Although my full-time gig is in education, I’m also a musician and music lover who appreciates a wide array of genres: hip hop, blues, new age, rock, jazz & classical, in no particular order. And while I have some bad habits (namely, listening to C-Span in the background while writing and preparing lessons), I know that there’s only a few types of music that I can let play in the background while doing things that are academic in nature. So let me take a second to turn off Brian Lamb (while you turn off Black Sabbath) and I’ll share with you a list of my favorite types of music to play when it’s time to work. Count-off a 1, a 2, a 1, 2, 3, 4!
- New Age on Calm Radio
This is a big, expansive genre that ranges from traditional piano music and single instrument showcases to atmospheric & outer space synthesizer sounds. The idea is simplicity; calm and relaxing sounds that just ask that you hear them while focusing on your academic task at hand. Recommendation: in my humble opinion, George Winston is the greatest living piano player on Earth and can a play a little something for everyone, whether its the Doors, Vince Guaraldi, religious classics or his own originals that attempt to express seasonal themes. Check George Winston out delivering this incredible live performance below.
- Classical music on my music library
Go to any public library or Half Priced Books store and you can borrow or buy all the classical music you’ll ever need on a collection of CDs for anywhere between free to a couple bucks a piece. Vinyl collectors can find a slew of great selections for cheap also. Recommendation: While I’d stay away from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the purposes of academics (often very loud and anxious horn orchestrations), Felix Mendelssohn comes to mind as a go-to. I’m also a fan of Franz List, whose piano tracks can be utterly upbeat and motivating.
- Blues on TuneIn
You might have noticed at this point that I tend to avoid vocals and lyrics when studying or preparing. Well, this is my exception to the rule. TuneIn provides a lot of great radio stations across the U.S. and the globe, whether terrestrial or internet stations, and blues is one of my favorite offerings. I turn to shows like “Confessing the Blues”, “Blues After Hours” & the “Blues Connection”, especially when I’m working under the moon. The reason I can listen to the genre, as opposed to others with singing and lyrics, is the call and response nature of the music, and because the whole experience of blues cuts deep to my soul, and complements the efforts I’m putting into my work for the benefit of my students. Recommendation: Albert Collins…pure genius!
- Gregorian Chant on Calm Radio
I came across this gem of the meditative music world a few years ago while living in the Northern Neck of Virginia. It was also around the time that I had discovered Calm Radio. Its origins trace back to the 9th and 10th centuries in western and central Europe where choirs of men and boys sang sacred songs as part of the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. I find that the songs help me relax, read and write. Take a listen.
Jazz music, with one caveat: like other genres, some of it tends to be distracting, so tread lightly or know the band or musician well. I like the Crusaders, the incredible Bob James and for those looking for a more recent contemporary, check out Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band.
I hope you enjoyed this list. That said, I’d love to add to my repertoire, so please add your suggestions and comments below. Keep reading, and keep listening. Merry Christmas!