Is there such a thing as the best music for writing?
If you’re a writer, you probably have some idea of the kind of music that helps you get words on the page more efficiently or that helps you be more creative while you’re writing.
So, when you’re choosing music to listen to while writing, the following factors probably help you choose what type of music to play — or whether you want any at all:
- What you’re writing (fantasy, romance, creative nonfiction, how-to…)
- What mood you’re in (sad or depressed, edgy, upbeat, irritable…)
- What you need from the music or what mood you want to create (fired up, determined, introspective, zen…)
- What time of day you’re writing (early am, afternoon, evening, after dark…)
- Whether you’re using headphones or not (and who else lives with you).
While you have an overwhelming variety of musical styles to choose from, there’s some consensus when it comes to the best music to write to.
Music for Writing Your Book
The best music for writing helps you get into a state of creative flow (i.e., “the zone”). For many of us, the best music to write by is music without lyrics or anything that would distract us from the words flowing from our minds to the page.
There are some exceptions to the “no lyrics” norm: Gregorian chant, lyrics in a foreign language, unintelligible vocal sounds (vocal percussion).
The best writing music for you depends on your personal taste, on what you’re writing, and on the type of music that helps you tune out everything else.
Classical Music for Writing
Some writers choose this music for its timeless beauty, which has a lot to do with its structure and its use of vibrational patterns to stimulate the brain and evoke certain emotions.
The most helpful type of classical music depends on your mood or the mood you want to create, as well as the associations each piece has for you. For instance, you might have pleasant (or haunting) memories tied to a musical piece like Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, Fauré’s Requiem, or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
Sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant are other options. Chant can be in either male or female voices. A haunting example of the latter is an album titled, Voice of the Blood with chant by Hildegard von Bingen, a German Benedectine nun, scientist, poet, and composer.
Does classical music make you smarter?
This section would be incomplete without addressing the question of whether listening to classical music make you smarter (and possibly a better writer).
Scientists have explored what’s come to be called “the Mozart effect” and have found that while it may not directly raise the IQs of those listening to it, it does put people in a heightened emotional state, which makes them more receptive to information. It’s also been found to improve your mood, which also has a positive effect on your memory and learning capacity.
When you listen to some music that provokes an emotional response, your brain pays closer attention. You already know you’re more likely to remember songs that have made you feel an overwhelming surge of either positive or painful emotions.
And as Robert Frost pointed out with regard to writing, “No tears in the author, no tears in the reader….”
Here are some examples to explore:
- The Classical music track on Brain.fm
- “Classical Music for Brain Power — Mozart” on YouTube
- Voice of the Blood — Gregorian chant by Hildegard von Bingen
- Study Piano Channel on CalmRadio.com
Those who choose classical music aren’t necessarily smarter than those who choose different musical styles, but if you appreciate well-structured and evocative music, chances are you’ll find something in this category that will appeal to you — even if it doesn’t become your favorite.
Concentration Music for Writing
This type of music sometimes contains ambient sounds like raindrops or ocean waves, but there’s also a melody to it, however repetitive. Some have more variety than others and seem to tell a story, while others seem to be a looped replay of a short series of notes with a background hum at a specific frequency.
The nine-toned Solfeggio frequencies, long used by Gregorian monks, are often used in music like this.
Binaural beats are also used to enhance focus, concentration, and creative flow by facilitating “whole brain synchronization.” Since a different frequency is directed to each ear — and our brains then perceive a separate frequency that is the difference between the two — it’s essential to wear headphones to get the full effect.
Writers can also find plenty of free focus music options on YouTube and create playlists to suit specific moods or types of writing projects.
- Yellow Brick Cinema (YouTube channel: binaural beats and a variety of music styles for focus, meditation, or sleep )
- Greenred Productions (YouTube channel: meditation and study music with alpha waves and binaural beats)
- “Music to Listen To While Writing — Essays, Papers, Stories, Songs” on YouTube
- “432 Hz Cognition Enhancer | DEEP ALPHA BINAURAL BEAT | Deep Concentration, Focus & Meditation Music” on YouTube
Quiet Music for Writing
Music played quietly provides just enough soothing ambient noise to create a stimulating but not overwhelming atmosphere for creative work.
Even if the music has lyrics, if it’s played at a low enough volume, they’re less of a distraction — at least for some. But if you’re the kind of person who can’t help singing along (at least mentally) with your favorite music, even when it’s playing quietly in the background, it won’t matter whether or not you can hear the lyrics.
- Internet jazz on JazzRadio.com (with a variety of jazz options, including “Paris Café”)
- “Quiet Piano Study Music” on YouTube
- Jazz and other easy listening tracks on 8tracks radio and CalmRadio.com
If you like to crank the volume up, though, you’re probably better off choosing music without lyrics. Also, if you’re listening to this music while studying, it’s best to avoid lying down.
As a rule, the less emotionally involved you are with the music you’re playing, the less likely you are to become distracted by it. So, if that’s the main criterion for choosing music, you’ll want something you can hear well enough to recognize and enjoy it at low volumes without being emotionally affected by it.
Instrumental Music for Writing
There are plenty of options for instrumental music that isn’t classical:
- Electronic or EDM (electronic dance music) — like Gravity Music (YouTube channel: Electronic/EDM for study/focus)
- Instrumental music (piano, violin, etc.) — like “Amazing Ludovico Einaudi — Best songs compilation” (piano) on YouTube.
- Celtic music (for writing fantasy, poetry, etc.) — like “Celtic Music Relaxing and Beautiful Mix” (YouTube)
- Chinese or Japanese bamboo flute and piano music — like “1 Hour of the Best Relaxing Music | Bamboo Flute…” (YouTube)
- Soundtracks from favorite movies or video games — like “Best Inspirational Movie Soundtracks” (YouTube)
Regarding that last one, if one of your characters plays an instrument, why not play musical pieces where that instrument is the main or only instrument. For example, if you or your character is learning to play the tin whistle, you’ll find a large selection of tin whistle music videos, including tutorials, with players at different levels
You’ll find great options all over the internet and on a variety of apps like the following. Some are free, while others require a modest monthly subscription fee:
- CalmRadio.com: Website and app — Subscribing gives you access to a variety of musical styles, and you can use their mixer to overlap up to three nature sounds at adjustable volumes for each (For example, “Gentle Mozart” + beach waves + fireplace).
- Brain.fm: Website and app — This one gives you five free listening sessions before you have to subscribe to hear more. The music is AI created, and you can also opt for ambient noise or nature sounds..
- Focus@Will: Website and app — This one asks you a few questions and chooses a “flow state” musical track based on their app’s assessment of your personality. You’re also welcome to explore over 50 other channels to find your favorites.
- 8tracks playlist radio: Website and app with a good variety of free music for focus and relaxation
Music for Writing Inspiration
Sometimes you want to listen to music that does more than offer soothing or stimulating background noise.
- Inspiring movie soundtracks (e.g., The Dressmaker, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Theory of Everything, etc.)
- Music that your character likes to listen to or that embodies your main (or other) character
- Music from the culture or heritage of one of your main characters (e.g., Japanese, Native American, Indian, Mexican, Celtic, Bluegrass, etc.)
- Music that makes you feel more relaxed, alive, and creative
Some music affects you so deeply, it creates a scene in your mind, and you work at recreating it in a way that affects your readers the way the music affects you.
A particular piece of music can even give you an idea for one of your characters, as though the melody is transmitting a story without words — possibly from the mind of the song’s creator or the one performing it. It’s not unusual, after all, to feel a sort of kinship with those whose music we enjoy.
Those who inspire us to create something that will touch others the way their music has touched us have an even stronger hold on our imagination.
The only danger here is that we love the music so much, we find ourselves getting distracted by it when we’re supposed to be writing.
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What’s your favorite music for writing?
Ultimately, the best music for writing your book is music that speaks to your soul without distracting you from your writing goals.
For you, that might be concentration music with binaural beats, or it might be a favorite movie soundtrack. It might be electronic music with a beat that keeps your brain lively and works with the tone of your writing.
Maybe some days the only music you’ll want is the sound of raindrops on the roof or some smooth jazz played at a low volume. Your writing music should work for you — not the other way around. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to listen to classical music or any other musical style in order to get the best results. What works well for someone else might not work as well for you.
That said, it’s a good idea to try different kinds of music and see which types help you with different writing projects and at different times of the day. And one or more of the five types of music described in this article should help you enter the state of creative flow, so even the first draft of your book will contain insights you didn’t even know you had.
In any case, the more you experiment, the more likely you’ll find some new gems for your writing playlist.
And those songs will also come in handy when you’re reading Authority.Pub articles to learn how to get your book ready for publishing, launch it for maximum results, and market it like a pro.