What Music Should You Listen to While Writing?


It's Gandalf!

I like to listen to music while writing. The right music can spur creativity while also drowning out the annoying pitches of Greenpeace canvassers working the sidewalk below our window.

I’m not too particular about the music, as long as it doesn’t have vocals — that just makes me lose my train of thought. With that in mind, here are my top five genres, all accessible via the magic of Pandora.



  • Provides 65% of your daily recommended allowance of pan flute.
  • Perfect for when writing about transcendental meditation, rainbows and/or morning dew accumulating on leaves.


  • Being mocked by insensitive co-workers for listening to songs with titles like “A Seed Dreaming Inside” by Gandalf (who, incidentally, bills himself as a “painter of musical landscapes”).
  • Ever-present danger of being subjected to John Tesh or Yanni.



  • Research shows that listening to Mozart makes you more productive (maybe).
  • Perfect for when writing about anything that requires intense concentration, like a disease or nanotechnology.


  • The possibility of sparking ugly interoffice feuds over Bach vs. Beethoven.
  • Occasional hyper-charged harpsichord sonata can be quite startling.



  • Awesomely mysterious artist names like The Digital Blonde, Telepopmusik and Mexican Trance Mafia.
  • Preponderance of monks chanting, which you generally don’t hear enough of these days.


  • Tinny laptop speakers can’t do justice to such earthshaking bass lines.
  • Irresistible temptation to turn off lights, bust out glow sticks and start dancing.



  • Coltrane and his “sheets of sound”: perfect inspiration when brainstorming product names or writing catalog copy.
  • Can pretend to be Dave Brubeck or Brad Mehldau when typing at the keyboard.


  • Beware of free jazz freakouts, which make it impossible to concentrate.



  • Offers the aural equivalent of a gentle neck massage.
  • Perfect for when writing about rain forests, space travel and/or aromatherapy.


  • The very real danger of being lulled to sleep.
  • The very real danger of then being suddenly awoken by the sound of squawking seagulls.

What kind of music do you listen to while writing? Let us know.

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3 replies
  1. Jeff Stern says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who obsesses over this. My current favorite writing music is Tommy Guerrero, which I guess is classified as jazz, but has some electronic elements, too. It’s a bit sinister, which seems to steer me clear of my natural tendency to write a pun-per-sentence.

    I agree about vocals with one exception. For some reason, I am able to write to Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”

  2. Dan O says:

    I can see NMH working – excellent suggestion. I’ll have to check out Tommy G – never heard of him. 

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