• James Carter

Should You Listen To Music While Drawing?

Updated: Feb 24

This is an iffy one I feel, because listening to music while you draw is just up to personal preference in a sense, but at the same time it can be both good, and bad for you, and I'll explain why in just a minute.

I welcome you all back to this weeks James Carter Art blog post, and this week, we're discussing whether you should be listening to music while you draw or paint, or not; but not just that, I'll explain all about the pros and cons about the effects this has, and how could also impact your studying.

In 2019 the University of Wollongong Australia did a study about the positive and negative effects of listening to music while you study, you can read that here.

It basically says that listening to music puts you in a better mood, and henceforth you are more likely to stick with challenging yourself with the task at hand; however, listening to music will distract us, and affects our memory ability, and so we will find ourselves unable to retain as much information as we would like to. This is all down to listing to music while trying to do a task.

Many many people say that music helps them study, or it helps them do something, but as a matter of fact it doesn't. All it does is just helps you calm down about what challenge you are trying to face, and reducing stress while facing that challenge.

I myself used to be a person like this, and I know SO many people who are still very much like this, and I also know a few people who are aware of the effects and don't listen to music. In my college class for fine art, on the first day of class, while she was trying to teach us something, a few people had their earphones in and she told them to take it out, as music is a distraction, and you will not be able to draw as well as you would be without it and that drawing should be its own meditation.

Now, she is half right, I used to listen to music ALL the time when I drew, or studied, or did just about anything, and I honestly don't know why, I think it was just I needed something on in the background; but after a while, I became interested as to whether or not this is something I should be doing, and the results I found were very conflicting if I'm honest, and no two sources of information seemed to be able to agree. So I decided to run my own test for this. I would do a drawing once with music, and the same drawing again, but without music; I soon realised that this would be no good, as I would have learned more about how to draw it after doing it once already. So I tried again, and this time I drew two things, I would draw one thing while listening to music, and then I would draw another thing without listening to music; but.... I would then draw the thing I drew with music, but this time without music, and visa versa.

I know that is probably confusing you off your toddle, but it makes more sense when you lay it out; anyway, what I found out was that in short, I was able to learn more while drawing, and pick up new skills much faster without listening to any music.

Eventually, I came back to this interest of whether listing to music while doing a task was good or not, and by this point there was more research on the topic, and it just affects your ability to retain knowledge if you listen to music, and this actually made perfect sense.

Okay, enough about all the effects it causes while studying, what about drawing?

Well, that's pretty simple and easy if you've been paying attention, and thinking about all this in the forms of drawing.

If you're trying to do a drawing you've not done before, then I suggest not listening to music for the first time you attempt it, as it will stump your development as an artist, and you won't pick up on the skills and new techniques you've learnt during the drawing, and the next one that you attempt that requires the same skills and techniques, although it would be better, it would not be as great as it could be if you didn't have music playing the first time.

Yes, if you're an experienced artist and you feel as though you know the techniques and skills you need in order to complete a drawing or painting up to your standard, then, by all means, please do listen to music.

However, if you really are trying to just remember something, don't listen to music.

But in the article it says you can, and at the start of this you said that it's a personal preference.

Yes and no. Yes it does say you can listen to music while doing something like drawing or studying, but that is only if you find it so dull and tedious a task to complete without music then you should listen to something if you absolutely have to; but...... the music should not have vocals in it, and it's not too fast or loud.

"Research suggests it’s probably fine to listen to music while you’re studying - with some caveats.

It’s better if:

  • it puts you in a good mood

  • it’s not too fast or too loud

  • it’s less wordy (and hip-hop, where the words are rapped rather than sung, is likely to be even more distracting)

  • you’re not too introverted."

So then, do I listen to music while drawing or studying?

Well......... haha, I do and I don't, yes, it's a little contradictory, but I have a huge eclectic taste in music, where I will listen to just about any song or tune, including artists like Eminem, Billy Joel, Chris De Burgh, or Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, but I also love classic music, so I enjoy listening to any or all of those while I draw to pass the time; BUT I only do if it's a similar drawing that's I've done in the past, and I know I can reach a standard by doing it, and I am aware of the techniques and skills required of me to complete the drawing. On the other hand, I don't really listen to any music when I'm studying, or doing something for college work, as college is all about learning, and gaining new skills, and because of my personal beliefs and research in that it will distract me, or affect my ability to remember something in the long run. So as I said at the beginning, it really is just down to some research of your own, and making your own mind up as to whether you should listen to music or not. However, by all means, do not just say that music helps you study and concentrate, because as we've just found out, it doesn't, you only think it helps you because it distracts you away from the real problem and challenge you are trying to face.

So if you ask me, if you're trying to learn something, or do something for school, do NOT listen to any music at all, as it WILL affect your ability to retain and remember information.

Thank you to everyone who has read this far, and please feel free to send me your suggestions as to what you would like to hear me talk about next time, thank you.