Mood Music: The Best Ambient Playlists for Writers
Many studies have shown that music has positive effects on our bodies. Among other things, it is said to reduce pain, lower anxiety, increase motivation, and enhance blood flow. There’s even an entire branch of research devoted to this called neuromusicology, in which scientists explore the ways music influences the different areas of the brain.
While I tend to listen to music with lyrics when I write—and I definitely create lyric-based playlists for my stories—ambient music is an essential tool in my #amwriting arsenal. Not only does it help me focus, but it really helps when I’m trying to dig into the vibe of a story. By filling my ears with the noises that are (or could be!) happening in the scene I'm trying to hash out, I'm able to set the stage and make that much easier to generate the specific ambiance I'm striving for.
I recommend listening to ambient mixes for several reasons:
Sometimes it’s just ‘too damn quiet’. If you're like me, there are times when your brain needs a little noise in order to relax . . . and this is probably a big part of why I always sleep with the fan on!
Ambient music can help block out any annoying chatter and/or distractions.
The right music/sounds can put you in the zone, thereby helping to suppress that pesky internal voice/editor!
It’s immersive. Are you writing a scene set in winter? Then by all means throw on a mix full of howling wind, blowing snow, and maybe even a crackling fire.
Many are sites & apps are customizable, meaning you can mix a variety of noises to create your own ambient blend, or you can fiddle with the settings for the different tones in an already established mix (i.e. more fireplace noise, less wind, etc.).
Tabletop Audio: Tabletop Audio is an ad-free, free-to-use, ambient audio site. Sound categories include: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, music, historical, nature, and modern. With over 100 ambient playlists, with names like Dinotopia, Ice Caverns, 1920s Speakeasy, Colosseum, City Under Siege, Ethereal Plane, etc., there's sure to be something for everyone. All mixes run in 10-minute loops and will play continuously without interruption.
Ambient-Mixer.com: Ambient-Mixer is also ad-free and free-to-use. They have a seemingly never-ending list of audio files to choose from called atmospheres, or you can even mix and match up to eight different audio samples from their archive to create and save your own atmospheres. For more on how to do that, check out the tips and steps in: How to Use the Online Ambient Audio Mixer. And definitely take a look at their blog, which you can access here. For a fee, they also allow you to download playlists directly to your computer.
Ambient-Mixer has all sorts of sound categories, but I find it especially beneficial if you want to listen to franchise themed playlists. They offer a ton of these inspired by blockbusters such as Harry Potter, LOTR, and even Game of Thrones.
See the graphic below for an example of some of the available mixes exclusive to myNoise.net.
Noisli: Noisli is a background noise and color generator. The design is very simple with about a dozen basic sounds to choose from like thunderstorms and crickets. You can create your own mix using these sounds, or click on one of three pre-set buttons at the top of the website: Random, Productivity, and Relax. The really cool and different thing about Noisli is that the background color cycles between hues while it plays, which I find quite soothing (but there is the ability to turn this feature off should you find it distracting).
Coffitivity: If your creativity thrives when you're surrounded by the din of your favorite coffee shop, then Coffitivity is your site for ambient sounds. The playlists are all noises from coffee shops—that's it, though you can play the hubbub in conjunction with your favorite low-key music to create a setting that's all yours. The site is free, but premium features come at a cost.
I hope you enjoyed these recommendations for ambient sounds and music! I know there are lots of sites and apps out there that offer these types of atmospheric playlists, but these are the ones I use most. Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite, or @ me with other suggestions on Twitter at @meganklacroix. I'd love to hear them!
And, as always,