Some days, it's hard to summon the mojo to put some pep in your step and do your best. Music can be your best friend in keeping you alert and productive during these times, but according to science, certain tracks might do a better job of revving you up any time you hit a slump.

Brain waves and music research

Brain waves are electrical pulses that fire between masses of neurons, allowing those neurons to communicate with each other. There are five major types of brain waves, including delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma, with delta brain waves having the slowest frequency and gamma having the fastest. Although you can access gamma brain waves during periods of extremely high functioning, it's the beta waves that scientists associate with everyday alertness, critical thinking, socialization, learning and cognitive processing.

Understanding these brain wave basics, researchers from New York University found that rhythm serves as a type of "carrier signal" for information, with brain waves actually synchronizing to the tempo of sounds around you, including music. Additionally, a Roanoke College study led by Nicole Hurless found that beta wave amplitude went up as music tempo got faster. Another University of Wisconsin-Madison study led by Kimberly Schaub found that both slower and faster music increased beta wave activity (any music is more stimulating than no music at all), but that the faster music had a larger percentage increase. These studies both had a big limitation in that the number of participants was small, and what is "energizing" is hard to define because the brain actually needs to slow down to function in the long term. Nevertheless, they suggest that listening to quicker tracks might be a legitimate way to coax your brain into a temporarily more active state and get going when duty calls.

Quick music to use any time

What is "fast" is a bit subjective, but the Roanoke study defined it as having a tempo of at least 140 beats per minute. Based on their procedures, these are some upbeat motivational songs from every genre to keep your brain energized through every step of your day.**

(**Note: When tempos get very fast, it is often easier to divide them in half, or "feel it in two". For example, a metal song at 180 beats per minute could be felt as 90. For these selections, the song tempos are not cut in half.)


  1. How Far We've Come--Matchbox 20
  2. Higher--Taio Cruz
  3. Can't Hold Us--Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  4. Do or Die--Flux Pavilion and Childish Gambino
  5. All I Do Is Win--DJ Khaled
  6. Shake It Off--Taylor Swift
  7. The Fixer--Pearl Jam
  8. Happy--Pharrell Williams
  9. Tightrope--Janelle Monae
  10. Move Your Body--Beyonce

Metal/Hard Rock

  1. Not Afraid--Eminem (Cole Rolland Guitar Remix)
  2. Lift Me Up--Five Finger Death Punch
  3. Face Everything and Rise--Papa Roach
  4. Faithless--Black Veil Brides
  5. Eye of the Tiger--Survivor
  6. Uncontainable--Set It Off
  7. Carry On--Memphis May Fire
  8. Get Up--All Good Things
  9. Hope for the Hopeless--Papa Roach
  10. Here I Am--Asking Alexandria


  1. Oh Yeah--Charles Mingus
  2. Sing, Sing, Sing--Benny Goodman
  3. Take the A Train--Duke Ellington
  4. Birdland--Maynard Ferguson
  5. Salt Peanuts--Dizzy Gillespie with Charlie Parker
  6. The Dipsy Doodle--Larry Clinton and His Orchestra
  7. All God's Chillun Got Rhythm--Duke Ellington
  8. Benny's Bugle--Charlie Christian
  9. Choo Choo Ch'boogie--Louis Jordan
  10. In the Mood--Glenn Miller



Keep some or all of these songs in playlists on whatever device you prefer and have fun!