Posted in Music, writing

Writing Soundtracks: Songs and albums I listen to while I write, and tips for making writing playlists

Ooh, would you look at that! A new header!

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

I got a notification this morning, and apparently I’ve had this blog running for…5 years? WHOAAAAA, OKAY, I FORGOT ABOUT THAT

I didn’t start semi-seriously book blogging until about a year ago, but thank you to everybody who has supported me along the way! (And for those of you who had to witness what this blog was like when I was in middle school…I’m terribly sorry for the horrors you experienced.)

ANYWAY, I figured I should start doing writing-related posts more frequently, so here’s my first(ish?) stab at it.

Many members of the writing community use music in a number of ways in the process of creating their WIP, be it picking specific songs or albums to listen to while writing, or creating book or character playlists. Music is an integral part of my life, and I’ve managed to weave it into my writing life as well. I always listen to music when I write, so I thought that I would first share some songs, albums, and scores that I like the most to get me writing my WIPs.

INSTRUMENTAL SCORES

I think there’s been several studies about how instrumental scores help with studying, but for a lot of people, music without lyrics is helpful to focus on their writing, and is less distracting than music with lyrics. I use a mix of music with and without lyrics in writing, but for those of you who are strictly instrumental, here are some of my favorite albums–mostly film scores, mind you–that I use when writing:

Danny Elfman - Hellboy 2 (OST) - Amazon.com Music

Hellboy II: The Golden Army original score–Danny Elfman

Yes, yes, I know I blab about this masterpiece quite a lot, but hey, it’s Danny Elfman doing the score–what’s not to like? The score ranges from whimsically spooky to action-packed to tear-jerking, so it’s perfect for writing scenes of all kinds.

Radiohead for Solo Piano | Josh Cohen

Radiohead for Solo Piano–Josh Cohen

Even if you aren’t familiar with Radiohead, this is a spectacular collection of their pieces adapted into instrumental, piano form. I particularly like “Motion Picture Soundtrack” and “Black Star.”

Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross: Watchmen (Music from the HBO Series ...

Watchmen original score–Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Much of this one is electronic, but with a wide range of moods; either way, it’s always catchy, and perfectly cinematic. Also, there’s a gorgeous instrumental cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”, so of course I’d recommend it.

Anything by Jeff Russo, really

Russo has such a wide range, composition-wise, and every single score I’ve come across by him is nothing short of stellar. Some of my favorites include his scores for Legion (FX), and The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), but he’s also scored everything from Cursed to Lucy in the Sky and Fargo (the TV show)

NON-INSTRUMENTAL SONGS AND ALBUMS

I cram loads of music onto my writing playlists, but there’s several particular songs and albums that get me more focused/motivated/immersed in my writing than others, so here goes nothing…

Kid A Cover - How Radiohead's Most Alienating Album Got Its Cover

Kid A–Radiohead

Besides the fact that one of my WIPs features a character who is obsessed with this album, the sheer range of emotion in this album is stunning. Though it’s chiefly electronic, I’ve used these songs from everything from battle scenes to a funeral scene.

Recommended tracks:

Mitski: Bury Me at Makeout Creek Album Review | Pitchfork

Bury Me at Makeout Creek–Mitski

Another very emotional album, this one’s always great for writing scenes associated with any form of love, whether it’s the promise of it, being in the throes of it, or being apart from it. Then again, you’re talking to somebody who has had zero (0) experience with any sort of relationships, so take this as you will.

Recommended tracks:

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot By Wilco Album Cover Location

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot–Wilco

Apparently they called this album “the American Kid A” when it came out, so…did I cheat and put Kid A on here twice? If so, I don’t regret it.

Ranging from punchy, classic rock songs and dreamlike, melancholic hazes of emotion, I highly recommend this album for scenes charged with emotion–doesn’t matter what emotion we’re talking about, because there’s easily a song or two on here for everything.

Recommended tracks:

Phoebe Bridgers: Stranger in the Alps Album Review | Pitchfork

Stranger in the Alps–Phoebe Bridgers

Though I don’t like every song on the album, I’d say about 3/4 of it is positively stellar. Definitely on the sadder side, but it’s perfect for channeling strong emotion in your writing.

Recommended tracks:

David Bowie - Hunky Dory - Amazon.com Music

Hunky Dory–David Bowie

Besides being, y’know, the pinnacle of music, this one is chock-full of tracks that not only help me bring emotion and heart into my writing, but with songs that motivate me to write.

Recommended tracks:

GENERAL WRITING PLAYLIST TIPS

I saw a piece of advice the other day about making two writing playlists: listen to one of them while writing it, and a different one when you’re editing or making the second draft, so that you’re put into a different mindset while re-reading it.

For making the playlists themselves, I usually just dump several songs I like, and go through songs as I write. If there’s a song that takes me out of the writing or has been in circulation for a few times too many, I take it off and replace it.

Just for fun, here are snippets of mine:

And yes, I did color-coordinate the album covers. It’s fun…

(Or, alternatively, “the one that I accidentally dumped all the Weezer on” and “the one without any Weezer at all”)

I also like to cobble together playlists for each of my WIPs: here, I include songs with lyrics that relate to the story, or that just have the general vibe of the WIP. For some of them, I also create character playlists going off of the same rule. For my sci-fi book, there are six different perspectives (or, I’m going to make it that way once I get around to editing it), so I have a playlist for each of them. For my current WIP, however, there’s only one perspective, so I just keep it at the protagonist.

What do you think? What are your musical techniques for writing? What’s your favorite music to write to?

Since there’s a boatload of music in this post, consider the entire thing “today’s song.”

That’s it for this writing post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Author:

Your friendly neighborhood book/music/occasionally movie blogger who reads too fast and has an arsenal of absurd gifs at her disposal :) ⭐︎ I incessantly change my profile picture, you have been warned ⭐︎ she/her ⭐︎ ISTJ ⭐︎ (pfp by @KorinMalin from picrew)

15 thoughts on “Writing Soundtracks: Songs and albums I listen to while I write, and tips for making writing playlists

  1. As a writer I’d love to write someday. It’s been six years since the last time I finished anything πŸ˜… The only thing I listened to for my first book, back in 2011, were Taylor Swift’s first albums, and for the second and until now, I don’t have an specific playlist, I just search for an instrumentals or relaxed one if I’m on the mood for writing πŸ˜‚ That being said I love music recommendations in any form so I’ll be listening to these 100%.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I listen to a bunch of Queen and John Williams… oh and also the Into The Spider-Verse soundtrack is AMAZING oh and musicals and a bunch of lo-fi (i think that’s what it is) so basically it’s a big ball of wibbly wobbly sound wavey stuff y’know? And I have playlists based on all my WIPS but I only listen to my pirate-themed one and my “painting outline” one which has a bunch of random things idk how to describe it? it has ratatouille and queen and wicked and lofi and hamilton just everything idk it’s a mess but it’s good? (oh and my pirate playlist is ELEVEN HOURS LONG) (it’s all a mess) Anyway yeah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. NICE! I love the Spiderverse score, I have most of it (and the score for The Empire Strikes Back) crammed on my instrumental playlist! πŸ™‚ there’s a few Queen songs scattered on my two writing playlists
      One of my characters in my main sci-fi WIP really likes Queen, so there’s quite a lot of that on his playlist 🀣
      No shame in a random playlist, no shame at all

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on five years❀️ One of the characters in my WIP is a song writer, so I have a whole playlist for him alone. Other than that, I listen to a smorgasbord of music including Harry Styles, the Dear Evan Hansen Soundtrack (Sincerely Me is my go to), Flora Cash, Khalid, Julia Michaels, Matt Maeson, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AND I THINK YOU’RE THE ONLY OTHER BLOGGER I KNOW OF WHO APPRECIATES THEM! AAAAAH!
      Yeah! Wilco has always been close to my heart–my dad really likes them, so I was raised on a lot of Wilco. They were the first concert I ever went to (I’ve seen them a total of 3x now, all amazing), and YHF is probably my favorite album of theirs πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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