Instrumental soundtracks to listen to for study motivation

Written By Amanda Andrews, Editor-in-Chief

Spring break is thankfully almost here. You’re probably looking forward to a brief respite from the hectic demands of classes. Or, if you’re like me, you’re wondering how you can take advantage of the next seven days to catch up on everything that’s fallen by the wayside.

For the chronic procrastinators, listening to music may be a way to motivate you to skim through that assigned reading from two weeks ago or grit your teeth and put in the hours needed to complete a tough project. However, some people understandably find music distracting — typically music with lyrics. After all, if you’re trying to read a rubric posted on Schoology, your mind might prefer to think about the lyrics from your favorite band or artist rather than on school.

If this is the case, and you want to listen to something more sophisticated than white noise, exploring some soundtracks and instrumental music might create the inspiration you need to romanticize the study time or the quieter moments you take for self care. All that said, here are some recommendations of some popular soundtracks and artists if you don’t know where to get started.

Joe Hisaishi

I realize this one is a little bit of a cop-out since I’m not specifying any specific album of his, but legitimately every single track this man has ever composed is golden.

You simply can’t go wrong with Joe Hisaishi’s music. From the timeless classics, like the strings-led, earworm-worthy chorus of the Merry-Go-Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle or the profound, gentle piano tones of One Summer’s Day from Spirited Away and his first Piano Stories album, to the melancholy-infused sounds from the live-action 1997 film Hana-bi, his entire discography of better and less known works provoke the full spectrum of emotions.

There is something indescribably so distinct about his style, which — even for the people who did not grow up watching Studio Ghibli films — has the power to inspire a deep sense of nostalgia and appreciation for the simpler things in life. Listening to the peaceful instrumentation, usually guided along by a masterfully mild piano, creates a cherished atmosphere, no matter where you are or what you are doing. His more mellow songs are perfect for putting on in the background (sometimes even on loop) and placing most people in the right headspace to tackle any task ahead.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) soundtrack

I am probably one of few people who does not enjoy this movie, but goodness — the soundtrack alone is one of the most exquisite I’ve ever heard to date. And it’s one of the first options I think of for studying music.

Italian composer Dario Marianelli leads his listeners through a classically-inspired soundscape, invoking images of the past with the soundtrack’s heavy emphasis on the flute and piano. Delicate romantic swells and crescendos define most of the most memorable pieces, which are so stunning that you could possibly get lost in the world the music transports you to. Even with its classical roots, the soundtrack is able to stand on its own, and many audiences remark on how unique these songs are. The leitmotifs throughout wonderfully write its own story and make the soundtrack easy to listen to, as your ears follow similar sequences. It’s this sort of ingenuity with music composition that helps your brain fire off those signals to identify patterns and discover new things.

Towards the end of the film, Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy says “you have bewitched me body and soul.”

Well, if there’s anything that is bewitching in this movie, it’s the music.

Rachel Portman – One Day

It’s rare in the music industry that female composers get the recognition they deserve, so I would like to put a spotlight on Rachel Portman’s wonderful work for the 2011 film “One Day.”

Truthfully, I’ve never seen “One Day,” so I can’t speak for the movie itself. At the risk of dating myself, I stumbled across this soundtrack several years ago when I had Pandora (an antiquated music platform I still have fond memories of).

On first listen, I have to admit, the music didn’t jump out to me as all that remarkable. It took me some time to realize its beauty is in its minimalistic style. The repetition is very intentional, with slow, purposeful, soft chords grounding the suites in a sort of aspirational mood. The notes and progression have a somewhat romantic feel, but certainly have the ability to settle any high anxiety you could be feeling about school, work or anything else.

In the case of studying or concentrating music, simpler often wins out over the more complicated stuff.

It is really easy to set the piano version of “We Had Today” on loop and eventually forget that it has been playing over and over again for nearly two hours.

John Barry

John Barry was an absolute legend. Much like with Joe Hisaishi, there is not one single album I can recommend because all of his work is incredible.

The range of his music is impressive within its own right, and Barry is best known for his work on the earliest James Bond films. Wanting something bombastic and energetic to listen to? Look no further than the themes for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” “From Russia with Love,” or “Goldfinger.” Barry even showcases his capability to slow down the tempo in his Bond songs with “You Only Live Twice” and “We Have All The Time In The World.”

However, in my opinion, the peak of his accomplishments can be found outside of the Bond realm. If I only had to recommend one of his complete soundtracks, I would choose “Somewhere In Time” from 1980, which ended up being one of his most popularly received scores. The mystical aura the whole score emanates is downright eerie and yet entrancing. So if you’re seeking out something to idly listen to that’s a little out of the ordinary that’s still beautifully composed, this soundtrack is for you.

Health experts are very vocal about how beneficial listening to music is on our mental and physical health. So as you unwind over the next week, or gear up for cramming in some work over the next few days, consider putting on some of these tunes to make you feel inspired.