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Music to Read By

>> Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Do you listen to music while you read or work? For years I have not. I have preferred no music playing while I read or work but lately that has changed. Perhaps a bit of late onset ADD or maybe I’m just more easily distracted lately for a variety of reasons. No matter what the reason I’ve been seeking recommendations lately for music that I can play while reading or working that won’t be distracting.

Over the past few months I have been less able to just sit and read for long periods of time. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with my book choices. I’m reading great books. It’s my brain that gets distracted. I can find a reason every few minutes to take a break for a gazillion reasons. I check email, check Twitter, play a game of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, Look out the window to see what the kids in the playground are up to or pretty much anything for a minute or two before returning to my book.

I have discovered that for the first time since college, background music helps me focus. This is weird because it’s truly not been true since I got out of grad school. However, there are some major restrictions.

  • No words – I tend to sing along or pay more attention to the words in the song instead of the words on the page
  • Nothing too jittery or nervous sounding
  • I’m not a jazz fan
  • Some classical stuff works but some of it is sleep inducing and therefore defeats the purpose
  • Instrumental versions of common songs don’t work well because my brain starts filling in the lyrics

I put out the word on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and have added some music to my reading and working playlist that has made a great difference and I actually enjoy listening to this as background music.

One friend recommended Explosions in the Sky.

Well first of all, they get an “A” for great band name. Secondly, their music was often used in the show Friday Night Lights. I loved that show and the music. I have now added most of their CDs to my Reading and Working playlist and it’s perfect for what I need. The first evening The Hubster came home and I had their music playing I didn’t tell him what I was listening to. Pretty soon he said “This sounds very Friday Night Lights”. Ten points for The Hubster!
If you’re a fan of the show or just want some good background music you might want to give them a try.

Another friend recommended Christopher O’Riley.

He is a classical pianist who has two CD of his own arrangements of Radiohead songs. Yeah it sound weird, and it sort of violates my ‘instrumental versions of songs I know don’t work’ rule, but it actually works for me as good background music. If you like piano background music you should give these a try.

That’s as far as my music exploration has gone so far, but I will likely be trying more options and sharing more music to read by as I find choices that work for me. Another twitter friend has suggested music with lyrics that are in a language that I do not know. I hadn’t considered that but it might work and I’ll be trying out some options with Spotify soon.

Do you listen to music when you read or work? What’s your favorite background music?


bermudaonion 2/07/2012 7:44 AM  

I can't help you out, because I like it quiet when I read or work. I really enjoy quiet, period. I don't turn on the TV or radio when I'm home alone.

Peek a BooK! 2/07/2012 12:07 PM  

Thanks for the helpful tips!
I have your same problems with "reading+music", so I will try with Explosion in the Sky and Christopher O'Riley! :)


raidergirl3 2/07/2012 1:22 PM  

I have that late onset ADD at times too and have trouble getting into things (except stupid games on FB - that I can do for hours!). The thought of sitting and watching a movie for 2 hours can be scary.

My cousin has a band, Nightsurf, and they play just instrumental music. I've listened to a little bit, but it's not my cuppa. However, it might be just what you'd like to read to. I'm pretty sure you can listen to or download all of it free. Here's the link to his site:

Don't worry if you dont' like it - just suggesting a source of easy, free music!

DoingDewey 2/07/2012 5:41 PM  

Although I love music and would enjoy listening while I read, I have so far not been able to find music that won't distract me. I may have to try some of your suggestions, since I haven't tried lyric-less music yet and I love classical rearrangements of rock songs :)

Les 2/12/2012 10:57 AM  

I generally don't listen to music while reading or composing blog posts. Too distracting! I tried the two albums you listed, but I don't think they'll work for me. My nephew's piano solos are about all I'd consider listening to. I need to burn a cd so I can play them on my Bose. Right now I just have them on YouTube.

SuziQoregon 2/21/2012 1:26 PM  

BermudaOnion- I've always preferred quiet when I read but lately I've discovered that something that's not distracting can actually help me relax and stay focused.

Valentina: hope you like Explosions in the Sky - I've become a fan.

Raidergirl: I'm so glad I'm not the only one with late-onset ADD. I will definitely give your cousin's band a try - thanks!

DoingDewey: It really kind of came as a shock to me that the music actually helped me concentrate. It's not been my normal routine.

Les: Piano solos are a good option - I just have to make sure they're nice and mellow. Sometimes piano stuff can sound agitated or nervous to me.

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