Music transports you. As you lean back and listen to a melody, you’ll shift to emotional places that spark reflections that may lead to joy or tears. Music is, arguably, the most influential art medium at it is most accessible and provokes such feeling.
Given music’s power, it’s a valuable companion when creating other art such as drawing or writing. I find playing music softly while I journal permits my thoughts to flow, stills my racing brain, and allows my ideas to spill more easily on the page.
Here I offer a list of the best music I’ve found for journaling. You’ll notice the list includes several movie soundtracks. Unapologetically, I love them because of their design. Soundtrack music rises and falls on the winds of a storyline, sometimes in the background, sometimes taking command to color the big moments in a film.
I dare you not to have a good cleansing weep – and do some terrific journaling – when listening to some of these selections. And the great thing about journaling with this backdrop is that you immediately permit yourself to write more freely and authentically without judgment.
- Considered a cinematic masterpiece, Cinema Paradiso has a gorgeous soundtrack scored by Maestro Ennio Morricone. There is a repeating music theme throughout that makes my heart swell every time I hear it. The variations on the theme in pieces are like hidden treasures that bring me back to the sentiment of the entire score.
The film's story is about a boy who is in love with movies, his only escape from the small Sicilian village where he lives in the 1930’s. He idolizes the projectionist, Alfredo, who runs the movie house in town. And of course, he falls in love with a beautiful woman. Eventually, he becomes a filmmaker but remains deeply influenced by his boyhood, that first infatuation, and those beautiful times watching movies with his old friend Alfredo in the movie house.
- The Schindler’s List soundtrack, with music composed by John Williams and Itzhak Perlman, is filled with much of the angst and drama of the movie itself. If you don’t know the story, it’s based on the true account of Oskar Shindler who witnesses the inhumanity of the Nazi’s during WWII, while also gaining financially in the war. It’s complicated.
He determines to save the lives of the Jewish people who work for him in his factory. The movie unfolds with the twists and turns he must navigate to keep his list of people alive. The score is orchestral, with the haunting tones of Itzhak on the violin throughout.
You’ll traverse on an emotional journey ranging from moments of darkness to light with each transition in the musical pieces that comprise the whole. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, the score will elicit deep thoughts for your journaling.
- The Social Network was a good film that was made so much better because of the soundtrack. It’s a techno-rich arrangement with an ambient vibe that invites contemplation for journaling perfectly.
The story is “loosely” based on the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. The soundtrack was excellent at propelling the story, but on its own takes on a different life as evocative music for creating.
- I continue with soundtracks with another favorite from the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice composed by Dario Marianelli. The orchestral arrangements, played by the English Chamber Orchestra, provide an airy frolic that invites you into nature and its moments of delight.
Since this is the score for a movie based on a Jane Austin story, it has the lilt and sentimentality that seem to go with Austin storylines. In this one, we have two young people who misunderstand each other from the beginning, only to discover they are in love by the end. Go figure!
You’ll nestle in for the loveliness of each transition and ride on the puffy clouds of innocence. (Sorry!) This score should make for some light and hopeful journaling.
- The Age of Innocence soundtrack includes densely rich orchestral pieces that will make you sit up straight to write in your journal. You’ll glide along from one ornate piece to another dipped in Victorian elegance, which is the era for this film.
The plot centers around a New York City gentleman lawyer who plans to spend his life settled in all the social expectations of the day. However, soon after he is engaged to be married to the perfect woman, he becomes obsessed with romantic feelings for his fiancée’s cousin.
You’ll revel in the moments when you could almost waltz across a lavish ballroom, only to become entangled with deception and personal struggle. The lush nature of this soundscape should provide you a backdrop for higher thinking and inspired journaling.
- I would bet you don’t know a thing about Ladyhawke, a 1985 film set in medieval France (although the movie was shot in Italy). During the story, we are taken on a quest involving magic, lust, and ambition. The gorgeous character of Navarre (played by the late Rutger Hauer) travels with a hawk. Then there is the mysterious Isabeau (played by the gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer) who is tied to his life and quest, and the slippery Phillipe Gaston (played by the slippery Mathew Broderick) who becomes part of their story.
Although it was given two thumbs up by film critics Siskel and Ebert, it wasn’t a well-received film, but it is epic for scenery and scope. The score composed by Alan Parson’s Project, keeps up with the scale of the movie. You’ll will almost feel yourself sail along on the winds on your steed, sword in hand, as you crank out bold ideas in your journal.
- Radiohead songs have a soundtrack-like quality sure to send you on a passage through emotions. The combination of the lyrics and Thom Yorke’s ethereal voice make for music that tugs at thoughts and the heart.
I can listen to any Radiohead song and like it, but for journaling I found that the instrumental album of piano music by Christopher O’Riley called True Love Waits, was particularly good for journaling.
- Joni Mitchell’s songs are always a mosaic of melody and poignant lyrics. Listen to her earlier work, and you’ll hear her angelic thrilling soprano voice as she rises and falls within a piece.
Of course, there are so many words, lovely ones, throughout this album, but somehow it still works for journaling.
- I discovered Coldplay by learning about Young at Heart Chorus and specifically the version of Fix You sung by Fred Knittle. I can’t listen (or watch the video) without crying. From there, I learned of all the intensely sensitive music of Coldplay.
For journaling, I particularly like their album X&Y. Each song has piercing lyrics and sublime melody orchestration that begs for brooding moments along with leaps of happiness. Of course, my favorite of the collection is Fix You, but everything Chris Martin sings is so pure for listening because of his heady falsetto voice.
- I found Imogene Heap by way of a movie and became an immediate fan of her magical fairy-like voice. For journaling and riding your feelings as you brain dump words on the page, I recommend her album Speak for Yourself. Awash on an ethereal voyage of her music, you’re sure to dig deep into your heart for writing.
Her process of creating is impressive. You can check out how she creates Just for Now to see how one woman amasses her voices for a complex weave of her vocals. Heap is described as a singer-songwriter, but it is her audio engineering that makes her music so unique.
In 2019, Heap performed a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR, where she explained how she uses technology to pull together her vocals and other sounds for a piece. It’s a fascinating video and another chance to tap into the wonder of human creativity and take your place in that world for writing.
MUSIC FOR JOURNALING
I’ve shared the top 10 Best journaling music collections with you in the hopes you’ll find them useful for your journaling process. And please remember I’m keen on hearing what music others enjoy for their journaling, so please share your favorites, too. If you're looking for some journaling inspiration check out our Words of Encouragement Journal filled with prompts and planner templates, too.