Do you immediately turn on the TV or get out your headphones when you start a project? What I listen to when I work depends on what stage I'm at. If I'm writing a blog post, I need to concentrate more than if I'm tracing over a sketch.
I've organized my favorite background noises from least distracting (when I really need to focus) to most distracting (when I can let my brain wander).
Ambient noise describes the sounds in certain situations or locations. It's crashing waves and noisy seagulls at the beach. Or rumbling thunder and pattering rain during a storm. Or the turning pages of a book and crackling fire that you'd hear in the Gryffindor common room at Hogwarts.
I won't lie; I discovered this website while brainstorming for this post BUT I'M OBSESSED. Who wouldn't want to pretend like they're studying in that magical place with Harry Potter? Seriously though, some studies have shown that low levels of ambient noise boost creativity.
I'll split this into two categories. First, if I need to concentrate but want more interest than ambient noise, my go-to Pandora station is Avatar (film score) radio. Movie soundtracks are actually designed not to be distracting. I started with "Avatar" because the film score is amazing, but you better believe I added some Harry Potter. Now I've got a nice range from "Pride and Prejudice" to "Skyfall."
If I've got a task where I can daydream a little (read: air guitar solo and fake singing to the crowd), I'll listen to my favorite bands and artists.
Since people are talking in podcasts, they're better for mindless activities when you're able to absorb the information. A few of my picks:
- seanwes: I've been listening to Sean McCabe since his first episode. He has owned a few successful businesses (like being a hand letterer) and now helps others make a living with their passion. He and co-host Ben Toalson always leave me with some food for thought.
- Lambo Goal: Also from the seanwes network, Sean's co-host here is Matt Lopez who owns a bajillion business (slightly exaggerating). They'll help you set bigger goals, (Sean's is to buy a lambo...in cash...when it represents only 10% of his income) and talk you through the hard work that will help you reach those goals.
- Design Matters with Debbie Millman: One of the most soothing voices ever, Debbie is a fantastic interviewer and offers a glimpse into the lives of today's top designers and artists.
- 99% Invisible: Another fantastically smooth voice, Roman Mars and his crew take an in-depth look at user and product design, from earplugs to cities. You'll surely learn some new conversation starters. This show is part of Radiotopia, from PRX, a wonderful podcast network.
- Song Exploder: This awesome podcast is also part of Radiotopia. Host Hrishikesh Hirway has an artist take apart their song each episode, so you get unique insight into how the tune was created.
These are the most distracting forms of background noise. TV and videos not only make you pay attention to the sound, but the sight too. I save these for tasks like tracing or filling in drawings or vectorizing sketches on the computer. You've got the usual TV or Netflix, but sometimes I'll turn on tutorial videos if I'm feeling crazy.
There are other background sources out there, but these are my favorites. And let's not forget about plain old silence. It's good to let your mind relax sometimes and be completely engrossed in the project at hand.