How Do You Relax While Listening To Music?

October 14, 2021, 2:45 PM · Do you find yourself having trouble to be productive at work when you're surrounded by melodies?

Personally I find it nearly impossible for me to work/study when someone plays music around me, even if the music is good. Somehow my brain will always decompose and analyze whatever music I hear into notes and chords (perfect pitch gang here).

If you once had the same problem, how did you resolve it?

Replies (25)

October 14, 2021, 3:11 PM · Ear plugs!
October 14, 2021, 6:55 PM · I hear you. I have the same problem (or rather had it when I still worked on my job), except that I have no problem ignoring it if it is bad. If it is good I have a hard time concentrating on my work.
Edited: October 14, 2021, 7:20 PM · Instrumental music is fine : jazz and classical etc. But anything with lyrics is distracting and pop music drives me nuts....so irritating ! That is the reason I leave supermarkets and shopping centers as soon as I can.
October 14, 2021, 11:42 PM · If I REALLY need to get something done at work, I put on something pretty repetitive, like drum and bass, but any classical music robs my attention. I mostly listen to classical while working...

I can't imagine studying with music playing.

October 14, 2021, 11:51 PM · Get some noise cancelling headphones.
Or eat something crunchy.
And buy a treadmill.
October 15, 2021, 12:18 AM · I put on a work by Paganini. It's not interesting enough to completely rob your attention, but it's not pop-music-ignorantly-and-blindly-preaching-about-love levels of trash.
October 15, 2021, 12:26 AM · The tread mill was the best idea so far. Just make sure it is well oiled and doesn't squeak!
October 15, 2021, 3:19 AM · With feet up and a glass of wine. Or am I answering the wrong question?
October 15, 2021, 3:30 PM · When I first set up my lab and got my first batch of grad students, one of the first rules I had to make was "no music with lyrics in the lab." Playing any sort of music in the lab quickly became fairly pointless anyway because of the ever-present mechanical vacuum pumps. But the reason for the rule was because I had a student who suddenly became a Christian and he wanted to play Christian pop/rock in the lab.
October 15, 2021, 3:55 PM · I'm surprised to hear that pop music is distracting. It personally doesn't grab my attention for the most part.

I'm also surprised to see you speak so slightingly of the pop genre, Mike. I thought the younger generation was into that sort of thing.

October 15, 2021, 4:10 PM · How much music is intended to create 'relaxation'? Here is a quick list of major works in which relaxation seems not to be the composers' intention:

Bach: St John Passion
Beethoven: Eroica symphony
Tchaikovsky: Pathetique symphony
Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps
Berg: Violin Concerto

On the internet there are many examples of music for relaxation or study. Some of them are selections of well known (and easier) classical music. The rest seem to be long, formless and washy agglomerations of 'mood' music. They seem to be accompanied by pretty nature and landscape photographs, and I guess that their dedicated users complete the effect with pastel-coloured pyjamas, mood lighting and scented candles.

This school of relaxation is not for me! There are, however, pieces that create ease, rest or calm, but I am sure that the composer's intention is still that audiences listen with thoughtful concentration. Examples I am thinking of here are the slow movements of the Franck violin sonata and the Beethoven concerto. Listening to these I might lie on the sofa, darken the room and have a glass of wine to hand, but my mind is working hard, and certainly not relaxing!

Incidentally but relevant, I recall somebody telling me that the first act of 'Don Giovanni' was 'refreshing' - certainly an original response to music depicting a sexual assault, a murder, and vows of revenge!

Edited: October 15, 2021, 6:09 PM · I guess I'd say that listening to music automatically causes a multi-tasking effect for me. Even if the music has the relaxation/meditation effect for most people.

That said, I couldn't just listen to music passively as something in the background. Instead, it always triggers my active attention to identify the key, notes, and the chords. I wonder if this has anything to do with perfect-pitch to be honest.

Edited: October 15, 2021, 7:49 PM · I don't blame Mike for despising pop music. When I was his age I didn't like it either. I wanted to listen to jazz. I was never the sort to say that pop musicians are idiots or relentlessly untalented, etc. Some are really quite exceptional musicians.
October 15, 2021, 9:24 PM · I may be young, but on the inside, I am a twice-divorced old man.

In in all seriousness, I meant that some of it is bad, with the ignorantly preaching about love description, describing the type I hate.

However, I am not into any of it; it never jelled with me. But, I can understand if someone else does like it.

October 16, 2021, 1:30 AM · Mavis, I think it's the perfect pitch. You've been cursed with great power.
October 16, 2021, 1:43 AM · Mike, in my experience, it's rare not to like ANY pop music. It seems you're a bonafide pure-bred classical musician. I'm personally a half-breed.

I understand what you mean about the lyrics. Pop typically centres around love (the trifling, temporary, Romeo-and-Juliet kind). I cannot relate to this at all. Instead of hating it, though, I just find it mildly amusing.

On the inside, I'm an old man too, but I've always been blissfully single.

October 16, 2021, 11:01 AM · I learned a long time ago that I liked to listen to a background of instrumental music while doing verbal or math related work. But not songs; the lyrics are distracting. Also a verbal background, like talk radio, goes with physical/mechanical work or music work. I am sure the psychologists on the panel can explain that.
Edited: October 16, 2021, 11:54 AM · Joel, it's completely opposite for me. I can focus a lot better even with people watching loud TV or playing rap music in the background, but whenever I hear anything melodic, I start getting distracted.
Edited: October 16, 2021, 10:26 PM · I'm also one of the rare people who dislike the vast majority of pop music.

For me, it's the result of a bit of chronological culture shock when I moved back to the US in middle school, after living in Dubai for most of my life up to that point. At the time, before high-speed internet was widespread, American pop culture reached Dubai but lagged by a few years. My reaction to being years behind my peers in pop culture upon returning to the US was to dive into classical and jazz.

I often find instrumental jazz better than classical as background music for working on something else.

October 17, 2021, 10:47 AM · For me listening to music is a "serious business." I remember that I had a radio/cassette play in my office for 15 or 20 years. I had bought bought on a business trip - that was before the CD days and it stayed there until I retired in late 1989. I remember listening to it on its firs day and quickly realized that listening to music worth listening to prevents me from any kind of other thinking. So it just sat there.

The pianist I played trios and sonatas with in those days was dean of students at the local community college. He was a really serious piano player - had worked his way through college at a keyboard, he played concertos with our local orchestra and was the pianist for the local musical theater group, etc. A visitor to his office, knowing he was a musician asked him why he didn't have music there. His answer was the same as mine would have been.

For people like us apparently there is no such thing as background music.

October 18, 2021, 6:37 PM · A favorite way for me to get "relaxation" out of music is to walk through beautiful architecture and courtyards to the music hall, then relax the mind and body into a quiet while waiting for the musicians to walk on stage and play and sing! A fine concert program of early music or chamber music in a small beautiful concert hall takes me out of the cares and circumstances of daily life. Like meditation, quieted mind and body temporarily wiped clean of identity and focused on the music coming from the artists in front of us.
Edited: October 18, 2021, 7:15 PM · I've written entire novels of expletives in my head from all the yoga classes I've had to endure, listening to just the worst, most execrable, no-modulating-ass, white-people-chanting-in-Sanskrit, new-age music.

Sometimes I think that yoga teachers only get trained in order to inflict their terrible musical taste on unsuspecting people trying to relax. Sometimes, though, the torture becomes immense, and then you just release yourself fully, activating some kind of ancient play-dead response, and you enter a state of pure dissociated bliss. I imagine that S&M works in a similar manner.

Still, any yoga class I go to that is silent is like a gift from God.

October 18, 2021, 7:41 PM · Christian, it seems like you need some yoga to cool off ;).
Edited: October 18, 2021, 11:16 PM · No Mike, he's just having a kundalini experience.
Edited: October 18, 2021, 11:36 PM · When you're right, you're right, Mike!

I need to do some deep COVID breathing...


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