Friday, March 06, 2015

Music for Writers While Writing

Does music help a writer write and what kind of music do writers play while writing?

Some authors say they can't listen to music while writing but suggest songs for Spotify playlists that might go well with reading their books. It seems those Spotify playlists are more about reading the finished books, rather than what was heard while writing them.

Amazon's MP3 store isn't much help. I'm seeing albums designed for Readers but precious little for Writers. Assuming those songs would work just as well for wordsmiths, the most recommended are Classical pieces one would expect: Schubert's Ave Maria and Unfinished Symphony, Chopin's Preludes, Haydn's symphonies, and Beethoven's piano sonatas.

But these selections are all stereotypical of what the average person would think a writer would listen to while knitting together her novel, or just reading one written by someone else. Soft, smooth Classical music. I think it's a very narrow interpretation of music for the process of writing manuscripts.




One wonders who is the person selecting these songs and what prompts him to include those and not others pieces. It's a product that taps into “group think.” It’s not for individuals who go their own way. And don’t more and more readers and writers dance to their own tune these days? Taking it to the limit, the author-musician would compose his own music, record it, and play it during his own writing sessions.

But what about music that's more dynamic and "jarring"--hard rock and heavy metal? I've listened to jolting music many times while writing. It depends on my mood. 

My guess is the vast majority of writers listen to their favorite kind of music while writing, and will stick with that musical genre as long as it takes to finish the book.

How many writers change their music depending on what they write—a mystery, bloody horror novel, romance, or science fiction? And suppose the writer creates a special playlist for each genreassuming she writes in several sub-categories.


Or could it depend on where the writer may be—her usual place at home or at school, at work, in a café, at a friend’s place, in a hotel, or overseas on a vacation? I don’t always listen to the same kind music when writing. Now that I think about it, I hardly ever do that. I have no favorite musical artist I fire up to accompany my typing. Oftentimes I'm in Starbucks in the morning and therefore at the mercy of whatever they play, so it’s not a big deal to me. I’m accustomed to hearing different artists. But I’m wondering now if most writers would immediately name one specific performer that they always play whenever they write? Are writers paired with an individual musician? Or like me, it all depends, and every artist is a potential writing companion.

I like the idea of mentioning all these possibilities because my guess is that the vast majority of writers haven’t really given it much thought. You mostly write with the same sort of accompanying music and don’t even think about changing based on what you’re writing or where. You probably have a favorite artist that you automatically listen to whenever you write so the music helps tuck you into your comfortable writing zone and away you slide down the page word by word. Or music is banned during your writing sessions and that's that.

What kinds of writing would be best matched with what kind of music? Some thoughts:

Horror   Heavy Metal 
Romance – Classical Strings/Blues 
Mystery – Beethoven/Jazz
Science Fiction – Atonal/Serialism 
Spy – Jazz/McCartney 
Action Thriller – Rock/Hip Hop
Christian – Bach/Handel 
Comedy – Country/Classic Rock/Top 40 
Post-Apocalyptic – Industrial/Alternative 
War – Orchestral/Top 40/Swing 
Historical Adventure – Top 40/Taylor Swift/Whitney Houston/Kelly Clarkson 
Foreign Setting – Local

Do most authors in these genres listen to the expected music while writing? Do Romance writers like the same kind of music, while Horror writers prefer something else, and so on?

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