Ever wondered what type of music will help you to focus when writing in different genres? Here’s what’s worked for me in the genres in which I’ve written or edited.
Okay, NaNoWriMo is nearly over, with only five days until the end is declared. So if you’re nearly there, here’s some final inspiration, to give you the last push you need to get that baby out (what a gross analogy, seriously). And if you’re boycotting NNWM and you’re kind of sick of hearing about it, soon we’ll be back to awesome posts that are not all about how to write a novel in the shortest possible timeframe.
Why does music help you write?
Studies have consistently shown that classical, Baroque era music can help students study things they’ve already learnt once, and can help workers to concentrate better during long or repetitive tasks. For those in a busy study or work environment, music has also been proven effective for blocking out distracting background noise. If you’re writing, editing, or creating art, music can help you stay focused and be more creative and open to new ideas.
By contrast, if you’re trying to learn new information that requires your full attention, music can distract you from what you’re reading. So if you’re doing research about historical methods of leather tanning for a new book, you might want to turn the stereo off and focus on the history.
Listening to lyrics can be distracting from writing, so most of the music I’ve featured in this post is purely instrumental. This is because lyrics are words and you’re already trying to think about other words when you’re writing. (People in other disciplines like maths, science or IT have no trouble with listening to lyrics while they work – in fact it helps, since their domain is largely numbers and code (Lesuik, 2005).)
So what can you use to inspire you when writing in different genres? Read on to find out!
Legal disclaimer regarding copyright of music mentioned in this post: For copyright works like soundtracks to movies and albums, don’t be cheap – buy the albums you think you’ll like. However, for poor students like I used to be, I have made sure that the copyright works I’ve listed are all available as playlists on YouTube for easy listening access. For all the other YouTube links I’ve listed, I’ve done my best to ensure that they are legit – they’re the official ones from either the artist themselves or from the DJ creator of that particular mix.
Freelance copywriting, article writing:
- Depended entirely on the article. The above list was very useful, though, and I remember using various selections from it for various copywriting jobs.
Children’s books – “Happy” music:
- Happy Caribbean music uploaded by WavesDVDcom. (Seriously, you’ll feel like you are either dancing or sitting on the beach under a palm tree, sipping coconut milk straight out of the coconut through a straw. I LOVE this mix.)
- ‘Happy relaxing guitar music for children’ uploaded by Ferenc Hegedus.
Soundtracks to kids’ movies:
- The Incredibles.
- Finding Nemo.
- Toy Story.
- Anything by Louis Armstrong.
Romance – anything sultry (see ‘Drama’ below for dramatic moments):
- My French music playlist on my iPod includes a loooot of Carla Bruni (especially ‘Quelqu’un m’a dit’, ‘L’Amouresue’, and ‘L’Amour’) and Edith Piaf’s rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose’.
- Brooke Fraser’s album Albertine has some great songs of longing like ‘Love, where is your fire?’, ‘Love is waiting’, and ‘Faithful’. Also, ‘Something in the Water’ from her Flags album is a lot of fun.
- Romantic beach guitar uploaded by HDnatureTV.
- ‘Perseverance’ by Michele McLaughlin sounds like, “All is lost! My hopes are dashed! We’ll never be saved!”
- ‘The Letter That Never Came’ by Thomas Newman from the soundtrack to the movie A Series of Unfortunate Events, sounds like, “He doesn’t love me after all (sob).”
- Anything by Nickelback. Don’t judge me. For those scenes where everyone’s angry at everyone else.
Action – anything with a hard, fast beat:
Steve Reich’s astonishing Music for 18 Musicians as performed in Japan. (This one actually got my heart pumping so much that I couldn’t sit still and had to stop it and go write something else until I had calmed down a bit.)
- Soundtrack from Lord of the Rings – the battle scenes.
- ‘Seasons of War’ by Jason Hayes, from the game World of Warcraft.
- Some of the old stuff by Linkin Park. Remember those ads for Gundam Wing Mobile Suit on Cartoon Network that featured Linkin Park songs? Troubled characters, thumping beat, soaring vocals. Perfect choice! I’ve also found them good for sci-fi, but I don’t know whether that’s just because of the association.
Fantasy – depends on which scene you’re writing, but anything mysterious will do:
- Soundtrack to Sinbad, the 2003 Dreamworks children’s animated movie version. (This is my mostly highly recommended soundtrack OF ALL TIME.)
- Soundtrack from Lord of the Rings – the whole thing.
Science Fiction – techno or trance:
- Soundtrack from The Apollo.
- Lux Aeterna movie soundtrack trance remix. (Uploaded by xevocm8velexx. It’s only 8 minutes long so you get a handy reminder to take regular breaks from computer time!)
- Soundtrack from Wall-E by Thomas Newman, which has been officially uploaded on YouTube by ThePixarMusic, the official “Home of the Music of Pixar Films”.
- ‘2 Hours Epic Music Mix | Most Beautiful and Emotional Music – Emotional Mix Vol. 1’ uploaded by Pandora Journey.
Historical Era Fiction – something relaxing or classical:
- ‘Classical music to write by’ playlist uploaded by Lady Coppola.
- Classical music mix uploaded by HDnatureTV.
- Relaxing piano mix uploaded by HDnatureTV.
- Mozart. (e.g. ‘6 hours of Mozart’ uploaded by JaBig.)
Noir or 1900s Historical Fiction – jazz:
- Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way. (Thanks to Steve Silberman at NeuroTribes for his post ‘Music to Write By: 10 Top Authors Share Their Secrets for Summoning the Muse’, which includes his and Jane Hirshfield’s explanations of why this album and also Kind of Blue work so well for writing.)
- Chet Baker instrumental albums. Any of them.
Christian novels or anything with a “God theme” – Christian worship music:
My fave is ‘Hillsong United ZION Full Acoustic Session Live’ which you can watch on YouTube.
- ‘Top 100 Praise & Worship Songs 2014’ uploaded by David Jones (in which credit is given to the artist who wrote each song).
- ‘Worship music mix #1 ft Jesus Culture, Bethel Live, Hillsong and more’ uploaded by OOOOOOO7OOOOOOO (in which credit is given to the band who recorded each song).
- ‘Acoustic worship’ uploaded by SuperBellkitty.
Dialogue Scenes – something relaxing or classical:
Writing dialogue scenes really requires instrumental music so that there are no words to distract you. The ups and downs of the music tie in perfectly to the “up and down” of how power shifts between speakers in conversations.
- Relaxing beach guitar uploaded by HDnatureTV.
- ‘Brain music – study – focus concentrate’ uploaded by relaxingrecords.
I’m curious – what’s your favourite music for writing to? Is it different to the music you listen to when you’re reading?
This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.