Classical music for studying: the 14 greatest pieces for brain power

5 April 2024, 14:35

Classical music and studying: the 14 greatest pieces for brain power
Classical music and studying: the 14 greatest pieces for brain power. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Need to get your head down? Science suggests these are the perfect classical works for studying.

Music can make or break a revision session. So, we put together a countdown of the perfect classical music to set you on the path to success.

Listen on Global Player: ‘Classic FM Revision’ live playlist for concentration

  1. Salzburg Symphony No. 1 (‘Divertimento in D major’) – Mozart

    The perfect, high-spirited slice of musical motivation to throw you head-first into your study session. Extensive interplay between the violins will drive you on and set you up for an efficient day of revision.

    Mozart - Divertimento in D major, K. 136 (1772)

  2. Canon in D – Pachelbel

    An easy-but-a-goodie. The way Pachelbel’s Canon builds on that one, steady cello line makes it the ideal concentration soundtrack.

    Pachelbel's Canon in D - Off the Staff

  3. Gymnopédie No. 1 – Erik Satie

    Take a deep breath, a warm sip of tea and listen to this beautiful, minimal piano piece. Sometimes, the simplest melodies can bring the deepest thoughts…

    Satie - Gymnopédie No. 1

  4. Goldberg Variations – Bach

    A masterpiece of classical repertoire. Bach’s music has a deep, disciplined measure and precise structure that make it the ideal soundtrack to a stimulating study session.

    Variation 5 from Bach's Goldberg Variations

  5. Academic Festival Overture – Brahms

    Time to up the pace a little. Brahms is the perfect pace-quickener for when you need to blast through long passages of text – and when that brass fanfare hits, it’s just pure joy.

    Bernstein - Academic Festival Overture (Brahms)

  6. Time (Inception) – Hans Zimmer

    Intense, moving and disturbing: Zimmer’s main theme for Inception has the power to take you into a world of pure focus, determination and brain power.

    Hans Zimmer - Time (Official Audio)

  7. The Well-Tempered Clavier – Bach

    Fingers starting to feel a bit clumsy on the old laptop keys? J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier is a masterpiece of precision, designed to train your mind as well your keyboard technique.

    Lang Lang – Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier: Book 1, 1.Prelude C Major, BWV 846

  8. Etudes – Chopin

    Lunch break is over, you’ve had a coffee, now let’s get back to it. The ambitious arpeggio passages in Chopin’s fiendish Etudes are the perfect brain-trainer.

    Chopin: Etudes Op.10 and Op.25 (Fialkowska)

  9. Piano Concerto No. 23 – Mozart

    It’s long been rumoured that listening to Mozart is good for focusing (some studies even say it could make your baby smarter). While there may be no proof in that particular pudding, the gorgeous rising melodies and beautifully balanced rhythms in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 will guide you into the right mindset.

    Mozart -Piano Concerto No 23 A major K 488, Maurizio Pollini, Karl Bohm

  10. The Hours – Philip Glass

    A genius work of minimalism. Simple layers on simple layers build, creating beautiful cross-rhythms to spur you on in the moments where it feels like the revision may never end.

    The Hours - Philip Glass

  11. Etudes – Debussy

    Debussy designed each of his etudes to focus on a different practice technique. The perfect framework for an efficient study session.

    Mitsuko Uchida - Debussy, Douze Études (complete) [1989]

  12. A Beautiful Mind – James Horner

    For those moments when you feel like your brain just isn’t up to it, pop this on. Horner’s gorgeous orchestration and spinning melodies give you the power and drive to make you feel capable of anything.

    A Beautiful Mind 01: A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics (James Horner)

  13. I Giorni – Einaudi

    A gentle, hypnotic piece to bring you peace while you work, and to help you breathe if you ever feel like there’s just too much on your plate.

    Ludovico Einaudi - I Giorni

  14. Moonlight Sonata (I) – Beethoven

    A slow, hypnotic set of arpeggios lulls you into Beethoven’s most loved solo piano piece. Reflective and calm, it’s the ideal background music to your studies.

    Pianist creates mesmerising visualisation of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

Listen now to Classic FM Revision on Global Player – our non-stop, live playlist for ultimate concentration.