I don’t think it’s any secret that I love using music as a tool to help me write. And I think that choosing the right music that matches your personal tastes and also matches the story is the perfect formula for creating ideas and that perfect writing flow.
I like to think I have very broad music tastes, so I’m hoping I can cover most preferences so everyone can feel included here. So let’s get started!
Your tastes and your concentration
First things first. You have to ask yourself if you’re the kind of person that can concentrate with music on or not. Or, if music with words distracts you, consider music pieces without them.
If you can concentrate on writing with music on, great! Then I would suggest figuring out what kind of genres you like or don’t mind listening to, and what kind of music you think would be the sound track if it was a movie (more on that later).
If you don’t think you can concentrate with music on, that’s fine too! You can always listen to music that might inspire your story whenever you’re not writing. It still gets you in the mindset to write those scenes and creates ideas for when you’re ready to sit down and write!
Figure out how you’re likely to maintain your concentration, and have in your head different genres of music you’re willing to listen to.
Imagine your story as a movie
This is what I mentioned earlier (and even in other posts). Imagine your book was a movie, and think of the kinds of songs you’d like for certain scenes. Imagine your favorite song artist singing in the track and what kind of song they would sing. Isn’t it true that the songs for the movie just make you want to watch it more? The same can apply for your book! Getting your head in the zone for whatever you’re writing through music can set you thinking about just what’s going to happen in those scenes.
For me, music can plant me directly in the scene I want to be in, and it plays out just like a movie in my head after that. Certain songs take me to different places. And having a variety of music can even take me through the whole book. Music can be a powerful tool, and if you’ve got an idea in your head for your imaginary movie soundtrack, then you’re ready for the next step on how to use it.
Music for moods, scenes, and the story as a whole
As I said, I like a lot of music types. And some genres inspire me for different things at different times. And the type of story I’m writing at the time really defines what kind of music I’ll listen to for it. Sometimes I’ll even listen to a specific song or playlist just for one chapter or scene.
I’ve composed a list of genres and the types of music I think would fit certain genres, but know that they apply for the moods of a scene as well! Romance applies for any romantic scenes, action applies for any fast pace scenes, horror applies for any creepy scenes, etc.
Of course, you’ll have your own preferences, but you might think of genres and musical accompaniments you’ve never considered before!
Romance – slow songs, romantic songs, cheerful songs, happy songs, jazzy songs, retro songs.
Examples: Earned it by Weeknd, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off by Ella Fitzgerald, Boom Clap by Charli XCX, Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars.
Drama (depending on the drama) – sad songs, encouraging songs, powerful songs, rock songs, pop songs, songs on guitar, new age songs.
Examples: Say Something by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, Heartbeat Song by Kelly Clarkson, Something Just Like This by Chainsmokers and Coldplay, Only Time by Enya.
Historical fiction – classical songs, orchestral songs, soundtracks from favorite movies, songs on piano, songs on violin, new age songs, jazzy songs (I really recommend listening to music of the era!)
Examples: Nocturne op.9 No.2 by Chopin, Waltz by Lindsay Sterling, Bird in Captivity by Ilya Beshevli, Sick of Fish by Nico Muhly and Teitur, A Night In Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie.
Action – fast songs, rap songs, hip hop songs, orchestral songs, suspenseful songs, creepy songs (for writing torture scenes or villains), rock songs, metal songs, techno songs.
Examples: THE (The Hardest Ever) by Will.I.am and Jennifer Lopez, Venom by Eminem, Set Fire to the Rain by Adele.
Fantasy – classical songs, orchestral songs, fast songs, soundtracks from favorite movies, new age songs, rock songs.
Examples: Anastasia soundtrack, China Gates by John Adams and Orli Shaham, Untitled (Lost letters piano solo) by Fabrizio Paterlini, Crown by Camila Cabello and Grey.
Sci-fi – fast songs, classical songs, rap songs, hip hop songs, suspenseful songs, new age songs, metal songs, techno songs, retro songs.
Examples: 365 by Katy Perry, Steady by Bebe Rexha and Tory Lanez, Crying in the Club by Camila Cabello, A Thousand Cracks by Lambert.
Speculative fiction – fast songs, classical songs, suspenseful songs, rock songs.
Examples: Venom by Eminem, Blood, Sweat, and Tears by BTS, Atmosphere by Bebe Rexha.
Thriller – fast songs, orchestral songs, rap songs, suspenseful songs, metal songs, rock songs, songs on electric guitar.
Examples: Fast and Furious soundtracks, Boom Boom Pow by Black Eyed Peas, Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay.
Horror – creepy songs, new age songs, rap songs, techno songs, calming songs (the calm before the storm).
Examples: Bury a Friend by Billie Eilish, Sweet but Psycho by Ava Max, Waves by Normani and 6lack.
Create your playlist
Once you have all of your songs at your arsenal, whether it’s songs of a specific genre, songs that fit a certain mood, or even to help you flesh out a certain character, put them together in a playlist for yourself. I personally love using Spotify for this because they’ll learn the songs I listen to most and recommend new and similar ones, which is great for generating new ideas after always listening to the same playlist over and over.
But however way you create your playlist, decide how you prefer listening to it. Listening to songs in a certain order may be best for getting through scenes that require the accompaniment of certain songs to get through it (or to think through it, if you’re brainstorming instead of writing with music on). However, listening to the songs on shuffle may help you be more spontaneous. I have moods when I need certain songs in a certain order and some moods when I don’t want to know what song is coming next. The choice is up to you.
Don’t be afraid to try different music types that you’re not used to! It’ll broaden your thinking patterns and inspire new ideas. Be bold, and there will be no limits to where your mind can take you.