Ten Playlists for Your Next Writing Project

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March 10, 2021

As a writer, I find that words distract me. What? 

Yes. I’m easily distracted by words. If there’s a TV on, I’m subconsciously listening. If there’s a conversation going on, I can’t not hear it. And, of course, if a song has words, my mind is following (and maybe singing) them. I’m on a quest to devour as many words as possible, and I can’t save me from me.

That’s why Matt and I listen to instrumental music when we write, and we’ve compiled our most-frequented playlists and albums to share with you.

Chuck Johnson

We ❤️  Chuck Johnson. Balsams is a thoughtful, calm, 40-minute stripped-down album when you just need a little tickle in your ear to spark your writing. We also particularly like his 2020 collaboration with Golden Retriever—Rain Shadow—and his new 2021 release, The Cinder Grove. – JasB + MK

Cut Copy

When I want writing music, but not headphones, I tend to put something a bit more peppy on the Sonos to keep the momentum up for the whole team. Cut Copy is always great; The January Tape is particularly excellent. Thanks to former OLG’er Drew Kora for the initial RIYL on this one! – MK

dark instrumental writing music by spookyclouds

My best friend found this playlists, and it’s been our go-to for years. We both just find this contemplative, somber tone to be very soothing. I listen to this playlist the most—there’s something about the pacing and mellowness that brings my high-strung thought process to balance. – JasB

Deep Focus by Spotify

You can’t go wrong with this playlist—I recommend it to everyone, no matter what you’re writing (because mood and tone matter!). It’s generally upbeat and has good vibes. It’s probably the most popular instrumental/focus playlist on Spotify. – JasB

Ellen Arkbro

If I’m going way, way, way down deep for maximum concentration—like 20,000 leagues under the sea deep—I’m going with Ellen Arkbro’s For Organ and Brass. And if I want a dollop of madness in that deep focus, I’ll go with Arkbro’s CHORDS, which features just two songs: “CHORDS for organ,” and “CHORDS for guitar.” Each of which is ~16 minutes in length. – MK

Hanjo Gäbler

I actually discovered this guy while searching for music for a video project. There’s A LOT of diversity to his music, and it’s not all up my alley. But, when I’m feeling particularly spicy or want to add an extra pep in my writing step, I listen to Spanish Summer.  – JasB

Ludovico Einaudi

Ludovico Einaudi is my best friend’s favorite pianist (who knew people had those?). So, kudos to her for turning me onto him. If you’re looking for something more relaxed and occasionally melancholy, this is the way to go.

And if you know how to pronounce his name… shoot me an email with the phonetics, please. – JasB


Just as the Cut Copy record has all the ingredients of a perfect indie pop masterpiece—minus the vocals—Oddisee’s The Odd Tape feels like an all-time-great chillout hip-hop record, minus the raps. Just tremendous. – MK

Reading Adventure by Spotify

This hits me in all my nerdy spots. – JasB

Vitamin String Quartet

Vitamin String Quartet covers it all—from today’s hits to movie scores (like my favorite, Nightmare Before Christmas). – JasB

Yo La Tengo

Over time, YLT has emerged as my favorite band I’ve never thought about tattooing on my body—but every day, that thought gets more likely. For writing, there’s a lot to love (including 2021’s ambient droner, We Have Amnesia Sometimes). But my go-to is 2002’s The Sounds of the Sounds of Science. – MK

Originally published January 2019; updated March 2021.

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