How to Optimize Your Ability to Focus With Sound and Music
What science and experts say is the best music for tuning out the world while working through a pandemic
Last week, an Eminem YouTube video made me sick.
Not because of anything Eminem did, but rather because the song that streamed when I clicked play is edited into what’s known as “8D audio,” a nonsense term that describes music that’s been modulated to sound as if it’s playing in your shared physical space. Eminem’s voice, for example, was edited to play gradually louder in my left earphone — as if he was approaching me from the left as he raps, before his voice circled around to my right.
8D audio is frequently promoted as great for focus, though the notion that someone would find it easier to concentrate while sitting in the same room as, say, a dubstep artist is beyond me. Research suggests you should dispense with distracting 8D audio and listen to another type of music or sound instead.
You might start with black metal, as my colleague Brian Merchant recommends.
“For thinking work — reading and writing — my preferred mode is absolute silence. But with tiny screaming kids running around during a pandemic, that is rarely possible,” he says. “Black metal is very ambient and weirdly relaxing and is kind of an ideal tenor for pandemic work, to be honest.”
Why Spotify Has So Many Bizarre, Generic Artists Like ‘White Noise Baby Sleep’
The platform is filled with search-optimized spammers, and there’s no end in sight
Though I don’t necessarily recommend turning on Bathory while you put together your sales pitch deck or whatever, there’s something to Merchant’s method. It’s called sound masking, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: masking the distracting, possibly unpleasant noises in your environment with other, less disturbing sounds.
Not all sound is created equal, and what works for Merchant or others might not work for you — the intensity of black metal or similar music styles, which can obliterate, rather than mask, background noise is probably not necessary. Still, there’s a basic set of criteria…