I am by no means an expert on classical music, but I enjoy it thoroughly…
In fact, every day when I wake up, my routine is exactly the same: I meditate, brew myself some nice coffee, turn on my workstation, then I load some classical music on Spotify while glancing over the news and setting myself up for the opening session.
I enjoy classical music because I feel it does not physically saturate my senses, nor does it overwhelm me with emotions.
Of course not every classical piece is the same. Some will arise within you a range of incredibly strong, sometimes overwhelming emotions. But I’m not referring to that kind of classical music. I’m referring to the calming and soothing type.
I find the steady tempo and volume of such pieces more conducive to peak performance than other styles of music, music with lyrics, or even silence.
Are there any scientific findings that would support this claim? Not to my knowledge. This is just a personal (and subjective) observation.
The fact is, music affects different brains in different ways. Some people can listen to Metallica while studying and processing various sorts of information. Some can only listen to rap, or Mozart, or whatever else. Others can’t even listen to anything altogether.
But in general, here’s what science has to say about music and its effect on us:
- Music with a fixed tempo is proven to increase accuracy
- Music without vocals is proven to be better for focus and attention.
- Music in a major key is proven to lift the mood of the listener.
Let’s view that one by one…
A study done involving radiologists found that listening to music (baroque classical) improved their efficiency and accuracy as they accomplished repetitive tasks that they already knew how to do well — diagnosis, and so on. They actually performed better than another group who did not choose to listen to any music at all.
So if you’re going through a list of potential trade candidates, looking for recognizable patterns, then, by all means, load some music and see if you can get the work done with more efficiency.
A study done involving 102 workers concluded that background music with lyrics had significant negative effects on concentration and attention.
So if you’re ever tempted to play Metallica, The Four Horseman on loudspeakers as you trying to nail your entry, position size, and exit, just… don’t.
Instead, try something calm, soothing, perhaps even neutral like ambient sounds. The same research shows this helps increase your focus.
Instant mood lift
A study on how background music can affect anxiety, satisfaction with communication, and productivity revealed that listeners exposed to music (in a major key) were more productive but also more satisfied in their communication with others as compared to those who listened to music in dissonant tones and minor keys.
In order words, music can alter your mood (for better or for worse, depending on what you’re listening to), and since mood drives behavior, you can see how listening to the right music when trading becomes of an utmost importance.
Any significant and reliable changes in performance (say, in trading) is more related to how that music makes us feel.
Now, based on my reading of those studies, my interpretation is that any type of music could achieve different results for different people—provided that it is not played too loudly so as to totally distract the listener from whatever mental task they’re supposed to be accomplishing.
But again, that’s in general – which is to say, sample sizes in those studies are extrapolated to the whole population.
It doesn’t mean every single one of us experiences those benefits.
What’s more, those changes aren’t definitive. While there is, indeed, changes happening in the brain (apparent increase in certain brain activities), the effects seem to stop soon after the music stops and so the changes have no lasting impact on the brain.
It’s not like you can listen to music and get smarter. No, it’s an event-based phenomenon. Once you stop listening, the results stop as well.
Also, as we’ve already seen, any significant and reliable changes in performance (say, in trading) is more related to how that music makes us feel rather than it having any direct impact on IQ, mental agility, and so on…
But for us traders, that’s plenty enough!
Because if you listen to something that you find calm and soothing while trading, you may perform better.
In doing so, your capacity to reach your market goals will also improve.
Is that a promise?
No. I can’t promise that if you listen to classical music (say) you’ll become a better trader.
But what I can promise is that when you have figured out a way to deal with the strong emotions that naturally arise when trading; when you have figured out a proven trading system – one that makes sense to you, as well as mathematically — then reaching your market goals will just be a matter of time.
This is the recipe for durable market success!
So try listening to some calming music when you trade and see how that works for you.