Music For Writing To


Here’s the process I go through every time I sit down to write:

  • Open the document
  • Write a few words
  • Realise I need music
  • Waste a silly amount of time finding the perfect album to put on
  • Carry on writing

I have over the years amassed an enormous music collection – just over 265 artists at the last count, no idea about total albums or numbers of tracks. Whilst my deciding what to listen to is undeniably a little bit of procrastination it can also be very useful. As I’m sure many other have discovered, having the right music playing in the background can completely transform your writing.

As a further act of procrastination I thought I’d list some of my favourite albums for listening to whilst writing. Some are calming, others dramatic. Some just have a really good rhythm or are so familiar to me that just fade into the background.

  • Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
  • Editors – An End Has A Start
  • Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
  • Hurts – Happiness
  • Jami Sieber – Second Sight
  • Ludovico Einaudi – Nightbook
  • Massive Attack – Mezzanine
  • Peatbog Faeries – Faerie Stories
  • Rob Dougan – Clubbed to Death
  • Sea Wolf – Leaves in the River
  • The National – Boxer
  • The Sounds – Crossing the Rubicon
  • Trifonic – Emergence
  • Ulrich Schanuss – Far Away Trains Passing By
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls

Does anyone else have any go-to-favourites for whilst they’re writing? Any suggestions? I’m always looking to find new music!

Title image courtesy krystiano

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Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 10:35 PM  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wrote my book, “The Mandolin Case” with my mandolin strung around my neck. The story is a medical legal mystery resolved by musicians. I’m a doc for a living, but I couldn’t get by without music.

    Dr. B

    • Hey Dr B – thanks for sharing! Glad to hear you’ve been able to write about both what you know and what you love.

  2. I listen to Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. I’ll have to check out some of yours. Music certainly gets me in the mood and helps me get into that “flow” state.

    • Ah some fine choices there. I can’t beat a bit of Beethoven for writing battle scenes.

      Going by your preferences I reckon you’d quite like Ludovico Einaudi of my list.

  3. I go for soundtracks from movies that are thematically similar to whatever it is I’m writing. Which mostly means fantasy movies or movies with soundtracks that could’ve been for fantasy movies.

    My big favorites are John Williams, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and so on.

    Also… just to mix things up… I for some reason have a crazy thing about music from anime, too (and, for that matter, video games)… Some of that is similar in sound to the aforementioned movie soundtracks And some of it is decidedly different entirely. Hard to give good examples at the moment…

    • Oh I do love me some movie scores – particularly Hans Zimmer. The worry I have with listening to those whilst writing though is that you end up thinking about the film and potentially recycling it into your work.

      I don’t know a lot of anime music but yes the soundtrack to video games is just so high quality these days – I’m definitely going to try that out!

      • That’s part of why I use soundtracks – I want to add a certain flavor to my work, and I want that flavor to be similar to what you’d get in certain movies. Certainly I don’t want to recycle the movie, but I’d like the reader to get a similar feeling from reading my work as they’d get from watching that movie. My hope is to make my work more emotionally powerful in that way.

        That, and… well… I just dig the soundtracks from those movies.

  4. I find myself gravitating towards Muse and Metric most of the time. Lately I’ve been mixing in a new band I’m loving – Young the Giant.

    • Nice choices – Blackholes and Revelations is particularly good for getting inspired to. I’m not familiar with Young the Giant. Googling them now…

  5. I usually don’t write to music but sometimes it can be helpful. Clubbed to death and Massive Attack are also on my playlist 🙂 Other than that I’ve got the soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop, Last of the Mohicans (I love me some fiddle), and been listening to One Republic’s Waking Up album pretty much nonstop for this novel.

    Hmm never heard Bat for Lashes before now, but I like it!

    • Last of the Mohicans is good – did you know the main theme was actually adapted from a song by a Scottish folk musician?

      I discovered Bat for Lashes after hearing them support Radiohead a few years back – they’re also very similar to Florence + the Machine, lots of harps and drums.


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