Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration by Megan Koch

Gauntlet Mixtape Vol. 4: The best study playlist of all time

By Valery Perez, Ava Zardynezhad, Julieanne Acosta, Sophia Lopez, Ramiro Bustamante Torres, Rachneet Randhawa and Cristina Paolozzi, November 22 2021—

With midterm season wrapping up, the next big hurdle to overcome before the winter break are final exams. So while you’re stressing, cramming for your exams in TFDL, wondering if it’s still too late to drop your course or drawing that delicate line between energy boost and caffeine addiction, the Gauntlet has you covered. These are our top study hits to get you out of finals season unscathed. 

Valery’s picks: Visual Editor

“The Shire” by Howard Shore 

The Lord of the Rings soundtrack is just a straight-up masterpiece and this song is a staple in my study playlist. It cheers me up and motivates me enough to get started on all my awful assignments. 

Landscape with a Fairy” by aspidistrafly

Calm, soothing world building. 

“Falling Asleep with a Book on your Chest” by Lullatone 

Another calm and soothing vibe, I find I can’t listen to super aggressive hype study beats because my anxiety shoots through the roof. 

“Gravity Falls” by L. Dre

Lo-fi is the best study genre and that’s an indisputable fact. Anything by L. Dre is fantastic but this is the song that got me listening to him in the first place. 

Malus Domesticus” by Raury 

Actual lyrics often make me lose focus when studying because I’m one of those people that loves to decipher the meaning of words in songs. Vocalizations do the opposite — they hypnotize me and allow me to hyperfocus. This song is perfect for that. 

Ava’s picks: General Editor

My undergrad assessments were mostly papers, so that gave me a little more freedom with my choice of music. My brain is also super obsessive and it’s hard for me to focus when music changes every three minutes. So when I study, I tend to play one song on repeat until blood starts trickling out of my ear canals. 

Sisyphus” by Andrew Bird 

This song is soft enough to allow focus and dynamic enough to keep you motivated and awake throughout your study session. As a bonus, you can contemplate the absurdity of life and the Sisyphean nature of being a student while you listen to it. 

American Pie” by Don McLean 

This song got me through my thesis. For an entire week, this oldie-but-goldie played on repeat at a simmering volume as I called down some divine intervention to help me finish my dissertation through sleepless nights and bloodshot eyes. I hope it helps you get through those impossible papers as well.  

Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 11 In D Minor” by the Wiener Philharmoniker

The Vienna Philharmonic has recorded all of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances in an album that I listen to so religiously when I’m studying or writing papers, you’d think my life depended on it. This piece is my favourite of all the Dances, which is why it made the short list. I’d still recommend the entire album to keep you company while you study. 

Haydn’s “String Quartet in F Minor Op. 20 No. 5: I. Moderato” by the St. Lawrence String Quartet

I think we’ve all experienced times during study sessions when we feel like we’re going to lose our minds. Whether it’s from studying too much, heavy and complex content or just the sheer pressure of it all, it’s not uncommon to feel like your brain is going to explode. This piece is for those particular instances — you’ve got to go out in style, you know?

Julieanne’s picks: News Editor

“When We Were Young” by Adele

Don’t even get me started on the sad vibes when it comes to studying. If I have a midterm coming up you can catch me blasting sad music wherever I go. 

Tattooed Heart” by Ariana Grande

There’s something about feeling heartbroken while you study. I, for one, love intensifying this feeling to propel me through whatever I’m working on.

“Mi Gente (Alesso Remix)” by J Baldwin and Willy William

While I do love my sad vibes when I’m studying, writing papers is a whole different beat. It’s a little psychotic, I understand. However, if you like feeling like you have no worries in the world while writing a paper, this is it. This remix will make you feel like you’re at a rave — as it should.

Sophia’s picks: News Editor

“Honey” by Raveena 

This song feels as smooth as the title. Just slow and relaxed, and most of the time, this is what I prefer to listen to when studying. Definitely will give you that main character moment you’re striving for in the middle of TFDL.

“Cooks” by Still Woozy 

I listen to this song even when I’m not studying — it’s probably one of my favourite songs ever. Still Woozy, in general, makes a lot of calm music. So while a lot of his songs are great, they just so happen to work perfectly for my study sessions. 

Loving is Easy” by Rex Orange County, Benny Sings

The piano in this song is what has me sold. Overall, this song will definitely put you in a better, more optimistic mood — which I need whenever I open up a textbook.

“Talk” by Coldplay 

This song is more upbeat than the others on my list, but sometimes you just need that energy boost. Plus, it’s not my fault Coldplay makes such good music.

My Bad” by Khalid

The Free Spirit album overall is amazing in my opinion, but there’s just something different about this one. I’d often catch myself humming to this then realizing I was in public and not the comfort of my own home — at least it made studying a bit less horrible.

Ramiro’s picks: Layout Editor

“The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (performed by Hilary Hahn)

This is one of my favourites, I almost can’t study to it because I get lost in the music but it also provides incredible background music. It feels like I’m about to embark on a journey or I have just done a sunrise hike. The motivation I get from listening to this is used to fuel my study sessions.

Rêverie, L. 68” by Claude Debussy (performed by Xavier de Maistre)

A classic but arranged for harp. I feel that the harp sounds are softer than the piano version and is not as distracting but you still get the whole experience of Debussy’s dreamy piece. 

Miroirs: III. Une barque sur l’océan” by Maurice Ravel (performed by Belle Chen) 

This one transports you to the seaside. You can imagine you’re sitting at a cafe near a port — the ideal study spot. Ravel’s chromaticism provides an enriching listening experience like listening to an impressionist artist paint with sound. 

New York – Mad Rush” by Philip Glass (performed by Thibault Cauvin and Adélaïde Ferriѐre) 

The soft rhythms of the marimba with the easy strumming of the guitar are the chill vibes I need when I feel like I’m spiraling because of the amount of work I have. 

String Quintet in C, D. 956: 1. Allegro ma non troppo” by Franz Schubert (performed by Emerson String Quartet and Mstislav Rostropovich) 

This is also one of my favourites. This fast-paced piece kicks my brain into gear and I feel like I can get through so much work when this is playing. It is very dramatic and sets the mood for an overachiever persona to take over me so I can do as much as possible. 

Dawn” by Dario Marianelli and Jean-Yves Thibaudet

If you’ve ever seen Pride and Prejudice (2005), then you will recognize this one. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. This is just one example, but I am a high believer of playing OSTs from films or video games as study music. They are the perfect background music to block out other distracting sounds but not enough to interrupt my mental dialogue. 

Like Someone in Love” by Björk

I try to avoid singing music, especially if I can understand the lyrics but Björk’s cover of this song incorporates city sounds such as a bus or a crowd talking. Therefore it feels almost like if it were just white noise which happens to be a song. 

Carribean Blue” by Enya

Enya has had a hand in getting me focused like no teacher could. I don’t know if it were constant exposure to her music during work periods in elementary school or her soothing voice, but it works for me and it could work for you. Or it could put you to sleep so listen at your own risk. 

Rachneet’s picks: General Editor


I have to admit I’m a pretty straightforward person when it comes to song selections for a study tracklist — mostly because I absolutely cannot stand lyrics while studying. So I opt for more generic and instrumental tunes like classical music, relaxing sounds, lo fi music, lighter and cool ambient jams and even movie scores and video game OSTs. Here are some random recommendations.

“Drifting” by Axian  

I came across their Youtube channel a few years ago and was mesmerized by their version of Lo-fi. With chilled out hip-hop undertones and catchy beats, I could listen to this for hours on end doing a boring chore, running errands or simply hitting the books.

“Wen Uuu” by Shlohmo 

If there’s anybody that does study music well, it’s EDM DJs who understand an introvert’s world. Here’s one in particular I’m digging. It’s upbeat yet laid back and subtle, a perfect mood for cramming it all in a study session.

“Fantaisie-Impromptu In C Sharp Minor, Op. 66” by Frédéric Chopin: 

Arguably one of the best pianists and composers in history I find his late baroque style flair for classical music helps boost your mood and concentrate in sophisticated fashion of course

“Concerning Hobbits” from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and “The Wardrobe” by Harry Gregson-Williams

What better way to intimately understand your favourite flick better than listening to the original score? Everything from fan favourites like Harry Potter to The Chronicles of Narnia to The Lord of the Rings, if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre — the possibilities are endless. The best part is you can adjust based on the season and holiday from Valentine’s Day to Halloween to Christmas. There are already a ton of custom made ones on Spotify so take your pick.

“Kiss the Earth” by Ajeet  

Okay, so I admit I never thought I would be into New Age music. But then I discovered a secret — it has the ability to heal. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on your next midterm when you’re constantly being distracted and bombarded by headlines and deadlines. I used to think sacred chant yoga and meditation songs were cheesy, but surprisingly, they have a healing effect on your mental health. I came across Ajeet Kaur (or Siobhán Moore) and was fascinated by her love of poetry through song and her voice is transcendent.

Cristina’s picks: Editor-in-Chief

I usually like to listen to Lo-fi music when I’m studying, as I get distracted easily if there are lyrics playing. Maladaptive daydreaming is also something I do a little too often, so creating scenarios in my head to epic music is also not great when I need to hunker down and study. But, these songs seem to get the job done. 

“4:00AM” by Taeko Onuki

The beat to this song is catchy enough that I can follow along to the beat, but allows my mind to wander from the music to the task at hand effortlessly. 

“505” by Arctic Monkeys

I feel so mysterious when I play this song. It’s soft and mellow so when you’re studying it doesn’t interrupt your groove, but it also works to add to any one of your other playlists — truly a song for any occasion. 

“Ya Ya Ya Ya” by Jon Bryant

Perfect for those late nights where you finally look out the window of the top floor at TFDL and realize there is nothing more you can do. How does that saying go again? “It is what it is.” 

“get between it” by Nxdia

This is a great mash-up between English and Arabic — Nxdia effortlessly switches between the two languages for a chill vibe, perfect to study to.


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