Study Music

Erik Raymond —  June 26, 2007

I spend a lot of time by myself with the headphones on. Whether I am writing, reading, crafting a sermon, or doing administrative work I more often than not have myself plugged into iTunes listening to something. I think some of this comes from the fact that we did not have ceilings in the offices at our old building (wharehouse) so music was imperative in order to retain concentration.

I am curious if others (not just pastors) listen to music when studying and if so what are some of the favorites? Are you one of those who need silence?

My music style is admittedly eclectic. I find myself bouncing between the genres of Beck, Coldplay, Donovan Frankenreiter, DJ mixes, all the way to classical music. It is strange but I can only study to music that I can drain out the words, so oftentimes Christian music becomes more of a distraction for me. I am all about sound.

Here is a video of something that I have been enjoying for a couple of months now, ever since they appeared on NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast. The group is called The Battles and the whole album is an electronic soundscape that is fun to study to.

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Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

22 responses to Study Music

  1. Interesting, in a good way. I can always count on you for new kinds of music.
    I am more of a traditional music intrument kind of person. I don’t usually get into the electronic music. Give me drums, guitar, piano, brass, etc. I could probably listen to The Battles while studying since it is instrumental. It seems, like you, the only kind of music that doesn’t distract me is instrumental music. I usually listen to classical if anything for studying.
    Speaking of traditional music check out my Music Review Tuesday post today.

  2. Hey bro, I could not get down with Bon Jovi…but hey, whatever you like man.

    Good to see you reviewing things you like.

  3. All I can say is Wow! It would be a little more intense for me to study with than I could handle. It’s hard to tell from one song, but the fast tempo makes it tough when you are spending two hours on one verse.

    I do listen to music but it varies for me in the process of studying and whether it is a Bible study or Sunday morning message.
    for example of a sermon:
    1st I make my own translation from the Greek text to work with (1-2 hours). I can listen to 80’s alternative (ask your Sr. Pastor what that is b/cause he introduced me to half of these groups).
    Next, I do the exegesis for these verses… looking more in depth at grammar, syntax, etymology of words, lexicon, concordance etc. then I will look at the commentaries. (1-2 days) This requires a lot more concentration, so I am more likely to listen to smooth Jazz or bubble gum Christian rock (that isn’t so intense)
    Then, I put together a homiletical outline and massage all my exegesis into a sermon manuscript (actually an outline with my wittled down notes & application built into it). (2-3 hours) I can usually listen to different styles of music at this time. Since, most of my work is pulling out the most noteworthy exegesis that needs to be proclaimed.

    Is it unspiritual to listen to secular music while studying?
    No less unspiritual than listening to pathetic Christian music with lyrics like “father come and fill us, one time, one time , one time, one time”

    If lyrics are bad, I will chuck it, if not I might listen to it!
    I am not against Christian rock but I can’t believe how the standards for quality and the doctrinally weak lyrics don’t seem to matter in this genre of music. Golly, if more musically creative christians would take the time to study their bible and think about the music they are creating, I might have more groups to listen to.

  4. erik.
    I have to listen to music when I am studying…I never listen to “Christian” music though while I am studying. For one, I really don’t like much “Christian” music, for me it is mostly poor quality and poor theologically, so I only have a handful (small handful) that I listen to.

    Currently, I am listening a lot to Norah Jones, Linkin Park (old stuff), Daughtry, A Tribe Called Quest, James Taylor, Paul Simon even some Justin Timberlake…I am all over the board…

    Just don’t want there to be cussing, or talking about stuff that is inappropriate in my mind…

  5. oh yeah…and gimme some of that Frank Sinatra…always nice…

  6. Go Frankie. I like his stuff too Seth.

  7. Steve, regrettably, I am well aware of Pat’s 80’s alternative enjoyment. The books on my shelf have been known to sway like a SBC choir to the tune of his selections as he bumps it up pretty loud. ( i can’t hear it because I have headphones on).

  8. Seth, did you say Tribe Called Quest?

    Well done my friend. That almost propitiated the dreadful inclusion of Justin Timberlake….

  9. I’ve often thought it was just me, but I work much better with music on. Some of the best study music to me has more of an electronic tinge and is light on lyrics. That helps me get into a “scholarly groove”. Of late I’ve been studying to Juana Molina, Boards of Canada and Fujiya & Miyagi. Occasionally, I’ll go “old school” with Bach or Booker T & the MGs. I keep hearing about Battles, so I’ll have to give them a listen.

  10. erik…I know…I am a sellout (Timberlake)…whatever…I can take it…but Tribe is probably my all time favorite…great beats and very little cussing on their albums…if any

  11. Whoa! Seth ..dude!
    I thought I was bad with Bon Jovi. But Justin Timberlake? I guess we all have diverse tastes. More power bro.

    ((shaking head)) But Justin Timberlake?

  12. I guess I’m the only square who likes it quiet when I’m working on sermons and/or reading, researching and writing.

    But when it comes to a personal time of praise and worship, I really enjoy listening to “praise & worship” music, like the WOW worship CDs, Morris Chapman and especially Messianic Praise. This subgenre may be the best kept secret in Christendom: Lamb, Joel Chernoff and Paul Wilbur have been in my “heavy rotation” for years. Check out these brothers and their music, much of it taken right from Scripture.

    PS: Like a lot of people who posted ahead of me, I just can’t get into “contemporary Christian music” like K-Love plays. It always strikes me as imitative and self-consciously second-rate. And it was marketed as such years ago. When I worked at a Christian bookstore back in the late ’80s we had a chart that would say if you liked secular band A, you might like Christian band A (e.g., if you like the Beatles or Wings, you’ll like Phil Keaggy; if you like any heavy metal band, you’ll like Stryper, etc. etc. ).

  13. Erik,
    I am the worship leader at my church so listening to music while I am trying to prepare music doesn’t exactly work, but I do have my favorites that help me meditate and put me in a state of mind to be open to God and his will. One of my favorites is “Ave Maria” sung by Chloe Agnew on the “Celtic Woman” album. Absolutely gorgeous. You should check it out.

  14. Erik,
    I had to comment on Donavon Frankenreiter. I followed your link and looked up some of his music. That is the kind of music I can get down with. Where did you find this guy? I will be downloading some of it tonight. Thanks for the link.

  15. BD- Donovan actually came via your senior pastor, who has been known to dig the funk in between sipping from the 80’s british alternative.

  16. e ray. for something completely different try Don Ellis. All instrument jazz big band that is WAY different then anything that you have every heard. The best is Don Ellis Live at the Fillmore. Check it out. Especially the cut … Hey Jude.

    You may have to listen to it a couple of times, but it is worth it

    widim

  17. Erik,
    I have also found Jack Johnson via Donavon Frankenreiter. I really like Johnson’s music as well. I downloaded his entire “Brushfire Fairytales” album last night and have on it my Zen player. Thanks again for the post bro.

  18. hmm, that’s a good question, Erik. My study or reading music ranges anywhere from Baroque to Classical to Celtic and Paul Simon, but not much in between.

  19. Music is a must during my study/reading/doing anything on my computer. I go with movie scores such as:Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, Requiem for a Dream and so on…I also throw in some classical, jazz and my favorite music from kung-fu movies like House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger.

  20. I like the movie soundtracks too. Gladiator is a favorite.

    I don’t know about the kung-fu movies though…have to check that out.

  21. i listen to music when i study too…
    recently, i have been listening a lot to Arashi’s music. Arashi is a japanese pop group… the reason why i listen to their songs is because their songs are catchy but most importantly, their lyrics are very MOTIVATIONAL and HAPPY..
    also, the members of this Arashi group are very motivated people and they work really hard… that gives me the motivation too.. (ps: one of the members is from an ivy league school in japan–keio univ)
    basically, i feel that music helps to improve concentration and mood.. it is especially important for one to feel relaxed and happy when studying…because if one is tensed up/stressed, they will tend to take a longer time to absorb info/learn concepts/increase carelessness…
    studies have been made and it shows that people who play a musical instrument will have so called ‘better developed brains’… perhaps its becos the right and left brains are used etc.
    in conclusion, i feel that music is a good.. just look around, people listen to music when they study.. :) but the choice of music is impt too; do not listen to music that your friends listen to but u hate them, or any music that u find distracting (for me, i dont listen to electrico/heavy metal cos they are too noisy for me)..neither do i listen to songs that make me fall asleep (eg.long concertos/symphonies… but i do listen to New age piano songs like Yiruma , Kenny G,etc.) those are great…:)

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