Music for writing

Some writers can’t abide any distractions. Others must have customized playlists for every character they write. Between those two extremes, there is a lot of room.

If you write to music, what do you write to?

With two current exceptions, I have to listen to instrumental music – lyrics can pull me out of the story I’m telling and get me lost in the story the singer is telling. (My lone exceptions? Alison Krauss, with or without Union Station backing her. Enigma.)

I write speculative fiction of a wide variety, and I have eclectic tastes in music, so I mix genres, styles and artists into a single playlist for most of my writing sessions. I have found that soundtracks (movies, TV series, and videogames) give me a lot of consistency and known quality, but I am always on the lookout for more:

Current residents in my writing soundtrack:
Alison Krauss
Bastion soundtrack
Halo 1-3 soundtracks
Homeworld soundtrack
Hunt for Red October soundtrack
Jesse Stone soundtrack by Jeff Beal
Mass Effect 1-3 soundtracks
Rome soundtrack by Jeff Beal
Transcendence by Sean Christopher
Tron Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk
Various ST (TNG, DS9) songs

Another movie soundtrack fan here - and a fan of anything that sounds likes a movie soundtrack. So - Sibelius to Zimmer.

Requiems, generally, if anything (yes, really). But at this very minute, I’m working rather than writing, so I’m playing a chirpy playlist-shuffle of Fletcher Henderson and Georges Brassens.

But I always understood that Sirens create their own music! :laughing:

Mr X

:smiley: Only when lounging around on rocks by the sea. We’re very restrained and quiet creatures in other circumstances. :wink:

For serious writing (which is usually theological in nature) I listen to Taize, about 80 in that play list.

But I have a mix of old country (pre-1960) like Skillet Lickers, 1934
Bluegrass Daybreak in Dixie
Instrumentals (especially guitar, mandolin) like Nothing to it
traditional European music
Vesele Štajerke - Ujela sem šopek
Debela Dekl’ca - Šerbi Band Aid 2010
Flachauer Stubnmusi

Okay, I know, enough links.

A bit of diversity

I also prefer to avoid recognizable lyrics, although in choral music the voices are sufficiently “instrument”-like to be ignorable. Moderate-tempo jazz and classical music, mostly, somewhat depending on whether I want and energy boost or damper.


Anything with inspirational subject matter.

My choices also. Brubeck, MJQ and Metheny. Sibelius, Borodin, Vaughn Williams, Copland and sometimes Rachmaninoff. Also some of Yo-yo Ma’s cross-over stuff.


I like to write to music without lyrics too, although Linkin’ Park and Evanescence, among others, have inspired some of my characters. My soundtracks list includes:

Harry Potter 1-3
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3
Chronicles of Narnia 1&2
The Da Vinci Code
Angels and Demons

And it all depends on the which ones get mixed in depending on the project, and the scene. Some books lend themselves to more actiony scenes, some are more thoughtful, and making sure I get the right music matched with the right scene and feeling that I’m trying to convey is incredibly important, otherwise my whole train of thought can derail and block my imagination up.

Anything from the classical feed from Southern California (KUSC or Monterey) to Ax7.

Movie soundtracks, absolutely, and post-rock, loads and loads of post-rock.

Explosions in the Sky,
Clint Mansell soundtracks,
John Murphy soundtracks

I don’t listen to music but hum to myself while writing. Yeah, I know, it’s strange. What do I hum? Anything by John Williams.

And at the start or the end of a day’s writing when you need music and words, especially words, to fire up or free your expressiveness - anything from the Pete Atkin/Clive James/Julie Covington songbook. A minority taste, it’s true, and the world has never acquired it, but that’s the world’s loss and I’m a big fan, especially of the early songs.

Just a Soupçon of Ambrosia from Pete

And another

Anything without vocalizations (though choir-type non-English singing can be okay). Love orchestral and heavy electronica.

Two Steps From Hell compose awesome orchestral tracks primarily for trailers and commercials for movies, tv shows and video games. Invincible is probably my favorite album.

Glitch Mob has an incredible electronic sound, and I also love Daft Punk and Deadmau5.

Yes, I like Two Steps From Hell for writing, and I have Invincible on the machine on which I’m typing this. Hans Zimmer’s younger brother (in my imagination). Good for writing turning-points and climaxes. And thanks, vic, for the memories!

Here y’ go !! enjoy :wink:

Four-and-a-half hours and enough for a couple of thousand words - thanks, vic-k.

That’s a nice video, and neat that it has links to the track locations in the comments. Of course, I actually have all of those albums on my computer. Not that I’m obsessed with them or anything. Although Bergerson could really do with some new drapes in his living room.