Listen to the ultimate productivity mix, curated by Ta-ku

© Pretty Soon
By Lachlan Kanoniuk
When it comes to hitting the books it can be hard to stay focused. Red Bull have teamed up with Curtin University and Ta-ku to develop the ultimate playlist, designed to produce maximum productivity.
It’s hard to stay focused. It’s been a long uni semester in an even longer year and a long night of study can appear daunting. Music plays an important role for keeping the mind on task but finding the perfect soundtrack can be a time-consuming pursuit in itself and can lead down a rabbit hole of procrastination.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered.
Red Bull teamed up with Curtin University on a research project examining whether and how music impacts focus and productivity.
The research project invited Curtin University students to participate in self-reporting and biometric testing to determine how musical elements may affect concentration and learning performance. The project next identified the best combination of these musical elements, including resolution, tempo and density, to produce optimal concentration levels.
Once the findings were in, Red Bull Music Academy Alumni Ta-ku, aka Reggie Matthews, used these learnings to craft a special mix of new and original songs specifically to help improve your focus while studying. You can listen to the mix on Mixcloud above.
We caught up with Ta-ku to speak about creating the mix and get the latest on the long-awaited next album.
First up, tell us about the two tracks which bookend the mix.
I've been making a lot of demos with a friend of mine, Matt McWaters. He lives out in Toronto. Young dude that's just a great musician and good friend. It's kind of a little bit in the realm of what the mix is. The EP going to have a couple of people on there, which is really exciting.
These tracks are debuting on this mix?
Yeah, thought it'd be a nice segue and shameless plug for that. [laughs]
Tell us about your approach to the mix. You’ve selected some big names in ambient music.
It was pretty amazing. So Red Bull had this awesome opportunity to actually find out through a research team at Curtin University here in WA, about what actually helps university students be more productive in terms of music. Specifically when they’re studying, or anything really academic, but also kind of crosses over into creativity and how productive music can help you be. Initially, I thought it was instrumental music, perhaps music that was like lo-fi chill, like that huge wave of YouTube channels of lo-fi study beats. That was my initial thought processes of what the mix would be like. But then after a bunch of tests through the research lab that we ran, where we did a whole bunch of permutations of percussive, non-percussive, melodic, non-melodic, resolving, non-resolving, highly dense, low density, slow tempo, fast tempo.
It came back that slow tempo, high density, and non-resolving music were the most successful for people in terms of getting them in the zone in terms of academic productivity. It was a bit of a surprise for me. But it did make sense. That’s what I'm really into anyway in terms of ambience, a lot of score music, and a lot of ethereal sounds. I was excited to actually have that proven data from the research team and actually just put together a bunch of music that suits those variables and it's music that I really enjoy listening to as well.
How did you find the process of employing an academic approach to your creative fields?
It was pretty great actually. I was really happy to be part of this collaboration between Curtin and Red Bull, because I've never been overly academic myself, even though I wanted to be. But in terms of the creativity process and making it, it was actually quite good for that. And also quite cathartic as well, the process of making it. Which also, I would think really helps with any terms of productivity, whether it's creative or academic. It was a really cool experience.
Ta-ku curates a playlist designed to help focus
Ta-ku curates a playlist designed to help focus
How does music inform your creative pursuits outside of music?
I think it does a great deal. You know, music is my first love if you were to say so. Definitely something that comes first. There's been a bit of an imbalance lately, but that's just how life goes, in terms of other pursuits and creativity. But yeah, it would always come back to music and music will always be the thing for me. The music I'm listening to sets the tone or sets the mood for things I'm working on outside of music as well.
Tell us more about the upcoming Please Wait project.
It's a chance to put out some music and also have a different avenue while I'm working on the Ta-ku album, because that's definitely something I'm still working on behind the scenes. But it's taking a little bit longer than it would normally would. Please Wait is definitely a nice kind of creative expression and a nice way to also help Matt kind of get his name out there too, because he's relatively new. He's only been doing it for a little while. So yeah, for me it's just nice to put out music again, really.
“Please Wait”, is that an allusion to the wait for the next album?
Pretty much. That's how the name came about. For Matt, he's kind of just started out and he's very enthusiastic and just wants to put a bunch out. And I'm a bit on the other side of let's just take our time and pick the right songs that work and see who else wants to be involved. and I also saw it on the bus once. It drove past me and I was like, "That's a great name. Let's use that." So, the name stuck.
Can you give us any indication of what’s in store for the next Ta-ku album?
The album is long overdue. And something that obviously I'm hoping to get done as soon as possible and next year seems like a great time. But I've done that before and then this never happens. So yeah, hopefully. Hopefully soon.