I find that listening to music helps me when writing papers, as it gets me energized and activates my brain, forcing me into motion. However, there is a lot of debate among researchers as to the effectiveness of listening to music while working (USA Today online). It is widely accepted by researchers that music without lyrics is more beneficial than music with lyrics, however, I enjoy listening to a balance of both. Hence, I set out to create a playlist of 5 songs that will inspire you while writing that next essay, poem, or term paper.
To prove the effectiveness of each song in fostering the process of writing, I wrote my descriptions and defense of each while listening to the very tune I was describing. I hope you take a listen and enjoy!
Picked as the first song for this beautiful introduction and immediate pick-me-up, this should awaken you from the creative hibernation that has prevented you from writing your next masterpiece. Understand that lyrics can distract from writing, so this instrumental should provide the perfect backdrop for your initial brainstorming and outpour of creativity. Both chill and energetic, Boeboe inspires your fingers to fly on the keypad, crafting eloquent phrases and ideas that will provide a solid foundation for your work. Just like your favorite pair of jeans, you can always build off this classic “Denim.” This song just inspired that intelligent quip, imagine the wonders it will do to get you writing!
Mac wastes no time in getting started, and neither will you when listening to his beautiful croon and classic guitar. The album of the same title as this song also provides a great backdrop for writing. As very easy listening, Mac keeps you in the groove and you start to vibe, both with the music and the writing. Lalalalalalalalalala ooooooo… At this point, words drift out of your consciousness onto the page effortlessly. Now, the music begins to push you to higher spheres of creation…
An old-school hip-hop song like this maintains the easy vibe of Mac Demarco, while pushing you deeper into the writing process. Doctor Beck will “take you higher than a skyscraper,” as you can’t help but produce material with the ease and precision of his flow. The classic beat and Becket’s lyricism are both relaxing and inspiring. Sooner than you know it, you’ve completed much of the writing you set out to do. The Doctor’s words don’t distract you, and his clinical flow is reflected in your work.
Keeping the hip-hop vibes going with some quintessential J Dilla is a must. Widely considered one of the greatest producers of all time, this instrumental probably influenced great works such as the Sistine Chapel and Mona Lisa in another life. It is such a shame that J Dilla passed at the young age of 32, but his music continues to inspire to this day. It isn’t hard to feel the passion and creativity of Dilla through the beat. The instrumental also provides a break from the lyrics of the last two songs, clearing the mind as you begin to refine your writing and hone your creation. Ideas and thoughts are clear in your mind, as you set out to perfect the details of your creation.
Now this whole writing deal is effortless fun. Nick Drake’s voice sounds off in your head, but to be honest, the words you have molded hold more value than what he sings of, and your mind understands this. You start to play with your writing, sprucing it up with fanciful adjectives and stylistic sentence structures. The play of the piano and guitar provide an upbeat backdrop for the finalization of your creation. The pleasure brought by a perfect product is unmatched. You sit back in awe of the incredible capacity for writing that you demonstrated, inspired by the music and voice of such diverse artists.
Castillo Y Tickell, Sofia. “Should You Listen to Music While You Study?” USA Today College. USA Today, 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.
Getting Down with the Beatles
Stuck in a creative rut? Collapsing under the weight of seemingly endless papers? Or are you simply wondering how music can relate to writing? Here’s what you can learn from one of the best (song)writing duos of all time, former Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
When given a writing assignment, allow yourself some space for reflection, if you have the luxury. It took John Lennon several weeks to draft I am the Walrus before he found his muse.
“I had just these two lines on the typewriter,” he said,” and then about two weeks later I ran through and wrote another two lines, and then when I saw something after about four lines I just knocked the rest of it off. Then I had the whole verse or verse and a half and then sang it.”
Even for world-renowned writers, sometimes inspiration will hit when you least expect it. Keep an open mind.
Bounce ideas off of someone! Your roommate, your professor, your friends… you never know what someone else has to contribute. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote songs together for over ten years, and they’d tell one another when something worked and when it needed to be changed. John said once that Paul’s musicality really impacted his own songwriting, and in return, John helped Paul lyrically:
“[Paul would] say, ‘Well, why don’t you change that there? You’ve done that note 50 times in the song.’ You know, I’ll grab a note and ram it home. Then again, I’d be the one to figure out where to go with a song… a story that Paul would start.”
And Paul still works with John: the bassist recently said that when he finds himself with writers’ block, he tries to imagine what John Lennon would do:
“If I’m at a point where I go, ‘I’m not sure about this,’ I’ll throw it across the room to John. He’ll say, ‘You can’t go there, man.’ And I’ll say, ‘You’re quite right. How about this?’ ‘Yeah, that’s better.’ We’ll have a conversation. I don’t want to lose that.”
So have a discussion—even with someone imaginary—whose opinion you respect.
Look to your prior work in your discipline for inspiration and encouragement.
“It’s funny,” John once said, “because while we’re recording we’re all aware and listening to our old records and we say, we’ll do one like The Word– make it like that – it never does turn out like that, but we’re always comparing and talking about the old albums – just checking up, what is it? like swatting up for the exam – just listening to everything.”
It’s important to review your past papers—you might get a sense of accomplishment in addition to some new ideas.
Accept that sometimes, some papers will be less interesting than others, and you might not feel proud of them. John Lennon experienced the same with particular songs:
“Good Morning, Good Morning, I was never proud of it. I just knocked it off to do a song.”
There will always be other papers. Just do your best!
“In the early days, we’d take things out for being banal, clichés, even chords we wouldn’t use because we thought they were clichés… going right back to the basics [has been a great release for all of us.] Like on Revolution I’m playing the guitar and I haven’t improved since I was last playing. But I dug it. It sounds the way I wanted it to sound.”
Have confidence in what you know. Don’t try to beef up your writing with unnecessary clichés or complex words that you wouldn’t normally use. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to improve, but sometimes the best writing comes from you and you alone.
This is perhaps most important. John once said of The Beatles early days, “We knew what we wanted to be, but we didn’t know how to do it, in the studio. We didn’t have the knowledge or experience.” It sounds cliché, but it takes time to write well. Keep trying. The Writing Center has got your back. \m/
Do you ever wonder what other people are listening to through their headphones while they are workin’ away in the library? Everyone writes to the beat of their own iTunes. Here are a few jams that we like to listen to.
Amber is currently obsessing over Youth Lagoon, but her long-term studying favorites have been Modest Mouse and Wilco.
Ben is a fan of instrumental music so he doesn’t get distracted. 8tracks has some great playlists for anyone who wants anything from classical music to instrumental renditions of top hits. Here is a playlist of covers by the Vitamin String Quartet.
Charles likes a website called Songza, which lets you pick from “playlists by music experts” depending on what mood you are in. You start with a broad category, like “waking up” or “reading” and the music experts will lead you to more categories to choose from to make sure you are getting the best type of music for whatever activity you are doing. Charles likes to listen to electronic music because it gets his brain going while he is doing work. This is a great Songza playlist to get motivated without distracting lyrics! And if you need a study break, there are options for “Weekday Dance Party.” 90s Dance Hits anyone?
Barnabas is a big fan of Christmas music–any time of the year. The familiar tunes help him get enthusiastic and motivated about those not-so-cheery assignments during the year. A great Christmas album to check out anytime of the year is Barnaked for the Holidays by the Barenaked Ladies. Here is a Songza playlist called Pop Christmas, with popular artists singing holiday favorites. Or if you are looking for something a little offbeat, here is a playlist with indie Christmas tunes.
Forest says that she can’t do her homework with any music or background noise- if you are like her, check out the silent floors of the library!
Andrea likes to listen to soundtrack music, specifically Hans Zimmer. You can listen to his Pandora radio station here. They are dramatic and motivating. A few of his most famous movie scores are The Lion King, Gladiator, and The Dark Knight.
Josh Ambrose, our director, is a Sigur Ros fan. He also really likes the ambient guitar band Hammock and Tim Hecker’s album Dropped Pianos.
When I am doing my homework, the type of music I listen to depends on the assignment that I have. If I am writing a paper, I want to listen to something upbeat that will get me motivated, like Yeasayer or Miike Snow. If I am reading for a class, I like to listen to something toned down with lyrics that are too complicated to sing along to so I don’t get distracted, like The Shins or Fleet Foxes. This is a really great playlist called 99 Songs to Make your Homework Awesome.
What do you like to listen to? Comment below and let us know! And don’t forget, to learn more about our tutors, click here!