Do you sit alone in silence looking at the wall or out a window while you try to write? Do you scoff at people who work in coffee shops while you scribble nothings on paper and slowly nodding off? Are you interested in learning how to use sound to stimulate creativity and more importantly…are you willing to try them?
I’m sure we all grew up in a world where classrooms and libraries were silent–aren’t you supposed to learn better when it’s silent? And then when you had homework, you wanted to listen to music or the TV while completing it, but your parents turned everything off so you could “concentrate” better.
Silence does not work for me. I need noise. Either the endless drone of some TV show I’m not interested in or music. One of my friends works better in a coffee shop. She needs that background noise of clinking cups, light music, and muted conversations. Plus, she gets coffee, too.
Why Does Sound Help?
Turns out there’s some research behind this. Stochastic resonance research shows that a certain amount of background noise actually enhances performance. But at too loud a level, that performance starts to go down. White noise is better for productivity which is why it’s used more and more in offices, while ambient sounds are better for creativity.
The type of sounds you use is important as well. While the latest pop song doesn’t work well for complex and creative projects, it’s perfect if you’re doing a repetitive task like data entry. Instrumental music is good for creativity, it allows you to focus on your own work instead of singing your favorite parts of someone else’s creative work.
For me, I love 70s electronic music. There’s just something about a Moog synthesizer that sets a creative mood for me. Bo Hansson’s album, Music Inspired by The Lord of the Rings is a regular for me. As is any music by Isao Tomita but I do prefer his Debussy-themed album Snowflakes are Dancing.
I also like the brainwave stimulating music created by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson in Creative Mind Systems. After years of clinical research, he created a soundtrack that includes inaudible sound pulses that stimulate the creative brainwaves and then overlayed an ambient soundtrack over it.
While instrumental tracks are best when you’re trying to be creative, I read of one person who listened strictly to Metallica while writing a book. If you’re not sure what works for you, you can always try listening to various soundtracks on YouTube. Start with the coffee shop sounds below.
There’s an App for that.
Music to Stay Focused by Brain.fm is a paid app that has AI-generated music to improve brain focus, productivity, relaxation, sleeping, and even ADHD support.
White Noise Pro – Rain, Cafe, Insomnia, ASMR provides nature sounds, white noise such as cafes, vacuums, pen writing on paper sounds, and many others. You can even layer different sounds on top of each other like beach waves and a thunderstorm.
Noisli – Focus, Concentration, & Relaxation is another paid app that provides ambient sounds such as nature, rain, and white noise. It also allows you to mix different sounds together for your desired effect. While it has over 100,000 downloads, I am concerned that it was last updated back in 2017.
What works for you? Do you need absolute silence or do you prefer some sound to go with your creativity?