February 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

Can This Music App Really Boost Your Concentration?

focus@will music app

Ever since Turntable.fm launched its group listening platform, one of the most popular room themes has been some variant of “music for working.” Depending on your genre(s) of choice, a number of options exist — Indie While You Work and the Coding Soundtrack Lounge in particular — but plenty of other rooms there seem suitable for music (in general, look for the word “chill”).

Anecdotally, I have always found it impossible to write while listening to anything with prominent lyrics, like rap or Steve Malkmus’ various projects, because it occupies too much of the word part of my brain. My answer, often, is to tune into the Boards of Canada station on just about any streaming radio service.

Focus@will, in development for about two years by a Los Angeles-based company called Ducletta, Inc., aims to enable the same sort of concentration with its HTML5 app, which does not work with Android or iOS, although native apps for those are apparently on the way. Focus@will has received a lot of attention today (via Engadget) and earlier (LifeHacker), possibly because the first category of people it thinks will enjoy it are, well, journalists. The service emerged from closed beta today, so anyone in the U.S. can now use it.

You can pick from a variety of allegedly focus-boosting genres — classical, focus spa, uptempo, alpha chill, acoustical, jazz, cinematic, and ambient. I’m listening now, and sure, I guess I feel focused.

“Focus@will is the first on line [sic] music service that helps you focus when you are working, studying, writing and reading. It’s for anyone who needs to be productive on demand when working to a deadline, such as journalists, lawyers, students, writers and coders,” reads the official description. “It works by playing specific instrumental music tracks in a dynamically generated sequence that help soothe the limbic system (the fight or flight survival mechanism in the brain), so allowing you to concentrate more fully on what you are trying to do.”

According to the company, studies have found people to be capable of focusing on a given task for only 20-30 minutes, so the idea here is to extend that through the power of music, as those Turntable.fm coding room people do, and as I often do with Boards of Canada stations. So far, it appears to be working, and the fact that it can be found through a simple website — focusatwill.com —  could make the app a quick go-to destination for people who like to listen to the right kind of music for 8-plus hours a day. According to Dulcetta, this app extends your concentration cycle to around 100 minutes.

That’s a lot of people.

Here’s a chart from Dulcetta about how Focus@Will changes as you listen to it to counteract your brain’s tendency towards distraction, especially at particular times:

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like a pretty good idea, how adaptable is it to the conditions of the individual? How does it know if you are reaching a ‘lull’ or a ‘peak’ in your work? And what if you change activities, studying and reading might require different accommodations…

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