I almost always listen to music when I study. But variety is essential. If I’m listening to a 50s and 60s playlist, I’ll make sure there’s some music from the last decade thrown in too. I find this mix of genres really helps to keep my mind on track. It’s a good background noise that I can (almost) ignore, exactly the kind of semi-distraction I need when I’m studying.
The trick for me is to listen to different songs each time I study. If I play the same songs every time or the songs are repeated, I pick up the beat and the lyrics. As a musician, I find this a little inconvenient as I’m suddenly more interested in the thing I’m trying to ignore. Different songs each time I study takes care of this.
Other times, I find that listening to songs in a foreign language works for study. When I listen to a song in a language I don’t know, I can’t quite get the hang of the lyrics, which means they can’t interfere with what I’m reading. It doesn’t stop the beat becoming familiar though if you play it enough times - so watch out for that.
When I’m not particularly motivated to study, I put on something upbeat. Something fun. Pop music helps get me in the mood to at least try and do some studying. Other genres may work better for you - whatever it is, if it helps get you in the study mood, go for it.
If I’m studying something I find particularly hard, I might switch the music off for a few minutes so I can read aloud. This helps me concentrate fully on what I’m reading and saying. On other occasions, it can be just as helpful to read what I’m studying aloud with the music on. And sometimes I like to say what I’m reading in time with the lyrics of the song I’m listening to (believe me, it can work!).
So yes, music can help you study. Try it for yourself the next time studying feels a little intense.