Lately, I’ve been really into the Soundscapes channel on my cable TV. The background music helps me focus while I write, and this keeps me from getting up and making snacks. (A really good one: Frozen Banana Boppers, courtesy of my prankster character Chris.)
I have developed criteria for evaluating music to listen to while you study. The perfect background music has a calm, steady beat, is written in mostly major keys (too much minor is just depressing), has no lyrics, and isn’t too peppy or catchy. (No Eine Kleine Nachtmusik while you study.)
Following these principles, I have found some CDs that work like magic with my students. We all focus much better with these CDs, and when I deviate from them, we tend to have problems. Here are some recommendations:
Feng Shui Harmony Balance Energy: This CD is magic! It has mysterious child-calming properties. The class always falls silent when I play this CD. I use it sparingly so the effect doesn’t wear off.
Classical Music for Reading: This mix features some of the big names in classical composition and works very well. Fun fact: I bought this for my class on a trip to Mexico where I also purchased two foam puzzles of the human sistema digestivo. You can buy the album on Amazon—much easier although less fun.
Poeta by Al Conti: This is a nice calm instrumental album with a New Age sound. It’s very soothing and is probably the disc we spin most often. Fun fact: before Al was a composer, he was a soap opera star.
Touch the Sun: I came across composer Eric McCarl on Soundscapes. This is soothing and pleasant piano music that everyone enjoys.
Classical Music to Study To: After stumbling across Classical Music for Reading, I started getting into pre-selected mixes. This one is very good, too. Several of the songs are in minor keys, and they’ll definitely slow you down a little.
Art of the Guitar: Andres Segovia and John Williams: This is a soporific collection of Bach preludes. I remember I used to play one of them on the piano and if I didn’t watch the sheet music, I’d lull myself into a stupor and just keep looping the song. It was good background music, though. This CD is good for calming students to the extreme; not so good for inducing critical thinking. Still, there is a time and place for this album.
Touched By the Sea: Uplifting Piano Solos: Silvard is another artist I discovered on Soundscapes. His original compositions are just perfect for background music. My students and I find it calming and pleasant.