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Music to Create By

Updated on November 2, 2015
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

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Music and Creativity

There seems to be a lot of personal preference about music: what music is best for your brain and creativity, what is right to listen too and what is wrong. I know I had some opinions about my children listening to loud screaming music while supposedly doing homework. Some can do it because they can tune it out. Others just want an excuse to be distracted from the unpleasantness of schoolwork in general. The question is what is best?

As an artist, I like to listen to music while I create, but it has to be instrumental only. I feel like having words sung to me distracts me from what I’m doing. Maybe I’m easily distracted or maybe it’s single-mindedness, whichever, I prefer classical music. Whenever I tell people that, they look at me like I just grew a third eye or a tail. Yes. I like Mozart, Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff. I can’t help it. It’s beautiful music without words and allows me to create on a bed of melodious mood-making music. I’m listening to the piano music of Helen Jane Long right now. I especially love the violin of Joshua Bell. Fabulous.

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Creativity and the Brain

I’m sure you have heard that you have two sides to your brain. On the one side you do creative things like sing, play music, dance, create art, arrange flowers, even cook. On the other side you take care of mundane things like money, calculate the cost of a dress and mentally figure if you have enough left in the bank for this purchase or that. You read and write with the academic side, while you draw and sing with the other side.

Do a little experiment. Think of a piece of music right now. Maybe something famous like The Sound of Music or something from your past like Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock. Now say the words without singing. Don’t even hum. Just recite the words as if they were a poem. You will find that you can’t do it. You won’t be able to get more than two lines into the poem without having to either join the music with it or you will start singing the words involuntarily. The reason is because you memorized the words WITH the music. It has been saved in the creative side, the music side of the brain and not the academic side.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

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What kind of music do you listen to when creating?

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Lyrics

For this reason I hate playing popular music while I’m creating. Without even noticing, I will begin singing and suddenly I’m no longer creating, I’m remembering the words and music to sing along. I know lots of people who can shut out everything around them while they are creating but if you can do that, why bother putting on music in the first place?

Watch the video to the end

What really hit me from this Ted-x sequence is when he mentioned the things that inhibit creative thinking. He mentions the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: the part of your brain in the front of the forehead behind your eyes. This part of the brain controls your impulsive thoughts or rash actions. As he says, it is working best when meeting your in-laws for the first time or at a job interview and keeping you from saying or doing something stupid. It is the part of the brain that acts like a filter and keeps you from acting out when you are angry or spouting curse words when upset. But it also will keep you from acting on creative thought as well. This focused part of the brain must be switched off if you are to create freely and create new innovative things.

Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright, until you hear them speak.

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The Flow of Creativity

Some people can play the radio while working, but I find this even more distracting than just playing popular songs, because every three or four songs a human voice will command my attention and focus to try to sell me something or tell me about the next set of songs, when all I want it to continue with my creative flow.

For me it is like being in a free flowing river. Near the middle the water is deep and the flow is moving along at a nice pace with little or no resistance. However, nearer the shore there are rocks and trees, boulders and underwater snags that can cause eddies and whirlpools. The human voice is like that for me. It can pull me out of the flow into a whirlpool where I am going around and around creatively but getting nowhere, until I can find a way back into the flow, if I can find my way back.

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Asking for Opinions

I asked a group of friends their opinions about what the best form of music to create by was, and here are some of their answers:

Josh: I believe types of music has a lot to do with your current mood. Same as art.

Kimberly: Ever heard of "Bon Iver"?

Desta: I say smooth jazz...no words.... that's what I work to everyday.

Kevin: Yann Tiersen. Explosions in the Sky. Hammock. You'll like Yann Tiersen.

Amber: It varies for me but generally I enjoy music that stays upbeat and energetic, keeps me going and moving.

Olivia: a nice instrumental with variations in melodies would be for me..... Christian and Country.....with a classical twist...

Amanda: Movie soundtracks!! Some of my favorite soundtracks are to movies I've never seen, so it doesn't matter at all. Let's see... The Assassination of Jesse James has a kind of sad feel, Doctor Who season 4 is beautiful, then there's Atonement, Ender's Game, Pan's Labyrinth, and Pushing Daisies (both seasons). I pick a mood and go from there, but I always have a score or classical playing in the background when I'm reading or studying.

Kevin: Never go wrong with Last of the Mohicans

Tim: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, or Mozart.

Amanda: Oh! And if you enjoy Explosions in the Sky, try the Moonlit Sailor station on Pandora. It's the perfect gateway drug to that style of music. Or! (Why didn't I think of this before?) the Friday Night Lights soundtrack is absolutely incredible. Go listen now!

Lara: Good question: I actually do listen to music, I listen to funk or a station called Zen, on spotfy. I like things without words or that get distracting.

Creative flow without words

The best ideas and the best creativity, in my opinion, come when you are relaxed and focused on the creative task. Lyrics in music has always taken me away and pulled my focus back to the words, away from the creative flow. What do you think? Can you create with lyrics playing? Do you bother to listen to music at all while creating?

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Musical Comments Here

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Sara Copley,

      I'm with you and love classical and instrumental. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Sara Copley profile image

      Sara Copley 

      2 years ago

      Great Hub! I also enjoy listening to soundtracks when I create, or sometimes I switch it up with classical or instrumental. I can't do music with words either. Thanks for sharing this; some great insights!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      teaches12345,

      Isn't that funny how that works. I've tried it too just to see if I can do it. Even things we have known all our lives keep attached to the tune. I tried Twinkle, twinkle, little star and the tune magically appeared. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      MsDora,

      Me too. Thank you for commenting. Enjoy your Caribbean Christmas. We have California Christmas... no snow, but some frost and a little cold.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      2 years ago

      I tried saying the words without singing and found it quite difficult. The tune just was in my head and would not stop. Great post on this fascinating topic!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I find that words distract me too, but I am energized by instrumentals. This article is very insightful. Thank you.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      CorneliaMladenova,

      Thank you. I think so too. I appreciate you leaving a comment for me.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 

      2 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Music could be really inspiring. Classic and Christian music is really helpful when you create something, does not matter what. :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      FlourishAnyway,

      Well that makes sense. I still can't concentrate with words so I only have words playing if it's Christmas time. Isn't that funny? Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 years ago from USA

      For me, it all depends on what I'm creating. Because I lean more towards written works, music interferes. However, when I do crafts projects (scrapbooking, quilting) I definitely like to listen to Top 40s.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      I'm so glad to be of help and inspiration, Jackie. Have a lovely day. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Interesting idea and I love music; will have to try it. Thanks for the idea!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      BlossomSB,

      It's not my favorite but we have smooth jazz or Frank Sinatra playing softly in the background when our group meets. Like yours, we often are having such a good talk we don't hear it. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Hahaha, Larry, caffeine. But that's another hub for sure. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      We have classical music playing softly in the background at our local Artists' Group when we meet to paint. In the quiet times, it's lovely, but often we're socialising so much we don't hear it!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Music certainly has an effect on my creative mind...music and caffeine:-)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      annart,

      Me too. My son was one of those audio learners. He would take spelling test after spelling test and nearly fail them all but when I gave the test to him orally, he spelled every word correctly. That's when I knew something was wrong with the system that refuses to bend for the sake of the students! Sure I understand that it would take a great deal of time and overhaul to change the way things are done, but hasn't it been proven that test are the poorest method of judging whether a child had learned the lessons given? I agree with you. If it works for people with learning disabilities it would work with all the children, but who listens to us? Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      My multi-sensory teaching was for dyslexics and if they can benefit from it then any pupils can; it's so great to see things like that working!

      Sadly, the Education Department doesn't listen to the experienced teachers, just think they know it all. That makes me mad!

      Ann

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Ann, very thoughtful and informative response. I agree, if more teachers used a multi-sensory approach to teaching, I think the children would learn better and retain more. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      DDE,

      Thanks for visiting. Music is a pleasure, I agree. I appreciate your comments.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      purl3agony,

      I agree with you. I get a lot of inspiration right that half-asleep, half-awake moment when my inhibitions are down. Kind of a waking dream state. But I think music often puts me there too. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      I like listening to music, my own iTunes selection, when doing lots of things around the house. When writing, I tend not to have the music on as it can distract. However, like you, I also like the soothing quality of Rachmaninov, Chopin and through to Gershwin and Simon & Garfunkel!

      The right/left brain thing is why teaching in a multi-sensory way is best for everyone - our memories work best when we've learnt from setting words or actions or letters to rhythm, usually with music but not necessarily. Touch and movement go a long way to reinforcing it all too.

      If I'm doing any art work, then I do like having music as a background. It livens me up and gets my thoughts going.

      Great hub; interesting thoughts from others too.

      Ann

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I enjoy listening daily to music and it is such a pleasure for me.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      2 years ago from USA

      Great hub with some very interesting information. I rarely listen to music while working in my art studio, mainly because I work for shorter periods of time, often needing longer drying times between steps. But I do think that music is inspiring, particularly in the idea phase. Thanks for sharing your hub!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Reynold Jay,

      You know I think you are right about things changing as we age. Our tastes change in everything it seems, including food and music. I still like to have classical music playing while I create but not very loudly. Thanks for commenting again.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      I remember when I was younger I had music going all the time in my auto. I suspect as one ages a bit that the music is distracting when trying to stay alive on the road. I haven't played the radio in the auto in 20 years! I purchased a late model auto recently and tossed all the Sirrus radio messages in the trash. Free trial--doesn't matter. I don't drive enough to give it a any thought at all.

      Oh-- I am visually oriented too, like you.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      2 years ago from Fresno CA

      Reynold Jay,

      Okay, wow, I guess that might make a difference. Thanks for the compliment. I am such a visual person that I feel like hubs without pictures is like a song without melody. Got to have it. Thank you for commenting as always.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Hi Denise-- I am amazed at all the work you do in presenting theses HUBS!!! Well done as always. No music at all for this fellow. I run a TV very quietly while I work and pay little attention to it. I tried music and it never worked for me. Being a former pro musician probably has something to do with it.

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