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Cartoon artist drawing while listening to music on his headphones.

How Drawing to Music Will Help You Get Better at Drawing

Music can hurt your studying efforts just as much as it can help you. You can find out the best way to use music to your benefit.

If you have distractions when you're learning to draw, it's going to negatively impact your study sessions. What about background noises, like music?

You may have heard that classical music helps you study. Is that true or is that something we heard through the grapevine because classical music can just be soothing?

You don't have to search the whole video. Music does help you learn. However, there's a sweet spot with music to help you learn, in terms of genre, volume, and even the right study technique. Today we're going to do a deeper dive into music and how you can use it to get better at drawing.

Silence or music

Is silence or music better for a background noise when you're trying to learn? The science isn't totally clear on this.

Drawing can be a very lonely experience. As artists we tend to put something in the background like music, a tv show, or even a movie. It helps fill that silence. You feel less lonely sharing time with these tv characters, or the music that inspires you to keep drawing. It's just a more comforting experience as you're learning to draw. The question is, even though it is comforting, is that background noise helping you learn or is it really just serving as a distraction?

There are studies that suggest that your personality has an influence. Extroverts tend to enjoy background music, whereas introverts tend to feel annoyed or pressured by it. I've always considered myself more of an introvert so I don't know how true this is. Of course, that's my own experience, but people generally aren't in one bucket or the other (extrovert or introvert), they share traits from both sides. It would be pretty hard to tell right off the bat that you're an extrovert and you should use background music. We need to go a little bit deeper than that.

There are studies that suggest that depending on what you're doing, either background noise or silence helps us more. If you're learning, background music is the most effective. If you're thinking creatively, the silence might actually be more of a benefit to you.

My art teacher used to tell us that contrast was such a strong proponent in any piece of art that you do. Everything is contrast. If you want something to look lighter you need to make things next to it darker. If you want silence to really have an effect, you listen to something loud or even obnoxious. Then that silence becomes more pronounced. You feel even more relaxed because you just listened to something that was the total opposite of it.

The one thing that we can say with certainty is that silence is beneficial for you, but maybe you don't need to use it in a studying session. Meditation, which I will probably talk about again, is a really good way to get that silence into your life. You can grow new brain cells!

We're going to come back to how you can use silence to actually study, but first I want to talk about background music, so we can compare the two at the end.

Why drawing to music helps you learn

To understand why drawing to music is beneficial to learning, you have to know three things

  1. How your brain stores a memory
  2. Retrieval practice
  3. Your mood

You might think of your brain like a computer and our memories are files that are easily accessed, like clicking on a folder on your PC or Mac. That's not necessarily how our memories are stored. It's more of a network. Rather than clicking on a file and seeing a nice organized memory, your brain embeds a memory in a network of connections. That network of connections is all the things that are happening; the temperature you feel, any background noises, or any background smells. All of that stuff, even if you're not consciously aware of it, is your brain making connections. That's how you're going to be able to call upon that memory later.

You can start to see how music can be one of those connections in your network to help you remember information better. That's how music is going to help you learn. But we need one thing in order to let that happen!

Recall is the most efficient study technique and music is something that makes recall even more powerful. Recall, or retrieval practice, is almost exactly like it sounds. You recall information or retrieve it from your memory. The best artists you see out there use recall without realizing it.

Most beginner artists will do lots of studies. I know I was guilty of this and I'm trying to change my pattern of learning. Instead, you need to draw from memory at least half the time, if not more. If all you do is study from reference, you're not going to be able to retrieve information you've learned when you need it. You need to recall that information, so you can retrieve it and use it the way that you want. Music is just another way that we do that and it make recall that much more of a powerful technique. Music acts as another connection into your network so the memory is even stronger.

In studies, they showed that if you use the same music from when you studied, to when you recall, you had that much better of a chance to recall the information because of that stored network of connections. If you have music playing in the background when you studied, and use the same music when you're trying to recall it, it's going to be easier for you to remember that information.

The last part of this is your mood. If it wasn't already obvious, listening to music improves your mood. It's been scientifically proven and I'm sure you've experienced it yourself. If you listen to music you're going to improve your mood, which means you're going to feel better about the studying that you're doing.

All these things combined will make drawing to music an efficient way of getting better at drawing.

What you need to get better at drawing by listening to music

Let's run through the things that you'll need to use music effectively in order to get better at drawing. There is a sweet spot to using music for learning; you have to worry about the volume, the type of music that you have, if it has lyrics or not, all of these things become a factor.

  1. Keep your volume at a low to moderate level.
  2. Choose a soothing rhythm to your music.
  3. No lyrics.
  4. Practice retrieval and draw from memory.
  5. Use silence strategically.

These five things together will be the sweet spot for you to learn by drawing to music. I hope this information about drawing to music will help you get better at drawing. In the coming weeks,

I'll be putting together a few playlists in order for you to draw better, and they'll be named so that you know what you can use it for. When you come back and use recall you'll know which one you were listening to before. You can also check your YouTube history, but this way you'll know for sure.

I will see you guys next week, and thank you for reading.



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