Instrumental vs. Lyrics

TalkMusic to read by

Join LibraryThing to post.

Instrumental vs. Lyrics

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

May 3, 2007, 4:29pm

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

May 3, 2007, 4:58pm

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

May 3, 2007, 6:04pm

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.

May 4, 2007, 6:30am

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?

May 6, 2007, 1:22pm

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

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

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 :)

May 9, 2007, 4:12pm

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

even the first birds of the morning distract me!

May 17, 2007, 9:17am

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.

May 17, 2007, 8:46pm

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.

May 17, 2007, 10:21pm

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

May 18, 2007, 6:55am

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

May 18, 2007, 8:19am

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.

May 18, 2007, 12:47pm

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

Edited: May 19, 2007, 3:08pm

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

May 19, 2007, 4:28pm

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.

May 19, 2007, 4:58pm

#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.

May 19, 2007, 8:43pm

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.

May 19, 2007, 9:54pm

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.

Jun 7, 2007, 3:34pm

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.

Jun 10, 2007, 10:22am

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. :)

Jun 13, 2007, 9:17pm

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.

Jun 26, 2007, 12:08pm

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

Jul 6, 2007, 6:05pm

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.

Jul 6, 2007, 11:34pm

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.

Edited: Jul 7, 2007, 5:36pm

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...

Aug 6, 2007, 1:53pm

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.