Mozart's music was not played in the classroom.

The researcher discovered that even though background music was played, it did not affect the concentration levels of the students. She has also pointed out some considerations that may influence the significance of the data. For instance, the personal preference of the students may be a factor as not all the students like classical music. Pop music may appeal more to most of the students compared to classical music.


3.1 Participants

The targeted participants were students who were currently studying in the Pre-University Program at Sunway College. The participants consist of both males and females. A total of 40 students participated in the survey. The participants were selected if they met the characteristics needed to conduct this research. The requirements were the participants need to be between the age range of 17 and 19. Besides, another requirement that the participants need to meet is that they listen to music.

3.2 Materials

To conduct this research, survey forms were used. The survey forms were created using Google Forms as it is convenient and easy to use. Additional questions were added to help guide the participants in satisfying the research’s objective. For example: How often do the students listen to music? Do they listen to lyrical or non-lyrical music? How does listening to music while studying affect them?

3.3 Procedure

A survey form was prepared and given out to the participants to fill in. The survey was aimed at collecting data that is needed to identify the relationship between background music and student’s academic performance. The results will be collected once they have completed the survey. The results collected were subsequently tabulated. Next, the data is filled in and organized as this can save time when it comes to analyzing the data. Once the organization of data is done, the data will be analyzed to see if the hypothesis of the research can be accepted.

Findings and Discussion

The hypothesis of this research is to study whether there is a connection between background music and its effects on the academic performance of the students. 40 respondents were asked to fill in a survey to help conduct and answer the research questions, which are:

    1. Does background music affect academic performance?
    2. How does background music affect academic performance?

Based on the diagram, the majority of the respondents feel that classical music does not distract them when they are studying. However, another 14 of the total 40 students agree with the statement that which music distracts them. They find it hard to focus on their studies in the presence of music.

Previous literature discovered that there was no significant relationship between the presence of background music and the student’s concentration level (Sigman, 2005). The researcher claimed that there were external factors that caused the results to alter as there are many genres of music such as pop music, electronic music, or even rock music.

This research believes that the results are different because every individual has their likes and dislikes. It might be a coincidence that the respondents of this research prefer classical music to other genres. Sometimes the students would have no choice but to study in a cafe or other places that may have a noisy environment. Therefore, they may choose to listen to music as it helps to keep them out of the noisy background and be more focused on their studies.

In the survey, one of the questions asked the respondents if they felt that listening to classical music influences them positively. Provided with a Likert scale, the respondents have to give a rating between “1” and “5”. “1” represents strongly disagree while “5” represents strongly agree. A total of 17 respondents gave a rating of “4” and this indirectly means that they do agree with the statement.

This result has a similarity with research done by Jordan-Mena (2007). He claims and provides evidence that when classical music is played, a person feels more positive compared to when heavy metal music is played. Based on this research’s opinion, classical music can soothe and in the meantime increase the positive mood of a person. Due to this ability, an individual tends to feel more relaxed which can indirectly motivate them to study and perform better.

A Likert scale was provided again for the respondents to rate the effects of listening to non-lyrical music on their memory performance. The graph clearly shows a total of 13 students felt neutral about the statement given. It was followed by 12 students who rated “5” (strongly agree) that listening to music helps them in memorizing better.

An experiment by Baddeley, Eysenck, and Anderson (2009) was carried out to study the working memory of a human. The experiment presumed that each individual is different from each other. Some could recall faster while some find a hard time to do so.

That past literature can help in supporting this current research as there is only a difference of one person between the respondents who gave a rating of “3” and “5”. The author of this research personally agrees with the past literature that the ability to memorize and recall differs from one another which may be caused by several external factors.

As calculated, the r value equals 0.18. This result shows that there is a positive significant relationship between the respondent's cGPA and the hours they spent listening to classical music while studying. It means that the longer they listen to music while doing their studies, the higher their cGPA.

According to the research mentioned previously, the relationship between the presence of background music while the students are studying can differ according to each individual. Some of the respondents may have a strong ability to cope with their studies even without listening to music. On the other hand, some are weaker at the same time finding it hard to catch up. As mentioned before, the fondness of each individual towards music is also different.


The first research question was “Does background music affect academic performance?” The results have clearly shown a connection between these two and it leads to a conclusion that background music helps to improve the students’ academic performance. As for the second question, “How does background music affect academic performance?”, this research also revealed that most of the students can accept the presence of music and they feel positive and relaxed when they are studying. There is also a group of students who are neutral with the statement that music helps them to memorize better. Yet, there is also a minority of them who opposed the statement. As a whole, students listen to music based on their liking which helps them in their academic performance and at the same time provides a relaxing study environment.

Despite the results, the existence of some external factors may lead to a difference in the outcome. One of the factors is the group of respondents is only limited to college students. This causes a restriction for the calculations to be only for the age group between 17 and 19. Comparing this with the previous literature, there will be a contrast between the findings as the previous literature was mostly carried out with different age groups.

Furthermore, the survey created was sent out online. As for the multiple choice answer, there are limited answers for the respondents to choose. This sets a limit for the respondents as they cannot express their own opinions or feelings. There might also be a chance that the respondents filled up the survey without taking it seriously or considering the consequences of their actions. Thus, this indirectly causes the judgment to be untrustworthy.

This research can be further improved by enlarging the sample space of the research. A wider age limit should be taken into consideration which can include high school students and also university students as they are also under the category of people who often listen to music while revising. Apart from that, the survey questions can be modified for the respondents to discuss or exchange their point of view which can help in future studies.

This research can benefit society by allowing more people to understand better that even though the preference of each individual is unalike, a positive relationship still somehow exists between the two, which is background music and its effects on students’ academic performance. Therefore, academic institutions can encourage the lecturers to play music when work is distributed to the students to motivate them which enables them to perform better.


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    2. Baddeley, A., Eysenck, M. and Anderson, M. (2009). Memory. Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press.
    3. Duff, A., Boyle, E., Dunleavy, K. and Ferguson, J. (2004). The relationship between personality, approach to learning, and academic performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(8), pp.1907-1920.
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    13. Sigman, K. J. (2005). Using background music in the classroom to effectively enhance concentration within the learning environment. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio.
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