Music and Creativity

(Excerpted in part from the book Finding Focus In A Changing World, by Joshua Seth)

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Music can trigger deep focus and creativity when specific songs are consistently linked to specific activities.

For instance, I’ve listened to the same playlist while writing all three of my books. In case you were wondering, it’s the album “Underwater Sunlight” by Tangerine Dream. Whenever I hear that music I know it’s time to write and so I do. The words begin to flow automatically. No writer's block. No getting stuck in my own head. Just automatic writing.

In order to keep this musical trigger active, I make sure never to listen to this particular playlist unless I’m already sitting at my laptop and ready to write. It would diffuse the music’s effectiveness on my subconscious to listen to it at any other time. You can do this, too.

How To Use Music to Trigger Deep Focus and Creativity

  1. Select a specific song or playlist to listen to corresponding with each type of focused activity

  2. Always listen to that music when you’re engaged in that specific activity

  3. Never listen to that music at any other time

What Types of Music Should You Listen To?

Studies have shown that baroque music at 60 beats per minute is best for focused concentration. This is sometimes referred to as “The Mozart Effect”, although technically that would be classical music, not baroque. The point is to get your brainwaves into Alpha state so they synchronize with the work that you’re doing and open your mind to those Aha! moments.

Whenever I’m listening to a project that requires manual labor, such as yard work or a home improvement project, I listen to the album Abbey Road by The Beatles. I’ve been consistent about that for more than 20 years so the effect is instantaneous. I hear that music and get to work. It puts me in the zone.

Electronica or Chill music can also be very effective (and are my personal favorites) but it’s best if it’s instrumental because otherwise the lyrics can influence your thinking or even pull you out of your process. I listen to the Pandora Chill Out music station whenever I’m doing design work, but I’ll skip the lyric heavy tracks.

And finally, I’ve found that listening to nature sounds, such as the rain and thunderstorms, help me get into a mediatative state when I want to free associate ideas.

The Most Important Thing

The most important thing to remember is to be consistent about linking specific music to specific activities, regardless of the type of music you choose to listen to. It may take you a little time to establish a link between your music selection and the type of work you associate it to but eventually the effect will kick in and it will result in an effortless deepening of focus and creativity.


Joshua Seth is the author of the best-selling book,
Finding Focus In A Changing World: How To Make The Impossible Possible By Thinking Differently,
and is a leading keynote speaker on the topic of creative innovation in business.
He is also the creator of Creativity Cards: Brainstorming Made Easy

Joshua Seth