Discussion: Music and Reading


If you know me at all (which you really should), you’ll know that I’m a musician. I love making up songs and words, some serious and some silly, and singing them around the house until I either annoy the dogs or myself. But when it comes to reading – another thing I (obviously) love doing – I want nothing to do with music.

Maybe it’s my training, since I was a music major all through university and had to listen to compositions, write compositions, and play compositions, but I just can’t listen to anything in the background when I’m reading a book. Sometimes I thought it would be music with words that would bother me – since it’s hard to read words while listening to words – but that wasn’t the case. Nope, I’d listen to instrumental music and get caught up in all of the bits and pieces that formed the song and as soon as I knew it, I’d realize I had only read the same page in my book over and over again.

The same thing goes for the television. Sometimes – sometimes – when hockey or football is on, I can read a book in the same room (while the husband watches – I’m really not a sports fan), but more times than not, I’ll go somewhere VERY quiet to do my reading. Heck, sometimes even the thoughts in my head can drown out what I’m reading and I’ll get to the bottom of a page only to realize that I had no idea what I just read.

Kind of like when you get distracted while driving – not checking your phone or changing the station on the radio, but just distracted in your own head, or even your body going on autopilot to a well-known destination – and wonder how you managed to get to your destination. Of course, doing this while reading isn’t going to hurt anyone (just your pride, of course), but it can be annoying! To think that even in complete silence I sometimes can’t read properly – it bugs me.

If things are too noisy in the house, I’ll put on my ear buds and turn on some white noise to listen to, but that’s about as far as I can go when it comes to background noise when reading. Don’t give me no coffee shop, or mall kiosk, or park bench – there are just too many things to distract my poor mind. I am a silent reader, with absolutely no distractions whatsoever.

(Added note: This post was written well before having a child. Of course now I have to read with distractions, but it’s a slooooow learning process. I will get there.)

How about you? Are you someone who can listen to music while reading? Maybe just instrumental music? Or do you need complete silence?



12 thoughts on “Discussion: Music and Reading

  1. I prefer silence too. Although, sometimes when I read something on computer, find it easier to do so with plunging in my headphones and turning up some instrumental music to bock out other sounds.

    And good to know I’m not the only one who gets distracted by her own thought while reading and then discovering I’ve read the same sentence/paragraph five times and I still have no idea what it says, lol.

  2. Silence is definitely best. Instrumental music is okay (preferably something I’m not too familiar with), and I can read in the same room if my husband is playing video games (with only occasional dialog) or watching anime (or something else not in English, I guess). I’d still rather have silence, but sometimes with minor distractions like that, I’d rather stay and try to tune them out than go find a less-comfortable reading spot.

      • Ha ha … sports words are just not interesting to me! Maybe I should get hubs to take up another language, then I’d really not be able to pay attention to what he’s listening to or watching!

  3. I completely understand about music. As a dance teacher, I’ll often start thinking about moves you could do, or “this is a good tempo for warm up” or whatever and then there’s no way I can concentrate on a book. No music and books for me, sadly -Tania

  4. I think for me the type of book makes a difference, too. Music generally isn’t a problem, but I love coffee shops when I’m reading a good novel. Nonfiction I generally need to focus on more. For example, right now, I’m spending tons of time of Facebook rather than reading because the nonfiction books I’m reading are interesting but not gripping.

    • That makes me think of university … I’d need total silence to get through those textbooks! I hate it when I have interest in a nonfiction book, but it’s just sooo boring to read. Or there are nonfiction audiobooks where the narrator just isn’t great. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time reading nonfiction!

  5. Wow, I’m totally opposite! I love a little background noise, as long as it’s not requiring my attention. I read a lot on the train and have my headphones in at the same time, and I love to take a book to a coffee shop and absorb the atmosphere while I’m reading. I’ve always got the TV or music playing at home, as much as I love quiet I sometimes struggle with complete silence.
    Great post!

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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