Where to Find the Best Music to Tune Out to While You Work

Photo:  Dan Farrell, Unsplash
Photo: Dan Farrell, Unsplash

Having the right soundtrack is key to getting stuff done, but it can be tough to find the balance between jams that lull you to sleep and earworms that distract you with their catchy choruses.

With the obvious caveat that everyone’s tastes and concentration levels are different, here are nine different music and audio mixes for work that you can try. At least one or two of the options on this list should help you block out distractions and be more productive, which will come in handy in these quarantined times.

1. ChilledCow Lofi Hip Hop Radio

Screenshot: Gizmodo

This much-loved and often imitated YouTube livestream has tens of thousands of people regularly online together, letting the laid-back, hushed beats get them through a study or work session. Something about the combination of artwork and soothing music just works, and it’s a great way to discover new lo-fi tunes as well. (All the artists on the stream have given permission for their music to be shared.)

2. Reichenbergerstr 121

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If you find yourself working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and missing the sounds and ambience of the office, give Reichenbergerstr 121 a listen. The channel aims to accurately simulate the beeps, buzzes, chatter, and white noise of an office environment, and it succeeds fantastically — either click the objects in the frame, or just let it play. It’s the work of creative agency Kids from Germany (Reichenberger Str 121 is its office address).

3. Online radio

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Radio has been a mainstay of workplaces since it was first invented, and sites like Radio Garden enable you to listen to radio streams from all across the world. Whatever works for you — country, rock, classical, pop, spoken word, or anything else — Radio Garden can deliver, and there are plenty of other sites like it. Sometimes the burble of a talk show or news segment is as effective as music, but choose your own adventure.

4. Coffitivity

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If you’re one of those people who works best in a coffee shop, then Coffitivity brings the sounds of such an establishment right to you. You can pick from three different types of coffee shop vibe, and three more if you upgrade to a premium account. The audio is judged perfectly and never runs out, so it’s busy enough to keep you alert without being so loud or overwhelming that it gets in the way of what you’re supposed to be doing.

5. Noisli

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A firm Field Guide favourite, Noisli has been in the noise-generating game a long time, and few sites or apps out there can match its quality or ease-of-use. Use the buttons on screen to start up the sounds of a crackling fire, a coffee cup chinking, wind whistling through the trees, a train running along a track, a thunderstorm unleashing its fury, and more. You can adjust the various volume controls until you’ve found the perfect audio mix for working.

6. Spotify

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You’ve probably figured out that Spotify can play in the background while you’re working without any help from us, but you might not realise just how many playlists are out there — made by both Spotify staff and Spotify users. You can look up chill out music, ambient music, instrumental music, post-rock music, classical music… anything that you feel that you need to get your juices flowing and boost your productivity.

7. Classic television

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For some, TV can be dangerously distracting, but for others, having a classic and familiar television show on in the background can actually keep the brain ticking over. It’s like listening to an album you’ve heard thousands of times. Obviously you don’t want to actually binge-watch shows at the expense of your doing your job, and it can’t be anything too dramatic or loud, but classic fare like The Simpsons, The Office, Columbo, or The Joy of Painting can work well as background noise.

8. Brain.fm

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Brain.fm offers music and audio generated by algorithms, specifically designed to get you focused and working effectively. We can’t speak with authority about the science behind it, but we’ve found it useful many times, and there’s a free trial so you can see if it works for you. The available soundscapes range from ambient tunes and classical music to atmospheric noise, natural sounds, piano, and plenty more that you can experiment with.

9. YouTube

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We’ve already covered the ChilledCow YouTube channel, but we want to flag another category on Google’s video site that works well for background music: ambient and natural sounds on a loop for hours on end. Check out 10 hours of rain hitting the leaves on a forest road in autumn or 10 hours of winter snow storm sounds, for example — there’s so much material on the platform that you’re bound to find something that you like.