If you want to work while listening to tunes, certain characteristics make some types of music a better choice than others, says Kevin Woods. He’s an auditory neuroscientist who studies how sound affects the brain. He’s also the director of science for Brain.fm, an app that makes music designed to help people focus. “You want music with very few salient events, things that grab your attention,” says Woods. “That includes vocals, sudden instrument entrances, and bright, high-frequency sounds.”
Most pop music is full of those characteristics, though. “It’s designed to grab your attention. That’s important to remember when trying to get work done,” says Woods. Music that helps maintain focus, on the other hand, usually features deeper tones, smooth transitions, and instrumentals with few or no words. Jazz, classical, or soundtracks from movies or video games might fit the bill. A genre known as chillhop, featuring mellow hip-hop beats, has exploded in popularity on YouTube for work and study.