If you’re like me, then you can’t stand noise when writing.
It took about four months of working at a company that blasted pop music for eight hours straight before I could actually write while listening to music. (Though I invested in some noise-cancelling headphones and played my own music instead of their top 40.)
Over the years, I’ve found that instrumental music is best for writing. Lyrics distract me, but instrumental music has the perfect combination of blending into the background and providing an interesting, often emotional, backdrop to writing. Some tracks will make you want to cry; others will make you want to scale mountains.
Here’s my all-time favorite instrumental music for writing.
I think it’s safe to say that I like instrumental music. If you look at my iTunes, the number one most played song is “Concerning Hobbits” from the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack.
In fact, you have to scroll down to number 30 before you get an actual song (which, of course, is by Mumford and Sons.)
The best music to write to is music that you’re intensely familiar with. Music that’s so ingrained into your brain that you hardly notice it’s there.
So without further ado, let’s get into it!
The Lord of the Rings
- The Fellowship of the Ring (The Breaking of the Fellowship” gets me every time. Also Enya is life.)
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King
And continuing in that vein, The Hobbit soundtracks (there are three and they’re all great.)
- An Unexpected Journey (I could listen to “Misty Mountains” on repeat.)
- The Desolation of Smaug (Play “Thrice Welcome” at my funeral.)
- The Battle of Five Armies (“The Last Goodbye” made we weep.)
How to Train Your Dragon
- “Forbidden Friendship” is beautiful; “Test Drive” makes me believe in all my dreams.
- “Cleaning House” always gives me a kick.
- My favorite albums are 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7. Go 1, 2, or 3 for the classic Harry Potter sound (thank you, John Williams) or 6 and 7 for a darker taste.
- SS: “Harry’s Wondrous World,” “Leaving Hogwarts,” “Hedwig’s Theme” (duh)
- COS: “Fawkes the Phoenix”
- POA: “Buckbeack’s Flight,” “A Window to the Past,” “Hagrid the Professor,” “Mischief Managed”
- GOF: “Harry in Winter”
- OOTP: “Dumbledore’s Army,” “The Room of Requirement,” “Loved Ones and Leaving”
- HBP: “In Noctem,” “Farewell Aragog,” “Dumbledore’s Foreboding,” “The Friends”
- DH: “Lily’s Theme,” “Statues,” “Courtyard Apocalypse”
- An incredibly delightful movie with an incredibly delightful soundtrack.
Pirates of the Caribbean
- “Tryouts” is a great motivator.
- Lovely and lifting, although it can get a bit dramatic.
- Everything a classic fairytale should be.
The Lion King soundtrack
- Get ready for intense feels. Your childhood is here.
Treasure Planet soundtrack
- A bit of an obscure movie, this one’s got a bit of Celtic flair to it.
- Listen to the final song at your own risk—you may cry.
- A live stream of lofi beats that are as relaxing as they are focusing. Nothing better than playing this radio with the windows open on a summer evening.
- This woman is a genius with a violin. She plays violin over electronic soundscapes for a lively, beautiful sound. I like her Odyssey and Taylor Davis albums best, but she also does covers of familiar anime and game music.
- I did Irish dance for 10 years, so I can’t resist a good Irish folk song. I’m a fan of the Chieftains’ older stuff, like The Chieftains 2.
- Favorites include “Siamsa,” “Breakout,” and “Stolen Kiss.”
- Okay, just ONE more Irish album! Craig Duncan’s Irish Dance album is rich and inviting for anyone new to Irish music.
Music from games
I’ll admit that movie soundtracks can become a bit fraught at times, and you don’t always want to write to an intense fight scene, scary scene, or dramatic betrayal. But game music is surprisingly perfect for writing—if you think about it, game music is designed to intensify focus. The music is never too exciting or too dull; it’s almost the exact cadence necessary for concentration. Here are my two favorite game soundtracks:
- Never played this game, but the soundtrack is sick. (Currently listening as I publish this post!)
- A very different vibe from Skyrim.
Finally, here are my favorite playlists on Spotify for writing:
Honorable mention: music with words
I know I said that lyrics are distracting, but if I HAD to choose more traditional music, then I’d pick Sleeping at Last every time.
The ethereal strings, bold brass, quavering vocals, poignant lyrics—every song makes you think, and every song makes you feel. If that’s not great fuel for writing, I don’t know what is.
Sleeping at Last has released several albums, so if you don’t know where to start, take a look at his most popular song, Saturn. “Saturn” comes from the space EP, which is a rewarding romp through the solar system filled with brilliant highs and dark lows. It’s a great introduction to his work.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I hope it gives you some ideas for where to find instrumental writing music. And let me know what your favorite writing music is!