Music to get creative to: Ideas to soundtrack a super productive day

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

Headphones on to block out the din of the office? Need a bit of company as you work away at home? Pick the wrong vibes, and you’re robbing yourself of creative bandwidth. You need to feed your soul without distracting your brain.

We’ll help you slide away into that precious lost-in-the-moment-for-hours, secure concentration zone with this handpicked collection of the best music to work to on Spotify.

Foreign Language Hip Hop

Songs with a spring in their step where you can’t decipher the lyrics work well, so where better to start than a blast of Brazilian hip-hop? Bouncy, unintelligible = that’s working music.

Various Artists - Streets of Brazil - Brazilian Hip Hop

Ghetto Funk Film Score

City of God's soundtrack is a slick collection of funk taking influence from everywhere from James Brown to the Beatles. The killer soundtrack to a brilliant movie, and best of all for abject monoglots like me, it’s all in Portuguese. Some of my favourite music to work to.

Antonio Pinto, Ed Cortes - City of God

Samba meets Jazz = Boogaloo

Get on this Latin-fried up-tempo groove, the sound of spinning señoritas and white-jacketed waiters balancing banana daiquiris on silver platters. Close your eyes and pretend you’re a reveller at the Cuban New Years’ Eve party in Godfather part II, then open them up and get on with some work.

Various Artists – Booga Jazz - The 50's & 60's Best Peruvian Orchestras

Brass Bands Are Back!

Best known for its covers of Seven Nation Army and No Diggity, HCB is loads more than a mere novelty act; it's pumping out powerful originals and rebooting the brass band sound for the 21st Century – creating some seriously swinging toe-tappers in the process. Check out their two stunning albums and whistle while you work.

Hackney Colliery Band – Common Decency

Hackney Colliery Band – Hackney Colliery Band

'60s Soul Classics in Instrumental Form

The engine room of the Motown sound that took young America by storm in the '60s was its studio band, the Funk Brothers. This collection is 12 Motown classics without the famous vocals, plus an added splash of Hammond organ from their bandleader Earl Van Dyke. The only downside to this one, if you know those tunes inside out, you might find yourself singing along.

The Funk Brothers – 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection The Best Of The Funk Brothers

Booker T and the MGs = Instrumental Soul Legends

Meanwhile, down in Memphis, Tennessee, the other dominant soul stable of the '60s, Stax, had their genius house band, Booker T and the MGs. But unlike the Funk Brothers, as well as backing up Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Bill Withers et al., the MGs released a bunch of funky instrumental albums themselves. Start with the greatest hits and dive right in.

Booker T. & The MG's – The Very Best Of Booker T. & The MG's

Dat Bond Guy is a Genius

If you want to create some genius, it’ll help to be in the company of one. You know him for the 007 theme. But did you know he effortlessly straddles classical and pop? So expect not just sweeping strings, but lyric-free, charmingly dramatic takes on rock 'n roll.

Jarvis Cocker used to walk around Sheffield with Barry soundtracks on his headphones, making up his stories about single mothers and sex – if it's good enough for Jarvis, it’s good enough for me!

Try Beat Girl, Dr No, and 2008’s hits package, the Music of John Barry.

John Barry, Adam Faith & Shirley Anne Field – Beat Girl (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [Remastered]

John Barry – Dr. No (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

John Barry – The Music of John Barry

Feelgood Calypso Vibes Steel Band Style

Is the steel drum the most beautiful noise in the world? It’s up there for me. Try these relaxing calypsos when you’re feeling gloomy, I defy you not to cheer up within three songs. If you take your steel drums with a driving bass backbeat, go for the Steel Drums of Trinidad instead, with its classy cover of seminal disco tune T.S.O.P.

Jamaican Steel Band – Steel Drums Of Trinidad

Jamaican Steel Band – Steel Drums of the Caribbean - Calypso Classics

Jazz for the Dance Floor - Jazz Hands At The Ready

In 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh made the first non-stop flight over the Atlantic. America was so impressed he got a dance named after him. The dance lives on, and so does the music in this two-hour collection of jump-up dance floor jazz, the sound of riotous rum-soaked nights in prohibition Harlem (warning: quite a few of these tracks have vocals).

Various Artists - Lindy Hop! 40 Swing Jazz Dance Classics

1960s French Pop

The French Pop scene was in lovely form in the '60s. Spotify user Ricci Mathews proves it with this 73 song collection that’s brimming with melodic beauty. Chirpy, soothing and vaguely erotic, if you don’t speak French, it’s the perfect working music. If you do, tune in for fun, or whenever you need a cheery sonic lift.

60s French Pop

See also Hot French Chicks In The Garage, which is nothing like it sounds, promise.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band Plays Jelly Roll Morton

More contemporary brass band action, this time a covers album of early 1900’s ragtime legend Jelly Roll Morton – the self-confessed inventor of jazz – beefed up with a hip hop beat. This album does halt the music to tell you a little story about back-in-the-day New Orleans a couple of times, but I find that pretty inspiring too.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Jelly (The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Plays Jelly Roll Morton)

Laid Back Beach Club House Grooves

If you’re a slave to the 4/4 beat, three hours of hammock-friendly 120bpm electronica might be just the ticket to a musical energy boost in your creative day. Some of these tunes have vocals but don’t worry, as it’s modern house music. There’s no off-putting intricate poetry going on – sample lyric: “The moon, the stars, the sun. On the beach, having fun”.

Various Artists – Beach Club Del Mar (Café Chill House Edition Vol.1)

For House Heads Who Like it a Bit More Pumpin'

A touch more energetic than the beach club is the gorgeous Spanish House Anthems. The vast majority of the simple vocal lines are in Spanish, apart from a bizarre yet rousing speech about employment from Barrack Obama, teamed with the repeated hook, “come on let’s work, ” which is wholly appropriate anyway. All hypnotic and thus perfect for our cause.

Various Artists – Spanish House Anthems

See also: Various Artists – Spanish House Masters, Vol. 2

This is How We Do It - in Peru

From hip-shaking sambas to mellow breakbeat lounge vibes, with the odd token panpipe track thrown in – happy holiday vibes to ease the tension in your shoulders and get your creative lava flowing.

Various Artists - Discover Peru: The Best of Peruvian Music

For Flamenco Fans (or the Flamenco curious)

If you love nylon guitar strings, you’ll love this: pure uncut flamenco gee-tar, and nothing else.

Las Guitarras de Oro del Perú – Peruvian Magic Guitars, Vol. 2

The Most Relaxing Album in the World

Morcheeba's Big Calm is quite simply the most relaxing album I know: when it all looks like a substantial intimidating mountain to climb, get the kettle on and listen to The Sea. It’ll help inspire you to lace up those stout boots and get busy clawing your way up there.

Morcheeba - Big Calm

Boy, These Gypsies Can Play

Gipsy jazz = two guitars, double bass and a demon on the fiddle – the violin isn’t for everyone but when the guy can play. Give it a go; you might love it!

Gypsy Swing Revue – Puttin' On The Ritz

Spa Music For Trance Heads / Trance Music for Spa Heads

Electronic orchestral movements; a four-track, hour-long album! Spacey trance music minus the beats and energy, giving off a real cucumbers-on-the-eyes spa vibe. Perfect ambient background stuff.

Pete Namlook – Dreamfish

Tango For One

There’s something beautifully romantic about tango music. If you need to have a scheduled private daydream to get some ideas going, get some headphones on, shut your eyes and let your brain be seduced into doing you a favour.

Tango Chillout – The Spirit of Tango Music, Vol. 2

Real Mambo, Straight From Havana

Mambo means "a conversation with the gods"… could listening to it while you work be a shortcut to divine inspiration? Track two is a bit dodgy, but the rest is heavenly, one listen, and you’ll be Googling local dance lessons.

Havana Mambo – Greatest Hits: 20 Años, Vol. 1

Telepopmusik, the Daydreamers' Favourite

This laid-back electronica does have vocals, but they are all very dreamy and ethereal, talking about making your desires a reality. Good subtle motivation music, with a touch of the John Barry Bond theme style drama to keep things interesting.

Telepopmusik – genetic world

When All Else Fails

Sometimes you need something to make you feel young and reignite the exuberance of youth! Whatever you need to make you feel 15 again. Play it loud for a bit, blow the cobwebs off.

Various Artists - The Playlist – Pump Up The Jam 90s Dance