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Instrumental vs. Lyrics

Music to read by

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1waterlily
May 3, 2007, 4:29pm Top

I only listen to instrumental music when I read, because I find lyrics distracting. How about you?

2cdyankeefan
May 3, 2007, 4:58pm Top

it depends- if its a song i really really love- like anything by nancy lamott i would just stop reading and listen .. but other than that i can concentrate and it helps if the book is really good

3cckelly
May 3, 2007, 6:04pm Top

What an interesting topic, thanks for starting it.

I also find it depends upon what I am reading and my intent in the reading. For deeply engrossing fiction which carries me inside the story, then lyrics aren't as much a distraction as deep, booming bass - I live in an ethnic neighborhood and the loud and vibratory bass the kids use is more disruptive to my focus than any lyrics - but I generally eschew music with lyrics while reading because if I enjoy it at all I will come to a conflict of attention.

What I've found most interesting of late is how certain types of instrumental music affect how I read. Has anyone else noticed how certain genres or artists can enhance or detract from different types of books?

For example, I cannot listen to Coltrane solos without my mind flying into bouts of unrestrained ideas and an overwhelming impulse to do something with them, be it write them down, brainstorm or act upon them. If I'm reading fiction, then I see deeper into the 'hidden' meanings. If I'm studying, then my brain is excited with ideas of applying the new information. If the book is boring, I will not be able to read for very long before I feel compelled to get up, move and DO something else.

A new release of Suzanne Teng's mystic flute music which I downloaded off Magnatune is perfect for reading which needs intense focus and comprehension. I can spend hours longer in technical reading without the fatigue when her music is in the background.

Chopin grounds me, helps with difficult or tedious reading. You know, the "should" books. :) But certain passages will always carry me away for half a minute or more and yet not so far that I lose concentration on the text at hand.

4ds_61_12
May 4, 2007, 6:30am Top

Usually it isn't such a problem for me to hear lyrics. Although some can be distracting at first. However I often found that the cd had ended long before I stopped reading and I had never noticed.... Does that say enough?

5vpfluke
May 6, 2007, 1:22pm Top

Lisa Gerrard sings wordless songs on the Mirror Pool and Duality.

6etoiline First Message
May 8, 2007, 10:37am Top

If I purposely put on music to read by, it's usually a soundtrack from a movie. It's funny how often the dramatic bits from the soundtrack coincide with those in the book...My current favorite right now is the Blood Diamond soundtrack.

Lyrics don't usually bother me, though. I've got a three-cd changer, so if something lyrical happens to come on, I won't stop it. There are some songs that I have to stop and sing along with, though :)

7Tim_Watkinson
May 9, 2007, 4:12pm Top

i can't imagine reading while listening to music, even instrumentals.

even the first birds of the morning distract me!

8MrsKroeger
May 17, 2007, 9:17am Top

While i read i listen to music with lyrics becauz sometimes i might daydream off and pay attention to the books.Usually I'll listen to Heavy Metal or Alternative.

9kayaalder
May 17, 2007, 8:46pm Top

I almost always prefer something non-lyrical when reading. However, when not reading, there are definitely songs that I relate to books I am currently reading or have read in the recent past.

One song that I will never be able to disassociate from a book is Chris Isaak's Wicked Game which became firmly locked in my brain with Stephen King's The Stand.

10rufustfirefly66
May 17, 2007, 10:21pm Top

I bought the Bach for Book Lovers CD. It works.

11aluvalibri
May 18, 2007, 6:55am Top

I do not listen to any kind of music when I read, but if I did it would be instrumental.

12coffeezombie
May 18, 2007, 8:19am Top

Whether I listen to music or not while reading depends on what I am reading. Certain things, classic ghost stories in particular, seem to be best read in silence. Anything else will detract from the mood of the story. Most books, for me anyway, aren't as delicate about atmosphere and lend themselves to something in the background. I've found that some books, poetry in particular, can be enhanced by music and can even be read differently while listening to different things. I once had a blast reading Rimbaud while listening to Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew."

I'm one of those people for whom lyrics are just another part of the music. I rarely pay attention to the words and hear the vocals as just a part of the music, carrying the melody. So if the music is familar enough to me, it doesn't really matter whether or not it has vocals because I will hear it the same as I hear an instrumental piece. As long as it isn't too intrusive or grating I can listen to just about anything while reading. One of my currents is a Chicago intrumental band called Tortoise. They play jazzy post-rock that lends itself to reading.

13angelikat
May 18, 2007, 12:47pm Top

I agree with Kayaalder - I listen to mostly instrumentals these days - I am constantly running across songs that remind me of the books I was reading at the time. The Twin Peaks soundtrack is great to read to and so is Enya - but evertime I listen to Dream of The Blue Turtles by Sting I can't help but think of IT by Stephen King

14booklover79
Edited: May 19, 2007, 3:08pm Top

I do either. If I'm really into the book, it won't matter what I listen to I won't hear the music at all. One time I was at the library and listening to my ipod while reading and I didn't even listen to the music. Not sure why I had my ipod on...oh, now I remember it was because I was getting annoyed by all the talking in the library and I couldn't read so I put the earbuds in and it was great, I could read.lol.

15Jim53
May 19, 2007, 4:28pm Top

I find that lyrics vs instrumental is not as important as whether the music is familiar or not. Something new is much more likely to distract me than something I've heard many times, regardless of genre.

16waterlily
May 19, 2007, 4:58pm Top

#14 "...annoyed by all the talking in the library and I couldn't read so I put the earbuds in and it was great, I could read."

Great idea, booklover79! I'll have to try that. My public library can be very noisy.

17verbafacio
May 19, 2007, 8:43pm Top

I can read with instrumental or lyric-based music, but if I am trying to concentrate, I tend more toward instrumental.

Jim53 -- I think I'm just the opposite of you. If I know a song, instrumental or not, I am likely to start singing along in my head and ignoring what I am reading. Music I don't know very well is often best.

18Hera
May 19, 2007, 9:54pm Top

I used to be able to study, read and write essays with lots of loud music, other people talking to me and a slight party going on somewhere else in the house (okay, the party was always in my room, I admit it).

Not now! I'm ususally reading poetry of one sort or another and noise really doesn't help my concentration. Music especially distracts me, except Beethoven, Miles Davis, Coltrane and other no-lyrics instrumental music.

This week's been terrible for noise in my block. Outside, the gas company has been digging up the road with four pneumatic drills (niiice). Both sides of me people have been doing DIY day and night and the students upstairs are celebrating the end of essays (good for them, actually). I've blotted the din out with heavy dub reggae: a three cd extravaganza of King Tubby. Very few lyrics, lots of rhythm and a very soothing experience.

I did try to escape with walking but the whole neighbourhood seems to have the roads up too! Thank god for my Zen mp3 player.

19casachristy
Jun 7, 2007, 3:34pm Top

Surprisingly, I noticed not long ago that I'm far more distracted when listening to instrumental music, than lyrical music...I think it's because instrumental music makes me think more about the piece.

20MrsKroeger
Jun 10, 2007, 10:22am Top

I actually listened to some lyrical music on friday while reading "twilight".It was good.I put the music low,though.But I still like doing that. :)

21delphi
Jun 13, 2007, 9:17pm Top

Songs in foreign languages work for me. It is just part of the music since I don't understand the words. It has to be something soothing though, not brassy.

22MrsKroeger
Jun 26, 2007, 12:08pm Top

I've actully read listening to lyrical.It was only Nickelback,but I could still concentrate. =)

23kperfetto
Jul 6, 2007, 6:05pm Top

Lyrics are distracting when I'm writing, mostly because they tend to show up in my writing. I actually concentrate better on what I'm reading with music (lyrical and instrumental) playing in the background, as long as it's not my neighbor's death metal or something equally cacophonous.

24geneg
Jul 6, 2007, 11:34pm Top

I;m currently reading Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes, I'm finding listening to Borodin, Mussorgsky, and Stravinsky while reading the Russians or about Russia is wonderful.

25greenlion
Edited: Jul 7, 2007, 5:36pm Top

I like the sound of voice, but lyrics distract me when I'm reading. I usually listen to something I can't understand, like Cirque de Soleil (where most of the vocal songs aren't in English) or Celtic or opera.

#24 - I'm doing something similar! I've been reading a lot of Asian and Asian-influenced books and I love putting on Chinese and Japanese classical while I read.

#12 - Love Tortoise! I'm from Chicago, but I never went to see them play...

26ednamode
Aug 6, 2007, 1:53pm Top

I also prefer music without lyrics when I'm reading. I find that if a song has words, the words will get mixed into what I'm reading, and then I'll get confused.

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