If you’re like most students, writing can be frustrating, especially if you’re tense, stressed, or facing a looming due date for an important essay. The answer to staying focused and tapping into your creative juices may be as nearby as your earbuds: music. A whole body of research suggests that listening to music while you write boost’s your brain’s capacity for spatial-temporal reasoning, which is responsible for creative thinking (and thus, writing). So what type of music improves your concentration and focus the most?
Choosing a Genre
Various studies have been undertaken over the years on music and focus, particularly when it comes to writing (and also, studying), and researchers have found that music sans lyrics is the most effective at keeping you on task and churning out meaningful words. Music with words can be distracting to some writers, causing them to pay more attention to the lyrics than they are to the creative process.
That’s not to say you can’t throw on an epic soundtrack if you’re dealing with a bugger of an essay, a little Kanye, if you’re feeling like a superstar at a particular moment in time, or even some Adele to soothe your soul while you bring your ideas to life. However, electronic music, with its ambient notes and repetitive beats, and Baroque-period classical music, with its harmonic chords, are thought by researchers to be the best at releasing the inner Stephen King or G.R.R. Martin. “Brandenburg Concerto #3” by Johann Sebastian Bach gets numerous nods from researchers when it comes to heightening concentration and productivity.
Although choosing music from these genres can be as personalized as your own specific tastes, there are lots of recommendations floating around the interwebs when it comes to the “right” songs for writing. But don’t worry, we have a writer-approved playlist to help you focus and unleash your creativity.
- “First Breath After Coma” by Explosions in the Sky. If you’ve watched “Friday Night Lights,” then you’ll recognize this tune as the theme song for the show. This instrumental has limited vocals and is interesting enough without being really intense, so you can focus on the job at hand – writing.
- “You Wish” by Nightmares on Wax. This electronic instrumental has an R&B twang and provides tranquil background noise to get your neurons pumping and the words flowing.
- “So What” by Miles Davis. This 60’s instrumental from one of jazz’s greatest will help you maintain focus without distracting you from what you’re writing about.
- “The Bridge of Khazad Dum” by Howard Shore on “The Lord of the Rings” soundtrack. You don’t have to live in the Shire to appreciate this soothing instrumental.
- “Metamorphosis II” by Philip Glass. This piano solo provides mood-lifting background noise for your late-night writing enjoyment.
- “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the “Inception” soundtrack. This peaceful instrumental will keep you focused and relaxed.
- “Shempi” by Ratatat. This vocal-free instrumental has a high-energy feel, helping you stay alert and keep your focus on pushing through the last few hundred words of your research paper.
White noise is also worth a mention for breaking the boredom of silence that weighs down some writers. Picture it: crickets chirp, birds sing, and thunder rolls in the background while you pound out 1,000 words on the French Revolution. Words flow like milk and honey from your fingertips, and you finish up your piece with enough time left over to binge watch a few eppys of your favorite show before heading off to bed. That’s the power of white noise. Although not exactly music per se, white noise can put an end to the monotony of quietness, which can, ironically be a big distraction.
Create your own white noise mix with Noisli, a free app (also available on laptops and PCs) with an on-board mixer that lets you add nature sounds, storm sounds, coffee shop sounds, and water sounds, among others, to find the right level of background noise for your tastes.
Music is a great source of inspiration. Find the perfect tune and have fun working on your next assignment.