When we’re stressed, scatterbrained, or upset, we often forget a unique remedy lying right at our fingertips—music! Everyone knows music can make us “feel good” or put us in a certain mood, but were you aware of its profound effects on the brain and our emotions?
Though it may seem futile or even cheesy to try, don’t underestimate the power of music to reset a bad day, relieve a bad mood, or calm a stressed-out mind.
To assist your musical exploration, here are five composers who each have a sizable collection of calming music. I also considered composers whose music promotes concentration and mental perseverance.
Please note that the “calming” or “relaxing” nature of music is somewhat subjective, and everyone has their own preferences. This list is simply a starting point. Happy listening!
Frederic Chopin (pronounced Show-pan)
Think sweet lullaby meets Golden Age film score. Chopin’s piano nocturns are simultaneously gentle and strong, soothing and theatrical. He is famous for his nocturns and etudes, and his piano pieces are designed to strengthen a pianist’s agility and musicianship.
In other words, they’re crazy hard to play, but gorgeous to listen to. Chopin provides an ideal end-of-a-long-day playlist because it’s pacifying but still interesting enough to enjoy.
Claude Debussy (Deb-you-see)
This list would hardly seem complete without Debussy, composer of the infamous “Clair de lune”. Fans of Clair de lune would be thrilled to know that there’s more where that came from, as Debussy composed a vast collection of music.
A hero of the Impressionist movement of the late 19th century, he’s revered for his flowing, spontaneous melodies and gently jazzy harmonies. Both subtle and exquisite, his music will make you feel like you’re floating through a dream.
Better known for his larger-than-life operas and symphonies, Mozart isn’t an obvious choice when seeking calm. While I wouldn’t consider Mozart easy listening, much of his music certainly inspires focus and order.
His piano sonatas are often intricate and lively yet maintain innate pleasantness and elegance. They have a strong sense of symmetry and drive, making them great for studying! They keep you awake, but don’t distract you as much as songs (with words) would. If you need to hunker down, focus, and get something done, Mozart is a great place to start.
As our list’s only living composer, Crain composes lullabies for piano. His melodies are lovely and simple, great for unwinding the brain before bedtime. He technically isn’t classical, but many modern listeners equate “classical” to instrumental music, which is why I include him here. Crain has released several albums of piano music over the past 20+ years, so be sure to check them out.
J.S. Bach (Bahk)
Perhaps more than any other classical composer, Bach is revered for his thoughtful, centering music. Though his compositions can sound complex, they possess a certain serenity and wisdom that other music simply doesn’t have.
Bach composed largely piano, organ, and chamber music for the church in the 17th Century, now known as the Baroque period. Personally, I’ve had friends favor Bach’s music for restoring order and peace to an anxious mind. Check out his Prelude in C major to hear just how calming Bach can be.
This list is by no means comprehensive and it’s only a starting point. Hopefully with a couple of YouTube searches, you’ll have idea of which composer you prefer! They have countless albums and playlists on most streaming services like Spotify and YouTube.
The next time you find yourself frazzled, take a chance and see what classical music can do for you. Consider that music can also be a type of preventative care. For example, you might play Debussy in the morning to help start the day in a relaxed mental state.
Again, your idea of “calming” might be different from mine, and that’s okay! There is something for everyone out there and we can all take advantage of the impact of music to improve our happiness and well-being.