Music Guide: Which Genres Can Activate Certain Types of Thinking?

Everyone has a certain playlist that seems to get them where they need to be—whether that’s feeling focused, energised, or creative. While it might seem obvious that music plays a direct role in affecting our mood, not many understand the science behind this type of interaction. A recent study by Pfizer helps put our musically inclined brains into context.

On a scientific level, music helps increase blood flow to a certain part of the brain. This part directly correlates to our emotional state, influencing and even creating new feelings. The same lobe is also closely tied to the creation of memories, which once again signals a unique relationship between our minds and music.

This paints a clearer picture of why music has the power to move us, whether it incites the urge to get up and dance or helps us focus our thinking. But what types of music tend to help people accomplish different tasks? And are there certain genres of music that are simply geared towards certain activities, whether creative or logical? Let’s explore the top musical genres associated with specific behaviours and practices.


Mental Maths

The mind’s ability to work with numbers and mathematics is a specialized skill—and many will be tasked with developing their mental maths abilities at some point in life. Even if you aren’t balancing a chequebook, you may have hobbies that involve a lot of numbers work. For example, those who play blackjack online often juggle lots of hard stats as they seek to hit 21 without going over.

It’s not uncommon for blackjack players to utilize music to help train their brains to work with numbers more efficiently. In these cases, experts recommend classical and instrumental music. Studies have suggested that these musical genres offer ‘patterns’ for the brain to latch onto, which engages both hemispheres.

This dual engagement sets the stage for critical thinking, which is required in mathematical games like blackjack. This is especially true as players develop their skills and learn how to concentrate intently for longer periods of time.



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Getting Creative

Blackjack requires players to focus on every single card dealt to create probabilities of certain cards being drawn. However, some people might instead want to let go of analytical thoughts to get into a creative flow. The most general advice available is to stick to music that you enjoy—it’ll help break any mental or emotional blocks.

Others instead point to cinematic music. Oftentimes, music scores can be grandiose and empowering, infusing the listener with the energy and motivation to accomplish any task. And because most music scores are instrumental, there aren’t any lyrics to distract the mind.

For example, if you’re looking to finish a multi-week mixed-media painting, then you’ll need to pull out all the stops to nail your finishing touches. At this point, an artist needs to balance their creative vision with a critical eye. A soundtrack from films like Amélie or Inception offers a feature-length playlist that walks them through multiple stages that they can apply to their own work, including mounting action and a denouement.


Working Out

Not everyone wants to excel at blackjack or create a stunning painting. Many people lean on music to help them find the motivation to exercise. So, what’s the best type of music that will help you train for a 5K and stick to that daily running schedule?

Because music is so often paired with exercise, there are tons of playlists and suggestions at your disposal. However, it’s worth pointing out that some fitness professionals recommend targeting certain BPMs based on your desired outcome. A runner training for a 5K race, for example, should focus on a higher BPM around the range of 140-180.

Someone who is engaging in physical therapy or trying to focus on flexibility by doing yoga can target a lower BPM. For example, power yoga might require a BPM of up to 130, while low-intensity exercises are best paired with songs with BPMs between 60-100.