K.E. Young -The Soundtracks of Our Lives
Music to write by. . . . . .
Like movies, writing often needs a soundtrack. It helps you get in the mood and establish a rhythm and flow in your writing. It lets you slip into the world of your choice and dismiss the rest of existence.
Psyching myself up to write, the writing itself, the editing, and the proofreading each should have different themes. After all, each task requires a different mood.
One thing I have found is almost universal. Aside from the psyching up phase, I can’t have lyrics.
It turns out there is a very good reason for this. The human brain is hard-wired for language. If someone is speaking or singing, we need to listen. You can’t focus fully on what you’re doing if a part of your brain is listening to the words, trying to make sense out of them. Even if it’s a foreign language and you know you can’t understand it, your brain is still trying to parse it and attribute meaning. Searching for similarity to words you already know. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent this hijacking of your attention.
So… no lyrics.
That’s okay. There is still a lot of music out there without words or singing so I don’t have a lot of limits aside from the lack of lyrics. Not necessarily a lack of vocals, just lyrics. Words. And what else is writing but words? Best not to let your music choice compete with your muse.
What I listen to depends on my task. YouTube is my friend. I write fantasy mostly, so epic music fits well. My favorite YouTube channels for epic music are ‘Epic Music Mania‘, ‘Epic Music VN‘, ‘Epic Music Shall Prevail‘, ‘Epic Music World’, and ‘The Prime Chronos‘. But, not all scenes require an epic theme so I also listen to instrumental jazz, blues, dark country, classical, EDM, ambient, and electro-swing.
Yeah, I know, my tastes in music can be weird. Blame my mom. She’s the one who introduced me to Zulu tribal chants, flamenco, Russian and Greek folk, and Tom Lehrer at a young age.
Then there’s the editing and proofreading phases. Casual working (proofreading) usually means I’m listening to EDM (electronic dance music), ambient, lofi hip hop, or synthwave (think 80’s-90’s futuristic. ‘The Prime Thanatos‘ is a good channel for this stuff). There are a lot of 1 to 3 hour mixes put together for college students to study by (search for ‘study music’). There are even streaming channels with this stuff. They rarely have vocals and the music in usually non-intrusive. If I need tight focus, like for editing, it’s the music from the Deus Ex games. YouTube has a channel called ‘Gaming Ambiance‘ that has a lot of 1 to 2 hour music videos that are good to listen to.
If you prefer something a little less cyberpunk, try the numerous vids using music from The Witcher game soundtracks or Jeremy Soule’s music from the Skyrim game soundtrack. These are non-intrusive while encouraging focus. After all, games want you to spend long periods of time immersed and the background music reflects that. Use it to your advantage.
For truly tight focus, try the binaural sessions. Just search for “binaural focus” on YouTube. Keep in mind that for the binaural stuff, you must wear headphones since it depends on each ear getting a different audio feed. I wouldn’t use these unless you have a deadline though. That kind of focus is exhausting.
Which leaves the psyching up music list. I have a private list on YouTube called “Waking up”. It contains the following (randomized):
- Abba – Take a Chance
- Boney M – Rasputin
- Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
- ELO – Mr Blue Sky
- Ray Charles – Hit the Road Jack
- Earth Wind and Fire – September
- Thomas Bergerson – Children of the Sun (Watch it!)
- Linkin Park – Burning In The Skies
- Esterly ft. Austin Jenckes – This Is My World
- Caravan Palace – Black Betty
- Tom Jones – Sex Bomb (Peppermint remix)
- SIAMÉS – The Wolf
- Bajirao Mastani soundtrack – Malhari
- Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-leela soundtrack – Nagada Sang Dhol
- John and Daniel Licht (Dishonored game soundtrack) – Honor for All
- Ансамбль “Тыва” -“Эзир-Кара”(Орел вороной)/Сл.Ч.Кара-Куске, муз.Д.Д.Сат (Yes, I know it’s Cyrillic. It’s Mongolian. What do you expect?)
It’s not all happy, but it is all good for getting the blood pumping and clearing out the cobwebs.
Finally, there are those times when you want the ambiance, but no music. The sounds of a forest, a space station, a tavern, or whatever strives your fancy. YouTube has you covered there too. ASMR is surprisingly popular. ‘Gaming Ambiance‘ & ‘The Guild of Ambiance’ are my favorite channels, but searching for ASMR + whatever you want to find can usually pull up something good.
I’m sure you have your own choices. I’d be interested in hearing what you like to listen to and when. I’m always open to finding something new and interesting.