The Best of Classical Music to Listen to While Working or Studying

Byvu lita

Jun 12, 2023

Over recent months, working and studying from home has become the new normal for many of us. It can be quite an adjustment, so in the physical absence of your boss or teacher, what classical music can help you focus, and to knuckle down to the task?

We’ve put together a playlist to help keep you focused.

We also put it to ABC Classic listeners, who came up with these suggestions:

 1. Johann Sebastian Bach

A runaway winner for so many listeners, Bach’s music achieves the perfect balance between complex thought processes and sheer listening pleasure. His music gets the brain going while still creating a comforting aural environment when you’re chained to your desk. In particular, those lively and repeating Baroque rhythms are the soundtrack to the determined work-ethic that we’re all seeking when trying to do our best at work or study.

  • I wrote my best University essays to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Yvonne Ritson, Bardon
  • Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no 3 is the perfect accompaniment to study. It got me through many a late night when studying for the HSC! Nicole Davis Fields
  • I drove my other half crazy with J.S. Bach, especially his solo keyboard works, while I was doing a 3-year post-graduate degree. He now loves the great J.S. Bach almost as much as I do! Justyn
  • It’s the Bach cello suites for me, but I have to have the volume really low. Catharine Maggie
  • Any Bach. He makes me focus. Jodes McGoo
  • Bach, Bach, and just for a change, a little more Bach. Tante Dondon

2. The Minimalists

They might still be divisive figures in the concert hall, but in the home office, Philip Glass, Max Richter, Arvo Pärt and Ludovico Einaudi are often the go-to composers of choice. Sure, their music can sound repetitive on a superficial level, but that’s kind of the point. Whether you’re doing the hard slog on that next report or assignment, or memorising the periodic table, you want an ambient sound that’s interesting enough both as foreground at the start of your project and background as you get more into your day’s work.

  • I tend not to listen to anything because it can distract me. But if I do, I lean towards minimalist music – Philip Glass is a favourite. Ben Clapton
  • I find I always tend to start listening to the music rather than working. I can’t ignore good classical music, but sometimes Philip Glass works. Mostly I use repetitive binaural beats. Helen South
  • When I need a boost of mental strength, it’s Scarlatti’s piano works, but otherwise I do Arvo Pärt or Einaudi. Simonn Stratton
  • I’ll never say no to some Max Richter! Robert McKinnon

3. Hildegard von Bingen

You shouldn’t just listen to Hildegard’s music while working from home. You should also use her as an example of sheer productivity. Yes, her music is simply sublime, but it was only part of her achievements during her working life as nun, visionary theologist, natural medicine expert, and even the inventor of a new language. If music like Hildegard’s going through your head worked that well for her, then it will surely work for you too.

  • I do everything listening to Hildegard von Bingen. Sublime doesn’t begin to describe it. Malcolm McDonald

4. Medieval chant and Renaissance polyphony

Once you’ve worked your way through Hildegard’s entire oeuvre, it could be time to move onto Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. This was originally music for contemplation and acts of devotion – exactly what you’re after in your work and study, right? Right? Well, even if you’re not after that, these two very different types of music, one simple in its melodic line, the other complex and interweaving, are both gorgeous to listen to, while demonstrating in music the necessity of sticking to the task at hand.

  • I use Renaissance polyphony to work by when writing reports. It helps enormously, I think because it silences my internal chatter. I become much more focussed. If the music is too structured It’s a distraction. Peter – Adelaide.
  • Spem et alium by Thomas Tallis… or just Gregorian chants are good. Alicia Thompson

 5. The Classical Guitar

It doesn’t matter what classical guitar music you hear, there’s just something about it that soothes the soul and calms the mind. Maybe it’s the difficulty of the instrument that demands outstanding concentration from the performer, which then transfers to the listener. And with all ten fingers engaged at once, there’s no room for extraneous detail or distraction. Whether it’s the rapturous sound of the Rodrigo Concierto di Aranjuez or that compelling tremolo in Asturias by Albeniz, listen to guitar music and your attention span will increase while your senses are enchanted.

  • There’s nothing as beautiful as a guitar – except perhaps two. Frederic Chopin

6. Mozart

Well he does fix everything doesn’t he? (Maybe not your dicky knee – best to see an osteopath about that one.) There’s just something about Mozart’s music that reminds us that sheer genius can sometimes come easily, and you can actually sound like you’re having fun doing it. If Mozart could write masterpieces while playing billiards or skittles, surely you can get that report or assignment out of the way easily, brilliantly, and with sheer style, all while listening to beautiful music!

  • Generally it’s Mozart for me. His music is beautiful and makes me feel inspired. Mal Salmon
  • For me it’s Mozart or silence. Wendy from Moorngag
  • Mozart can fix it! Narelle Milligan

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