Soothing Song Names In Essays

In 1993, the famous book by Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect, convinced millions that listening to Mozart can have a substantial effect on cognition.  Now, the debate over whether or not music improves intelligence is filled with psychologists, neurologists, teachers, and musicians with so many different takes, it's hard to know the truth.  But one thing neurologists know for sure is that music “activates the brain regions related to attention, semantic processing, motor functions, and emotional processing,” according to a study in Brain: The Journal of Neurology.  It also helps relax the person studying.  So before I get too nerdy, let me start.  This is a list for all those times you go to coffee shop and want to drown out the annoying couple playing crossword puzzles; this is a list for all those times you have a block, while you're writing your term paper or a poem; this is a list for anyone who wants to hear good music, while still memorizing the order of all the dead presidents, without being interrupted by lyrics.  These are my favorite songs to listen to while studying and writing.    

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10. Kronos Quartet — Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass

What is so striking about this album is that it grabs you right away on the first track with a brilliance of blooming harmony, and then the album lulls you into colorful melodies so textured and layered, you'll swear you're listening to an abstract painting.  Kronos Quartet is a string section who have been performing for nearly 40 years, and they're internationally renowned as one of the most influential groups in contemporary music.  And on this 1995 album, they play music written by another powerhouse, Philip Glass — a brilliant composer known for minimalism, operas, and film scoring.  While you're studying or being creative, the repetition, the sonic intimacy, will have you so focused on the work in front of you, of your own space, you might lose track of your surroundings and forget where you are.  

It might be hard to listen to Radiohead while you're studying, because, well, Thom Yorke's voice is so haunting, it will command attention away from your essay on why California should legalize marijuana.  So, that's why Christopher O'Riley's Hold Me To This is perfect.  O'Riley loosely interprets the melody lines, but he captures the dynamic changes on songs like “there there” and presents your favorite songs Radiohead tracks in a new way that leaves you thinking maybe some of these songs were meant for the piano. 


8. The Road to Perdition Soundtrack, Thomas Newman. 

When it comes to modern composers, our contemporary Beethovens and Mozarts just might be creating the soundtrack to your favorite movies.  Take for instance Thomas Newman.  Newman was the composer who wrote the soundtracks for American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Road to Perdition.  These soundtracks are perfect for studying or writing or being creative, because they're designed to reflect a narrative, a story, and drive the viewer/listener forward.  While you can't find the whole soundtrack on Spotify, try either buying it or making it a radio station on Pandora.  The textures, the sonic colors, and the pulling narrative of The Road to Perdition might help bring longevity and focus to those long study sessions.  But hey, I'm not a neurologist.  

7. Ma Sicong: Music for Violin and Piano

For me, Ma Sicong's music played by Hsiao-mei Ku (violin) and Ning Lu (Piano) is one of my favorite albums, because it puts me in a mind frame of peace and relaxation.  The way the violin just elongates these strings of melody, there's something, well, almost therapeutic about it, something unbelievably heart breaking, too.  Ma Sicong is recognized as one of China's leading violin players and composers.  Some of the best pieces are the “Tone Poems of Tibet.”  They're visual and mood invoking — snow-covered mountains and open spaces.  You can find this album on Spotify.  


Well, how much can really be said about Beethoven today that hasn't been said by a million crazy music teachers in high school.  He's obviously a genius, but what makes his sonatas so perfect for studying or the creative process is that they're so visual.  But you're mind doesn't have to work that hard to construct the images.  There are studies out there that show patients who had strokes have a greater ratio of improvement in terms of memory, when they're listening to music.  That's because when you listen to music, the areas in your brain that are associated with memory are activated.  So if this is true, it's like turning on a switch, a light bulb in your mind.  I recommend Wilhelm Kempff's sonatas on Spotify, but you can find many different versions. 

5. Erik Satie: Trois Gymnopedies

Like sitting outside your window with a pen and paper and listening to the rain, the notes from Erik Satie's, Gymnopedies, sound like music that was meant to be a permanent structure of nature.  Gymnopedies is just the piano, and it's simple and subtle but spectacular.  Satie was a French composer who was labeled as a minimalist — even though he hated that term.  It's music that is subtle — almost mathematical — that pulsates with life and energy.  There is a lot of space between the notes, but the melody is haunting, and it's been in so many movies and television shows — including Star Treck: The Next Generation, Chocolat, The Royal Tenenbaums — it will be hard not pull the melody out of some memory.  


4.Chopin: Complete Nocturnes, Barcarolle, Berceuse — Vladimir Feltsman

In a way, studying or being creative is kind of like sex.  Yes, you can probably have it any time you want (some of us, anyway), but sometimes, it's really about being in the right mood.  And well, Chopin's nocturnes is like an aphrodisiac for the mind.  Chopin was famous for his nocturnes, and they're dreamy and pensive compositions — usually melancholic.  They're beautifully dark pieces, and the visual comparison would be like staring at some of Van Gogh's various version of landscapes and star-filled skies at night.  You can find Feltsman's album on Spotify, but there are many versions out there, too.  Put on this album, put your pen to paper or open that book, and allow the contemplative atmosphere to infiltrate.  

3. Simon Trpceski — Debussy: Images

Claude Debussy is one of the best French composers and probably artists, and that says a hell of lot.  His compositions were analogous to the paintings of the impressionists, and he hoped when you listened to his music, you saw, literally, similar visualizations of Monet.  That's why he called his work Images.  You can find an album by Simon Trpceski on Spotify.  Take for instance Debussy's, “Clair De Lune.”  It's probably one of the most famous works in music — played in everything from lullabies to film scores.  And really, it's not just a song.  It's a painting that will set all 100,000,000,000 neurons in the average human brain on fire.  It will open up the creative process.  Allow you to dream, to wonder, to be in awe.  It will free the listener from their office, from their coffee shop with the annoying couples, and transport them somewhere else.  Where that place is, I imagine, is different for everyone.  


Yo-Yo Ma is clearly one of the best performers in contemporary music, and on this album, he teams up with an Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, who is widely respected and championed for his film scores.  For the last fifty years, Morricone has written scores for over 400 films, and when he joins Yo-Yo Ma and his aching cello, they create an album with so much emotional depth, it breaks your heart.  While you're studying, you might look away from the page, and hear a moment that just grabs and demands you to pay attention — to reflect upon a line.  Then it will let you go as it moves into a new motif.  Find the full album on Spotify. 

1. The Hours: Philip Glass

Whenever I want to sit down and write in a space for creativity, my first choice is, almost always, Philip Glass' The Hours soundtrack.  It's an album with so much repetition of ideas but with such stunning variations, it creates this overall composition that just sucks me in, puts me in another headspace, and allows me to forget all the other crap going on in my life.  I don't have to worry about bills; I don't have to worry if my car is going to start when I leave the library; I don't have to worry about anything else but the work in front of me.  It's truly a poetic album, and it was written by one of the world's best composers with a unique and unforgettable style.   For me, there is no better album for the mind, for being in the moment, than Philip Glass' The Hours.  Just listen and let the music speak for itself. 

9. Hold Me to This: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead
6. Beethoven's Sonatas: Wilhelm Kempff
2. Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone: Yo-Yo Ma; Ennio Morricone

Filed Under: MusicTagged With: 10 albums, classical, lists, studying, Writing


In 2011, a British band joined forces with a group of sound therapists to create “The Most Relaxing Tune Ever”. Yet since 2011 the world has somehow become more stressed out, strung-up, and on edge. It’s about time we revisited some of those more tranquilizing numbers.

Can Music Really Help Us Relax?

Since classical antiquity, when Apollo was the God of Music, people have held that music has the power to penetrate the soul. That its powers stretch further than the mere ability to vibrate our eardrums. That music can actually heal our mind, body, and soul.

Whether or not you take this view, there’s no denying that music has a powerful ability to shape our environment. It’s the subtle chord changes, the tempo, the rhythm, and the harmonies. This is what affects the emotions, performance, and even purchase intentions of ourselves and those around us.

  • A study from the 1990s showed that the “mood” of the music we listened to influenced our perceptions of others.
  • A study from 2002 showed that arithmetic performance in primary school pupils could be improved by playing calming music. More aggressive music had a negative impact on performance.
  • A study from 1998 showed that listening to grunge music increased levels of hostility, sadness, and tension. “New Age” music had varying results. “Designer Music” (music engineered for specific reactions) could improve mental clarity, caring, and relaxation.

The idea that music can be designed to evoke specific reactions is what’s fascinating here. Take the sessions that produced the “Most Relaxing Tune Ever”. The aim was to create a song to induce a serenity and calmness in people that surpassed anything else out there. The result was Weightless by Manchester Trio, Marconi Union…

1. Marconi Union – Weightless

According to Shortlist, this song is “even more relaxing than a massage, walk, or cup of tea”. The engineering behind the song was drawn from scientific theory to slow breathing and reduce mental activity. Its strategic bass-lines, rhythms, and harmonies work to induce a biting sleepiness. Enough sleepiness, in fact, for motorists to be warned not to listen to the song while driving. As reported in The Telegraph:

“Studies found Weightless was 11 per cent more relaxing than any other song and even made many of the women ‘drowsy’ in the lab … It induced a 65 per cent reduction in overall anxiety and brought them to a level 35 per cent lower than their usual resting rates.”

After around five minutes of listening to a song, your heart starts to match the beat of the music, or is at least heavily influenced by that beat. This is called “entrainment”, and explains why Weightless (YouTube, Spotify) starts at 60 beats per minute, later slowing to 50 beats per minute. This lowered heart rate naturally leads to a fall in blood pressure and eases anxiety.

Founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, Liz Cooper, goes on to explain:

“The harmonic intervals – or gaps between notes – have been chosen to create a feeling of euphoria and comfort. And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next … Instead, there are random chimes, which helps to induce a deeper sense of relaxation. The final element is the low, whooshing sounds and hums that are like buddhist chants [that] put you in a trance-like state.”

If you’re curating your own Relaxation playlist, you should keep all of that in mind. Enough of the science though. The vast majority of listeners to Weightless concur in their view as to its calming influence. After listening to it myself while having a lie down, I’ll admit struggling to climb back out of bed at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

All is not uniform in the public opinion department, however. Despite Time Magazine dubbing the song “8 min. 10 sec. of aural bliss,” some people don’t succumb to its charms. This may be due to different wiring, or simply because the sample size of the study wasn’t enough to draw a universal conclusion.

So if Weightless just isn’t doing it for you, try one of these other relaxing songs that were included in the study. There’s bound to be one that can soothe and calm those wrecked nerves of yoursEnter Deep Relaxation With Dark Atmospheric Ambient & Drone Sounds [Sound Sunday]Enter Deep Relaxation With Dark Atmospheric Ambient & Drone Sounds [Sound Sunday]Drown out the noise and allow your mind to sink into itself with this edition of music you can download for free, aka Sound Sunday.Read More. The following are the remaining nine songs of the Top 10, with Marcuni Union’s Weightless coming in at Number 1. Most of these will be available to listen to on Spotify (see our write-upMusic Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For FreeMusic Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For FreeThe long awaited streaming music service, Spotify landed in the U.S. last week. Unlike other streaming services, however, Spotify offers an ad-supported free option, which makes millions of albums and songs available to you through...Read More) or Apple Music (see our write-upGetting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to KnowGetting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to KnowAfter the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world.Read More).

2. Airstream – Electra

Sit back and alleviate your mind with Airstream’s 6 minutes of perfect chillout. Some viewers suggest playing the music at 0.5 speed (Settings > Speed > 0.5) for added meditative qualities, though there’s a lot to be said for listening at 2x speed.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)

This tune from DJ Shah’s Chill Out Mix appeared in Vsauce’s most relaxing music playlist. Unfortunately, the beat is slightly faster than most people’s resting heart-rate, so you’re unlikely to experience entrainment. However, you’ll almost certainly sink deep into your mattress.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

4. Enya – Watermark

Enjoyed by almost 20 million listeners on YouTube alone, Enya truly managed to strike a chord with this release. As YouTube user MissDistarr60 put it: “We can live tens of thousands of miles apart, yet this music has the same affect on each and every one of us.  It touches the emotions that we all share.”

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing

In terms of music videos, they don’t come much more entertaining than this one. Yet on top of this, the soft instrumentals and whispered vocals massage your nerves, and (surprisingly for this band) lift your mood like few other songs out there. Good work, Coldplay.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go

This truly powerful song, for some, serves more to churn the emotions than to act as a relaxant. But its steady, placid chords and poignant sting instrumentals add elements that are sure to evoke either tears of sadness, or previously unknown depths of sleep.

Listen on YouTube.

7. All Saints – Pure Shores

A strange addition to the list, but nonetheless, Pure Shores does indeed offer a chillout vibe that you may previously have overlooked. Turn the lights out, insert your earphones, and hear it for yourself. Just don’t blame me if you end up dancing like it’s the year 2000 all over again.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

8. Adele- Someone Like You

Few need an introduction to Adele’s iconic Someone Like You. Viewed by well over 500 million people on YouTube, it’s a song that the artist can live off for the remainder of her life. Yet it’s not necessarily the incredible vocals or touching lyrics that are to thank for its ubiquity; it’s science.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Someone Like You is “sprinkled with ornamental notes similar to appoggiaturas”, which build tension in the audience and illicit strong emotional responses.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria

The only classical song in the list, Mozart’s Canzonetta Sull’aria is recognizable to many due to its appearance in The Shawshank Redemption. Originally from the opera Marriage of Figaro, it’s sure to add a beautiful end to any stressful period.

Listen on YouTube or Spotify.

10. Cafe Del Mar – We Can Fly

Imagine you’re sat on a beach as the wistful instrumentals of We Can Fly jet you off to some far-flung destination. Reminiscent of bygone travel shows, Cafe Del Mar have perfected the feel of some much-needed downtime with this one.

Listen on YouTube.

Which Songs Help You Relax?

Of course, there are plenty of other songs that are as equally relaxing as some of those in the study. These will usually incorporate some, or all, of the calming features that were identified in Weightless. Here are a few more to add to your list:

So if you’re looking for calming ways to destress your mind10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your Mind10 Calming Apps to Destress & Clear Your MindYou are not alone if you have you ever felt stuck in your thoughts? Like you're trudging and not able to make any headway. Calming, thought-organizing apps can rescue the mind.Read More, or easy ways to fall asleep faster3 Relaxation Techniques to Help You Sleep Better3 Relaxation Techniques to Help You Sleep BetterSometimes it takes too long to fall asleep. Technology can help us sleep better with some help from better sleep habits. Try these suggestions to shut off your brain.Read More, these songs will be a welcome addition to your repertoire. It’s hopefully a better alternative than using white noise for serenity3 White Noise Apps To Help You Sleep, Concentrate & Relax3 White Noise Apps To Help You Sleep, Concentrate & RelaxIf you're trying to sleep or work and an incessant background noise won't let up, these apps will help.Read More.

Which songs have a tranquilizing effect on you? And what do you think it is that makes them so effective at reducing your anxiety?

Image Credits: laying on the bench by Marjan Apostolovic via Shutterstock


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