But it has to be the right music for you (and your book).
Some people can write to anything. Heavy metal, construction noises, or catchy pop tunes, nothing derails their focus.
I am not one of those. I need the music to match my mood or the mood I’m writing in. How am I supposed to write about the most challenging moments in my life while upbeat kids’ music is pounding in my headphones?
Some people can only write to music if there are no lyrics or if it’s in a foreign language they can’t understand.
There’s no right answer for the “best” or “perfect” playlist. It’s just whatever works best for you.
It may take some trial-and-error to figure it out. But here’s a list of options that have worked for me and other members of the Scribe Crew. I’ve broken our top recommendations down into categories, so you can try them out yourself.
32 Best Music Playlists & Songs to Listen to While You Write
Mood Music with English Lyrics
Whether you need to psych yourself up to write or just want to match the tone of your book, here are some of our favorite options for a range of moods.
This is upbeat but gentle music to ease you into the writing groove. There’s a little bit of everything here, from funk to soul to jazz.
Every song has a beat, so this list will motivate you without fading into the background.
Shoegaze was initially called “dream pop” when it emerged in the UK in the 1980s. It features ethereal, shimmery vocals, distorted guitars, and a lot of distortion.
Shoegaze is brooding music that somehow manages to be upbeat and depressing at the same time.
You can probably guess from the name—this list is full of happy songs to brighten your day.
You’ll find tracks from Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Steely Dan, Blondie, and Stevie Wonder.
If you’re stuck, it might help to get a dose of energy with familiar, fun music.
Do you prefer melancholy music?
Do you like songs with haunting melodies?
Do you like the idea of writing on a rainy day?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, give this playlist a shot.
Spotify describes this playlist as “beautiful electronic music for melancholy moments.”
There’s definitely some sadness here. But don’t expect a playlist that’s going to kill your spirit. These songs have solid beats.
Think Thom Yorke, Caribou, and Aphex Twin.
Music in a Foreign Language
I’ve found that sometimes I like to write to music in a foreign language. The music is interesting enough to keep me motivated, but I don’t get distracted by the lyrics.
Here are some playlists we liked from around the world.
This playlist is full of dreamy, mellow French indie pop.
It’s heavy on electronic music and sparkly beats. Think more “low-key Paris” vibe than club-hopping.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, the term “City Pop” described a type of music popular in Japan.
City pop borrowed heavily from Western music and had elements of jazz, soft rock, and funk.
If you like yacht rock or need some peppy music, give city pop a try.
Soweto is a township in South Africa that’s well known for music.
This playlist features mbaqanga music, a style of South African music with Zulu roots that originated in the early 1960s.
It’s upbeat and rhythmic, so it’s great for energetic bursts of writing.
If you like upbeat music that makes you nod your head, this is it.
Bhangra originated in the British Punjabi community during the late 20th century.
It’s got a little bit of traditional Indian folk music, a little bit of hip hop, and a lot of percussion.
Only listen to this if you’re looking for a jolt of energy.
This playlist features traditional flamenco and Spanish folk tunes with a quick tempo.
This is the longest mix of Korean RnB, pop, ballads, and lo-fi songs on Spotify.
Clocking in at 54 hours, there’s a little bit of everything, from uplifting to downtempo.
Music without Lyrics
If you get easily distracted by lyrics, you still have plenty of musical options.
Classical music, hip hop beats, instrumental versions of your favorite songs, and modern composers can help you find your focus.
This is one of my favorite writing playlists. It’s a collection of lyric-less, Asian-inspired hip hop beats. It’s chill, but upbeat enough that it won’t put you to sleep. I write to this about 50% of the time.
If it’s good for reading, chances are it’s good for writing.
This 2.5-hour playlist features a sampling of pieces from Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, and other famous classical composers.
Minimalist compositions are perfect for writing.
They usually have repetitive patterns or pulses or steady drones. They’re easy to get sucked into (without giving them too much attention).
This mix features some of the most iconic minimalist composers: Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and John Adams.
Try this if you like top-40 radio and pop classics but don’t want to lose your focus.
It’s got everything from basic guitar covers to full orchestral versions of songs you probably already know.
16. Composer Weekly: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto has played many different styles of music over the course of his career.
Lately, he’s been recognized for his movie soundtracks and piano compositions.
This playlist is a 30-track introduction to his instrumental music. It’s sparse, dark, and contemplative.
Don’t underestimate the power of Spanish guitar.
It’s full of emotion, quick riffs, and rhythm. It may put some zest in your typing.
Ludovico Einaudi is an Italian pianist and composer.
He’s well known for his film and television scores, but this playlist features his solo releases, including a seven-part series called Seven Days Walking, which he released last year.
Game & Movie Scores without Lyrics
Some of the best composers in the world write for movies and video games.
Unless you’re using a specific movie or game to purposely set a mood, I recommend choosing one you’re not very familiar with. That way, the music won’t distract you.
19. DirecTV’s Movie Score Channel (Channel 822)
If you have DirectTV, make the most of your TV’s speakers and tune into the DirectTV Movie Score Channel.
Their non-stop instrumental music is the perfect soundtrack for writing your book.
This playlist covers everything from Downton Abbey and Braveheart to Ratatouille and Sherlock.
Movie-wise, that’s a big range. But musically, all these songs strike the perfect balance between epic and lowkey so you can focus.
Minecraft is the bestselling video game of all time.
There are many reasons people love it, but 1 big reason is the music. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel happy without even realizing it.
It’s “barely there” but still optimistic and motivational.
Studio Ghibli is a famous Japanese animation studio. This 7-hour Youtube collection features piano performances of some of their gentlest music, overlaid with cricket noises.
If you’re looking for something soft and soothing, this is it.
There are many styles of electronic music: electronica, house, techno, drum and bass, jungle, garage, trance, IDM, etc.
If you’re already a fan of electronic music, you might have a favorite type.
While some people can write to rave tunes, most can’t. So, I’ve added some energetic playlists that aren’t too dancy or aggressive.
23. Brain Food
This is subtle, hypnotic electronic music that promotes focus or relaxation.
There aren’t any lyrics, which makes this a good option for people who are easily distracted.
24. Yoga Electronica
This playlist features downtempo deep house. That means it’s a perfect dose of energy without making you want to get up and dance.
You can latch onto the beats, but it’s repetitive enough to help you stay in the writing zone.
This is a cult classic electronic album by Mort Garson. It was first released to a limited audience in 1976, but it gained wider circulation when it was re-released in 2019.
The album features “warm Earth music” designed to help plants grow. It’s sweet, hopeful, and spacey.
If you like Moog synthesizers and fantasy, you’ll love Plantasia.
This list features women who make innovative electronic music. Most of the tracks have lyrics.
This playlist offers a wide range of styles. For example, Yaeji is a Korean-American artist who sings over house beats in a quiet, mellow voice.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith uses synthesizers to create layered, elaborate songs.
And Charlotte De Witte is a Belgian DJ known for her “dark and stripped-back” techno.
When we asked the Scribe Crew for playlist recommendations, this was by far the category that got the most responses.
Ambient noise is a great option if you hate working in total quiet but also get easily distracted by music.
It’s also a helpful workaround if you like working in coffee shops or coworking spaces but can’t right now because of the pandemic.
Ambient sounds can give you the impression that you’re out of the house even if you’re still sitting at your desk.
27. My Noise
This is, hands down, the coolest ambient noise and white noise generator.
It’s run by an engineer and sound designer who collects recordings from around the world.
It has everything from Tibetan bells and waterfalls to street recordings and gardens.
Many writers love to write in coffee shops, but you may not have that option if you have a limited time frame (or if you’re still under COVID lockdown).
Streaming background noise on Coffitivity can give you the feeling that you’re in a coffee shop even when you aren’t.
You can also choose between different levels of activity. For example, “Morning Murmur” is less hectic than “Lunchtime Lounge.”
29. Rain Sounds
I LOVE the Spotify playlist that features rain sounds. I like to curl up on a rainy day and just chill, and the rain sounds create that mood. It’s a gentle and soothing way I use to get into writing, and it helps keep me in my flow state once I get there.
These calming wave sounds were recorded at Playa de Piticabo in the Dominican Republic.
With 8 hours of recordings, you could literally listen to them all day if you want some soothing background noise while you write.
These Om chants are repetitive and positive. They can help you tune out the outside world and get into a meditative pattern.
When you hear a slightly different tone in each ear, it creates a binaural beat. Your brain falls into sync with the difference between the tones’ frequencies and creates an auditory illusion.
Binaural beats can lower stress, promote creativity, and encourage relaxation. This playlist is designed to enhance your focus.