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Music Can Boost Creativity

by Keith Bond on 11/12/2012 7:36:27 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



Creativity is increased when there is a strengthened connection and increased communication between both hemispheres of the brain.


Many pre-schools and learning centers use music as one way to boost the connection and, thereby, creativity.


Drums are particularly useful with great results. The reason is that both hands are working simultaneously with each hand playing different rhythms. Drums aren’t the only instruments that promote cross-hemispherical communication. I would assume that practically any and all instruments do.


Since I play a few instruments, I was intrigued by the idea that playing music for a few minutes just before painting might help me get into the creativity zone. So, I decided to add it to my pre-painting routine in the studio. In the past, I always played my instruments in the evening.


A few months ago, in a previous post, I briefly mentioned the idea of developing a routine in the studio to help you get into the zone. Think of a basketball player at the free throw line. His routine is exactly the same every time. It is specifically designed to get him into the zone.


You can do something similar in the studio. Music is one of many things you could add to your routine (some other ideas about developing a routine may be the topic of another post).


I play guitar, djembe (African hand drum), and a little piano. I don’t have a piano at my studio, but I can play the djembe and guitar. I have found that playing either instrument does indeed get my creative juices flowing. I quickly get into the zone.


If you aren’t musical at all, don’t feel that you need to rush out and take djembe lessons. As I said, this isn’t the only way to get into the zone.


I’m just putting it out there as an idea for you to consider. Music works for me. It boosts my creativity.


The only problem is that I sometimes have a hard time putting the instrument down.


Happy Creating,

Keith Bond


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Related Posts:

The Power of Music

Practice Your Art

Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Your Art

Topics: advice for artists | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond 

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Michael Cardosa
Hi Keith,

You're postings are always interesting.

With limited time, my getting into the zone sometimes is a leap to get away from what's going on and fix a glaring mistake on a canvas. Not a great segue but it is what it is...

thanks again,


Kathy Chin
Interesting topic Keith, but now I'll have to find something to help me when life stifles my creative mood. Don't play a musical instrument, and am not superstitious like many pro athletes...hmmm will have to think about it.
Meditation might be great for that, but don't do that either...

Anybody else have a method they use to "get in the zone?"

Margie Guyot
I like this idea! I'm a sax player (actually a music major, not art major). Like you, I'd always save playing my instrument until the end of the day --- when I was pretty exhausted. But I'm going to give your way a try! I also like to listen to Diana Krall and Chris Botti while painting.

George De Chiara
Interesting idea Keith. I almost always play music while I'm in the studio on a stereo, but I never thought to just play a little on my own before painting. I can really see how this will loosen you up. I keep a couple of saxophones in studio anyway, might as put them to good use.

Nyla Witmore
So maybe starting the morning with "sight reading" piano music while the oatmeal cooks in the microwave guarantees that I have to exercise the brain. I do that but now realize there may be advantages for my painting thanks to your blog, Keith.

Also, there are types of music developed by the man who wrote THE MOZART EFFECT. (Author Don Campbell died a few months ago but his music collections on various CDs are available. This man made a life study of the specific workings of the brain and how the brain is stimulated by music...and which types of music do "what" to the brain.

I have made use of his series of CDs for years. The music is grouped in collections...with various topics I.e. "relax and unwind" ," focus and clarity"' "energize", "creativity" "concentration." Etc.

Just google or check on Amazon for THE MOZART EFFECT CDs.

If you get the right music simultaneously juxtaposed for the process you are doing...whether it be blocking in, designing, finishing, it helps to know what music may detract and drain energy and focus while other music will increase creativity. You can develop your own "playlists" that help you move from right brain creation, to left brain planning of a having times when both sides are taking turns in rapid succession.

Susan Holland
Music can help, whether it's played by me, or brought in by other means. But I agree that the music has to be a part of where you are. I had a trombonist staying at my house who offered to bring music to our regular painting group's live model day. We had to send him away. Not your best zoning, especially when it was from Parade of the Animals!

One model we had was a he brought was part of the model input. Another was a musician who brought music that really made his posing a performance!

We (regular painter's group) always had the rule that if music bothered any person in the group, it was turned off. So was chatter! Unless it was part of a zone that we all were "in."

Do others find that painting sessions are as different as the weather, as far as atmosphere is concerned?

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Hello Keith:

I like the idea of playing some kind of music before painting. Have not tried it, but I do not think I could do them both in the same day, or space of time.

I play piano...took piano lessons for about 9 years. I have a Baby Grand in my art gallery room. The piano was a Surprise Christmas gift from my husband about 6 years ago. He had bought me another piano many, many years ago and replaced it with the Baby Grand knowing I had always wanted one. He had the baby grand delivered while we were away. (Of course, we sold the other piano.)

But, I have to admit, after I sit down at the piano, it is hard for me to switch over to working on a painting, although I have played piano at art exhibits I have participated in.

I am in a different frame of mind for each creative outlet. I enjoy also composing my own music at the piano, so my mind is creatively active while at the piano which may be why I do not switch to painting afterwards. I am totally in a different zone as if I have been in a different world. Which is how I feel while painting too.
But, after returning from one trip away, I am ready to rest for a while.

However, I do enjoy listening to music while working on a painting.

Allen Rodgers
Good subject Keith,

I have always listened to music while painting and I too am a musician. I enjoy playing my fretless bass guitar to whatever I'm listening to when I take a break. Most people don't know how artists work. They think we stand at the easel eight hours a day and paint like a robot or something. I find that the more I walk away from the painting the more I see. As I'm playing my instrument I am studying the painting and that's when I see my weak areas and put down the bass and grab the brushes. What a life!

Susan Holland
Gotta put this in..

Re: Allyn says: 'What a life!'

Bit of Strauss, anyone?

Brian Sherwin
Simply listening to music in the studio can help as well. I've visited dozens of college art departments over the years... and most tend to have classical music playing in the background -- or blues.

There have been several psychological studies that point to how music can impact creativity and critical thinking overall -- with both babies and adults as test subjects. It is fascinating to view charts of increased activity in the brain when music is played. I used to have a book that devoted an entire chapter to that topic -- with digital graphs and charts.

Music has also been proven to help people focus. I've seen that first hand in the past. I once instructed a class for mentally disabled adults... I introduced the class to classical music and it was clear after a month that productivity had increased. We tested it in other classes as well with the same result. It is just fascinating.

When in doubt... listen to some Bach. :)

Susan Holland
Brian, adagio music is good, I find, and really good not-trite classical guitar music works well.

Donald Fox
This is a fascinating topic that brings up all kinds of theories and some outdated information. The old left brain-right brain model is less used today than whole brain theory that focuses on how specific areas of the brain affect the brain as a whole. Certain types of music do stimulate the brain's creative center and that may or may not translate into visual creativity for the painter. Studies have shown that the so-called Mozart Effect can increase creative problem solving. If one is skilled at playing a musical instrument, then creative expression could be enhanced by practicing before painting. Some may find listening to music helpful as well. Whatever gets us to more neural connections - music, meditation, exercise, dance, reciting poetry - will increase our creative response. Whether that translates into more or better painting is another issue.

jack white
I can't play the radio without static.

About as close to music I get is the song, Are you ready for some Football on Sunday Night.

My oldest son is big time into music. He didn't get it from me. He is part of the SXSW event in Austin and knows the Who band and some more big timers.

Looking at a stack of bills is all I need to get into the grove. When I was painting, I walked to the easel as ready to paint as I ever got during the day. Knowing I had kids in school kept me on the edge.


Brian Sherwin
Donald -- You said, "Whether that translates into more or better painting is another issue.".

Good point!

Jack -- You said, "Looking at a stack of bills is all I need to get into the grove. When I was painting, I walked to the easel as ready to paint as I ever got during the day. Knowing I had kids in school kept me on the edge.".

The 'under the gun' approach can work wonders for some artists. Some people crack under pressure... others are motivated by it -- and shine the brightest when their back is against the wall.

I'm sure we all know an artist who has bailed on an opportunity due to being overwhelmed by the pressure of a deadline... while others embrace the edge -- and keep pushing until the work is done.

It kinda goes back to that idea of having grit. If you have grit... you'll take the punches and come out on top. If you lack grit... you'll cower from the obstacle before you.

Patricia Lappin
Hi Keith,

Thanks for once again bringing up an interesting subject. I don't play an instrument or sing on key, but I do love music. I sometimes catch myself dancing in the checkout line if a snappy tune comes along. Music makes a happy studio if it doesn't get in the way. Too much dancing, not enough painting.

A few years ago I was getting bored with my own work -- too repetitive --nothing new - quality suffering. I decided to tackle abstract painting using music as the inspiration for each piece. I used this as a way to explore my taste in music and help me discover "Why" I liked it.

I tried it all, Bach's Cello Suites and Mozart's Piano Sonatas were favorites, so was Bonnie Raitt, Kitaro, Peter Cater with Carlos Nakai.

The emotion of the music translated into the paintings and helped me trust my emotional response to my subjects. These abstracts were a wonderful expression and helped me grow.

Bach to you, to :)

Brian Sherwin
Patricia -- That is a fascinating topic within itself... the emotional impact of music on a visual artist in his or her studio. Do you select music that caters to the emotional direction you are striving for in a painting?

Patricia Lappin
Thanks Keith, for your comment and questions. I fit the music to my mood first -- then let the painting come from that. It is a bit like plein air painting, you can return to a place that you know and love and on any given day, no inspiration. Some days I like quiet music, or somber or lively. That is first.

The music abstracts have helped me tune in to myself and my emotions in a way that I have never done before. I have the canvas prepared on the easel, the paints on the palette and turn on the music and just stand there with my eyes closed for a few minutes -- asking myself 'what color do I feel' 'what action is suggested'.

Once I get started it takes on a life of its own.

I realized early that I need to have several pieces going at the same time so I needed to take notes on color and music selection -- it could be weeks before I was ready to go back for the next layer. I have filled 5 notebooks over the years.

Look forward to your comments. Pat

Patricia Lappin
Sorry Brian -- I just called you Keith -- just -- duh one of those days. Pat

Brian Sherwin
Patricia -- No problem. Thanks for sharing your experience with music and the impact it has in your studio. It is just fun to know those little details... fore example, I know an artist who -- according to him -- can't paint unless NPR is on. In his case it is not necessarily the music... but the general tone of the reporters during their coverage. I'm not sure what he will do if NPR ever pulls the plug OR if specific people retire. Ha.

Patricia Lappin
Hi Brian -- When I took a pottery class as a creative outreach/stretch, the potter loved to have NPR on the radio -- drove me crazy.

Thanks for the photo image lighting tips for entering shows on line, I have had a few problems with both the gloss and too dark -- just up-loaded my first little acrylics and the photo picked up the canvas texture. Have to figure that out now -- look forward to your next blog on that issue. Will be subscribing to your blog today. Pat


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