The Impact of Non-Commercial Background Music to Higher Education Students Abstract

TheImpact of Non-Commercial Background Music to Higher EducationStudents


Studentswho are successful in academics need a wide range of effectivelearning tools to aid in maximizing their study skills. Music is oneof such educational tools. Studies have shown that music is both adistractor and a motivator during learning. A sample of students ofSacramento State campus was used to conduct a survey to ascertainwhich of the two school of thought is ideal and to determine how andif Sacramento State students use the art of music as an effectivetool of learning. Out of the 250 students surveyed, 201 confessed tohave played music at the background while learning. Though, thepractice is faced with hordes of limitations, the overall outcomeshows that music can be used as an effective tool of learning andmore studies need to be done to implement music in the studysettings.

Educationis a process that requires students at all levels to assimilate andmanage more information from academic sources than ever before. Withthe increase in information volume and demand in academic tounderstand the said information, new techniques have to be adoptedand developed to meet the overgrowing demand. Academic learningskills that aid in retention and assimilation of the requiredacademic coursework must be exploited in order to increase success inacademics. Tools in learning must be combined with the alreadyexisting skills in order to enhance accomplishment in academics(Holcombetal.,2010).The usefulness of non-commercial background music as an effectivelearning tool has been an area of research for many years.

Thewake of new technology has made a variety of new resources, devicesand methods available to students for storage, remembering andrecording of information and music. These devices are available andaffordable in different forms, languages and subjects. When thistechnology is utilized appropriately it can be effective tool oflearning despite the fact it can be expensive, unavailable andinaccessible (Pintrich,2004).Music can be used as a complement to the existing study skills thusimproving the study environs and experience.

Thisstudy has discovered that music not only creates an effectiveenvironment of studying but it also aids in recalling duringexaminations and other evaluations in performance. Besides, the studyhas found out that appropriate background music can improveconcentration and evoke a learning environment that isproductive(Conley,2008).The research conducted numerates the existence of music as a learningtool amongst a section of undergraduate students at Sacramento Stateand matches the outcomes against the evidence of prevailing bodies ofstudy regarding the use of background music as an effective tool oflearning.

Aimof the study

Howthe study skills of undergraduate students can be improved by the useof background music from a non- commercial resource.


Musicis an effective learning tool that can be used by college students toimprove their academic study skills performance and surroundings.


Thefollowing areas of study were utilized as search parameters duringscholarly review of literature: the relations between learning andmusic, learning and sound and the usage of music as a backgroundresource throughoutlearning. The information to conduct the review ofliterature was obtained from both hard copy and electronic resources.The research questions was trying to feel the gap between thescholarly groups of indication that both oppose and support thepoints of view regarding the use of non- commercial background musicas a useful learning tool that can be utilized by the students incollege to enhance their study skill in academics. The studyquestions addresses the differences between two opposing forms ofevidence and therefore attempts to makedeductionsgrounded on therelevance of existing research contrary to the finding of this study.

Musicand Learning

Therelationship between learning and music has been subjected to a lotof research. It has been found that students who are exposed toenvironment with music playing in the background, exhibit higherdegree of comprehension Vis a Vis to those who are not. The cognitiveability of students who listen to music while studying, has beenspeculated to impact positively to their studies. Focus is essentialduring study. External destructions such as computers cellularphones, friends andphysical needs compound with internal distractorslike anxiety, self-doubt, fear and anger diminish focus in study. Aserene and conducive environment is a key learning tool that improvesstudy skill and consequently performance. Each study source supportstheir conclusion with sound rationale but many times fails to addressthe impact of direct and indirect variables which undermine theconfidence in reliability and repeatability.

Soundand learning

Accordingto research academic retention, comprehension and recall can beenhanced through the use of background non –white noise. Theresearch further affirms that music in the background acts tocomplement the learning environment. Memory can be enhanced throughmusic modifying the learning experience through contextual cuing. Thecuing art can be developed through either sound or visual stimuliwhich will consequently result into context –dependent memory.

Brain ability to grasp information and interpret it has been enhancedby music(Rodriguez,2011).In the 18thcentury, the brain function and mechanism was monitored usingfunctional magnetic resonance imaging. The study found that musictriggers part of the brain that is involved in memory andinterpretation of information. The link between learning andlistening to music has been under constant research for many decades.In the early 1990s, the concept was first introduced by Dr. J.SJenkins who coined the phrase ‘the Mozart effect.’ The term meantthat listening to music composed and performed by Mozart couldmomentarily enhance the performance on certain spatial-temporalreasoning tasks that include the Stanford IQ test (Newman,2016).The research suggests that prior listening to background musicincreases the cognitive process like memory and attention viamechanism of escalating the positive mood. on the other hand,according to Perham, quiescence and ambient noise are the key tooptimal understanding. Traditions cling to the notion thatconcentration is optimized in an environment without distractors likemusic.

Backgroundresource study

Inthe University of Wales in Cardiff, United Kingdom a study wasconducted to determine the students’ ability to comprehend in thepresence of different sounds. 25 participants aged between 18 and 30were asked to memorize a list of letters under different sounds. Theparticipants were subjected to five different listening conditions: asound repeating the number three, the other repeating the randomsingle –digit numbers, no music, music that the participants likedand music that they disliked (Perham&ampVizard, 2011).

Thefindings from the study showed that those who listened to musicwhether they liked and disliked it recorded the lowest rememberingassessment figures. Also those that listened tothe voice repeatingthe random numbers also had low post-test recall values. The highestrecall values were recorded to with those that listened to no musicand repeated number three test group. The study concluded that whenthe background music plays it disrupts the cognitive abilities sinceone is trying to memorize things in a sequence manner(Gaither,2011). There is always confusion and disorientation in the cognitiveability through the additional indirect variables and the on-goingcerebral attempts to discern between the essential, to be recallednumbers and the background music.


Ofthe two schools of thoughts which one is correct? Is there acentralized ground of understanding that incorporates a combinationof understanding from both sets of thinking? The study is designed atcountering the following questions: Is playing background musicduring learning a distractor or motivator? Are the availability,affordability and accessibility of music devices that can be used aseffective tool of learning been improved by the prevailingtechnology? Is the information obtained from the Sacramento highereducation peers provide clarity on whether the utilization of musicas a tool of effective learning Vis a Vis to the existing literature?The literature review concentrates on computing the study results ofresearch tests pre, post and the absence of background musicconditions but it fails to explain how the art of music makesstudents feel while studying.


In2011, a survey was conducted to 250 volunteer undergraduate studentsat Sacramento State that involved a ten question survey. Thequestions were designed to seek information on the students’perceptions on the background music to their studies (Gaither,2011).The 10 questions survey comprised a yes/ no question, three ‘freewrite’ questions and 6 1 through 5- Likert-scale questions.

Varyingthe selection and invitation of the research participants byexecuting verbal invitation and convenient process of selection wasemployed during the research survey. Curious students who passed bythe survey table were included in the survey though upon theirconsent to participate in the study. Participants of all ages,physical ability, race and sex were included in the study. Theresearch was conducted at 5 different locations to maximize theopportunity of obtaining a universal outcome.


Theresults were based on the questions posed to the participants in thesurvey.

1do you listen to music while studying or doing homework?

Figure1201(80.4%)of the 250 students at higher education surveyed, listen to musicwhile studying.

2kindly indicate the frequency of listening to music while studying?




















17%seldom listen to music while studying, 29% recorded occasionallistening to music, and 23% usually listen to music while learning,31% indicated to listen to music while studying. 54 % are always orusually listening to music while learning.

3please show whether listening to music while studying assists inshutting out distractions?




no shut out



Minimal shut out



Some shut out



Mostly shut out



Shut out






1% recorded no shut out 28% show some shut out 26% recorded most shutout and 27% indicated that music shut out other distractions.

4The mood, to which music places you while learning?







Somewhat unhappy






Somewhat happy









Itcan be inferred that 12% were neither happy, 36% were recordedsomewhat happy 51% of the participants were absolutely happy.

5what type of music genre do you listen to while studying?

Thegenre reported varied with the participants.

Someof the selected form of music was speed-metal grudge rock, smoothjazz Tibetan bowl chants just to mention but a few. Various types ofbackground music affect the student study skills differently.

6.Please indicate the degree of enhancement of music towards thequality of study?




No enhancement



Little enhancement



Moderate enhancement



Largely enhanced



Greatly enhanced






Thestudy revealed that 2% show negligible or no enhancement, 33%recorded moderate enhancement, 24% show large enhancement and 41% hadexperienced the greatest influence.

7.Do you increase the comprehension ability through listening to music?
















Theevaluation revealed that 1% experienced no increase in comprehensionwhile studying music, 72% were unsure and 27% recorded an increase inunderstanding while listening to background music. Majority of thestudents were unsure of the result.

8.Please tell whether the music choice is commercial or non-commercial?

Figure2studentswere asked to choose between 5 (Non-commercial) and 1 (commercial) toindicate the type of music they source during their study.


Themain goal of every student is to be successful in academics. A properstudy environment must be created and identifying a learning style toindicate how student learn is essential. In the above research, thestudy was flexible and easy to utilize the data and findings foranalysis. The data gathered from the research survey gave uniquechance to get comprehensive insight into the learning environments ofa segment of Sacramento State students. The feedback came directlyfrom the respondents and the comparison of the research surveyoutcome against the evidence measured the strength and viewsof thestudents of Sacramento State against the conclusions and wisdom ofthe previous studies.


SacramentoState campus has over 32,000 undergraduates. A sample size of twohundred and fifty students is 0.78% total student bodyrepresentation. The research population size is a direct relation tothe degree of confidence in the conclusions made in a study.


Thestudy shows that a larger proportion of Sacramento State studentsthat participated in the research use the non-commercial backgroundmusic for an effective learning to enhance their success rate inacademics. The study laid a firm foundation on which to develop andimplement new strategies to fill the gaps of the information withinthe existing literature on the subject in discussion. A survey from abroader population is needed to confidently track and successfullyestablish and change reputable evidence supporting one of the schoolscholarly thought on the subject matter.


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Perham,N., &ampVizard, J. (2011). Can preference for background musicmediate the irrelevant sound effect?.AppliedCognitive Psychology,25(4),625-631.

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