How to Choose the Perfect Daily Soundtrack

In 2014, Spin reported that the average American listens to around four hours of music a day.

For us not-so-average music folk, like music journalists, music snobs, or those who simply can’t stand silence, you’re probably listening to more like eight to ten hours of music a day. That can get complicated… If you’re trying to write a scientific article, listening to rowdy rock’n’roll might be distracting. Or if you’re in a pensive mood, listening to narrative folk music will keep you in your thoughts instead of helping you focus. You see what I mean?

Well, it’s the future now, and science had done its thang and found what sounds go best with both your mood and daily endeavors.

Let’s start with the mornings, shall we? Personally, I am very much not a morning person—I got that from my dad. We wake up and if anyone talks to us before our coffee we only respond with death stares, unlike my mom and brother who wake up and can start jumping around doing everything ASAP.

Whether you’re a morning person or not, the music you listen to when you first wake up is going to affect you. In fact, a study published in 2014 found that pumping up the bass helps you survive the mornings, because music with more bass increases a sense of power. With a sense of power comes adrenaline and energy to help push through that just-waking-up feeling and straight to that ready-to-take-on-the-day feeling.

Songs that tend to be heavy in bass are usually hip-hop or hard rock. So those cars you hear riding down the street with the bass blaring so loudly that the entire car is shaking, well, they’re probably doing that because it makes them feel powerful—and it can make you ready to get out of bed!

Let’s move on to your mid-day playlist. If you need to focus, you’re going to want to listen to something that isn’t going to distract you. Some people would suggest silence, but that just doesn’t ride well with us music obsessed/silence-phobic (aka sedatephobic) folk.

Focus@Will conducted a study to figure out what kind of music actually helps you focus. Really, what they found was just listen to something new, something you’re not familiar with. When you know a song, your brain can sometimes start to involuntarily sing or hum along.

Also, Music.Mic explains that it’s because when you listen to something you’re familiar with, which I’m also assuming you enjoy if you’re familiar with it, then your brain is going to release dopamine and dopamine makes you feel good and that decreases your ability to focus on anything other than the music. This also helps explain why teens have difficulty focusing, because their brains want that dopamine.

However, some believe more melodically calming music aids in focus. So, play a concerto, or classical music—in fact, a study found that Mozart helps fight distractions. “The results of our experiment reveal that exposure to a Mozart minuet mitigates interference,” the study reads. “Whereas, conversely, when the music is modified to consist of mostly dissonant intervals the interference effect is intensified.”

So, to wrap that up, your mid-day playlist should either consist of new music (BTRtoday’s New Vibrations plays newly released songs weekly) or Mozart. Or hell, why not both?!

Now your day is coming to an end, and you don’t know what to listen to.

Well, if you’re feeling depressed, science suggests facing those emotions and listening to some sappy song you can relate to. Or maybe hit the gym, because working out releases dopamine, which, again, makes you feel good—so play some pump up music! For that, science says to go for the up-beat pop songs or fast rap songs. That’s because pop songs and rap songs usually have a steady tempo and empowering lyrics—unlike rock, which has constant tempo changes and tend to have darker lyrics.

Also, if you’re a terrible cook, like I am, listen to jazz while you eat, because it makes everything taste better! If you don’t like jazz, then I guess you just have to learn how to cook or order takeout.

Here’s the part that most people struggle with—sleeping. Bedtime is something we’ve fought since childhood. We tell ourselves we’re going to be responsible and go to bed early, but then we get stuck watching YouTube tutorials on how to make sparkle chocolate chicken explosion layered pot pie, even though we just discussed you can’t cook—the struggle is real.

What can infiltrate your ears to help lull you to sleep? Well, there has been lots of science on this. Last year, BTRtoday even got to chat with Max Richter, the creator of “Sleep,” an eight-hour lullaby to help you sleep. He worked with a neuroscientist to help create a song to not only lull the listener to sleep, but to also give them a great night’s rest. He performed the entire thing with a band live on BBC where the audience laid in beds.

Richters’s lullaby should help you to sleep, but overall, scientists suggest just playing something slow and soothing to help you settle down. If you’ve got some serious sleeping issues, some studies have found that traditional Eastern and Western music improves the quality of sleep in insomnia patients.

Well, there ya go! According to science, when you wake up, pump up some bass-heavy rock’n’roll; when you’re going through that mid-day slump, check out a new artist or listen to some Mozart; if you wanna cry, just let it all out and listen to some bluesy sad musicians; if you wanna workout, then get into the up-beat pop sounds or fast rap songs; if you want to think you or your partner cooks well, put on some jazz at dinner time; and if you want to attempt a good night’s rest, throw on something slow and soothing.