10 Albums to Listen to While Studying

10 Albums to Listen to While Studying

Music is something that is in many ways universal. Even if you are listening to a band speaking a different language, many times the tone of the instruments and the vocal inflections of the singer can make you feel the emotions you were intended to. Even more so in this digital age where music is no longer locked to the region where it was created. Music is also something that is used by many to focus, or to fill space when something is being done that is not enjoyable. Speaking from the perspective of a high school student, who listens to music while doing homework, I can attest to how listening to music can help with focus, and motivation to do something that I don’t want to do. Now, I find that I can sometimes lose myself in analyzing songs that are too loud and in your face, which doesn’t help focusing on work at all, so the majority of the albums on the list will be more laid back and instrumental leaning. This does not mean that you can’t listen to loud and hype music while doing homework, this is just something that helps me (also, if you can’t tell by now this list is entirely personal opinion, and also not in any particular order)

1. Donuts – J Dilla (2006)


Donuts is an album that has become legendary in hip-hop producer circles. It is often said that the album has two distinct listens, one when you are just purely listening to the music, and one when you learn of the backstory behind it. Simply put, the album is amazing. From the vocal chops, to the drums, to the basslines, everything is top notch, and pleasing to the ear. The album has both a calm and connectedness to it, that makes it almost perfect for listening both in the background, and while paying attention to it. There is a reason why there are many different songs off the album that have “homework edits” on YouTube.

2. Modal Soul – Nujabes (2005)

Nujabes is a name that may not be extremely well known, but his influence is felt on a fairly large amount of music released today. While some have learned of him because of his work on the soundtrack for the anime Samurai Champloo, I personally learned about him through a Genius video, and have continued listening to him ever since. Sometimes referred to as the Japanese J Dilla, and oftentimes considered a forefather of the Lofi Hip-hop subgenre, he managed to create beautiful music that just has a calming effect to it. Nujabes like Dilla, used many many samples, but something that stands out is that he would play live instruments over them, making them sound fresh and real. Although this album is not entirely instrumental like Donuts (there are multiple songs that do have rappers on them) it is still very laid back and somewhat inspirational at times. Making it perfect to listen to while trying to buckle down and study.3. Nectar – Joji (2020)

Pivoting away from the hip-hop genre we now take a look at an album that is firmly entrenched in pop. Nectar is an album that came out recently, and has found a part in my playlist for studying. The production on the album is pristine, and at times even epic sounding. However, despite this, the album still manages to have a constant sense of melancholy, and Joji himself holds the same tone throughout the album. Even when getting extremely emotional, and even on the faster paced songs, he manages to keep his singing somewhat low-key, but still expressive (which is not a slight to his performance on the album, because in my opinion it sounds beautiful). This lends to the album not necessarily stealing attention from you while working, but still makes it a pleasant listen because of its thick harmonies and gorgeous melodies.

4. Long Season (Live) – Fishmans (1999)

Long Season is an album that is only a single song. This may sound strange, but when listening to it, it makes sense. The different parts transfer seamlessly into each other, and this enhances the experience. There is a studio version of the album, which is in some ways similar to the version I recommend, but there are a couple quirks that you would have to get over (for example, a couple of minutes that contain what can only be described as toilet sploshing sounds). The version I recommend is found on their live album 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare. It was their last show before the untimely passing of the lead singer, and is a stunning example of psychedelic indie. This album is one that was originally left in its home country of Japan, but because of the internet and streaming services, it has begun to make its way through music circles in the U.S.. The lyrics are minimal, and the guitar playing is phenomenal. The album is one that, like Donuts, is perfect to be listened to attentively, and in the background while doing something else.

5. Since I Left You – The Avalanches (2000)

Since I Left You is a masterclass in sampling, and just musical production in general. The album contains an estimated 3,500 separate samples, and they all somehow manage to connect and work as one cohesive unit. Unlike the hard chops and decidedly hip-hop rhythms of Donuts I find that Since I Left You reminds me more of pop music (there is a sample of Madonna’s Holiday buried in there somewhere). The album is for the most part laid back, and somewhat like the cover makes you feel like you’re just laying back on a boat going across the sea. 

6. Deliverance – Culprate (2014)

This album is likely a hard sell, and a hard one to explain. Culprit is mostly known as a producer of dubstep music, a genre that many may not find the easiest to work to. However, this album is much more than that. There are instrumental passages that sound gorgeous, and at times can be reminiscent of something off of a Pink Floyd album. While the album does have moments where it goes into dubstep territory, it never becomes overbearing and blown out like the stereotypical song. It is truly an interesting listen, and one that I recommend at least trying once in a study session before you give up on it. 

7. Dinner Party – Dinner Party (2020)

Dinner Party, a supergroup made up of Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder, and Kamasi Washington, made an album last year that seems to have flown under the radar for many. This album is smooth, jazzy, and oh so beautiful. Vocals are only present on a few songs here, and when they are there they add so much to an already amazing instrumental. There was a version released later in the year named Dinner Party: Dessert that had rappers go over the instrumentals, but I find that the original version is a much smoother listen, and one that leads to better focus while studying.

8. Minecraft – Volume Alpha – C418 (2011)

What is there to say about Minecraft – Volume Alpha that has not been said already. It is a serene masterpiece, that not only perfectly complements the game that it was made for, but also is just a great piece of music to listen to by itself. If you’re ever stressing too much about homework, just turn this on and take a second, I’m sure you’ll feel at least a little bit better.

9. Circles – Mac Miller (2020)

Unfortunately I, like many, did not listen to Mac until after his death. However, because I began to listen to him, I was able to find this album. Circles is very little like what Mac was known for while he was still alive, and that’s perfectly fine. The project has Mac singing a lot more than usual, and it creates a sort of serenity and peacefulness that was missing in previous albums. Because of this, the album is a perfect choice when trying to find something to listen to while studying, or just when you want to sit and be alone for a while.

10. Just Friends – Potsu (2018)

Potsu is a name that has become very popular in the Lo-Fi community ever since he landed production credits on XXXTENTACION’s debut album 17 (they were for the songs Carry On, Everybody Dies in Their Nightmares, and Jocelyn Flores. The last of which actually uses a song Potsu had released already named I’m closing my eyes as the beat). This album is one that I found shortly after seeing his name in the production credits of 17 and I remember being pleasantly surprised upon listening to it. The album very much fits in the Lo-Fi subgenre, but it is so much more than that. There are amazing Jazz flourishes in the title track (that would echo his pivot to a more jazz sound in later albums), and it does not utilize that many samples (like many songs in the Lo-Fi genre do). The album is a pleasant and calming listen front to back, and one that I recommend to anyone that likes to just vibe while working.