Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thoughts on Drawing While Listening to Music

In what is considered to pretty much be one of the animation bibles, The Animator's Survival Kit declares that animation is concentration.  Many people listen to music while they draw, but Milt Kahl considered this counter-productive since it divides concentration and that you are not fully investing your brain into what you are doing.

While I've had many discussions with others on this topic before, everyone's responses have varied.  I've concluded that it all depends on the individuals' work ethic; several animators have stated that they listen to the Animation Podcast while they work, while others like Milt Kahl find it too distracting.

I find myself perfectly capable to draw without having to rely on music, but it is a nice inspirational boost to get into my creative groove and engage into what I'm doing.  Listening to a certain genre at a low volume is also very nice when designing a particular character or trying to convey a specific attitude/mood.  The music might get distracting though once I'm locked in, so at that point I just shut it off.  Otherwise, I just let it keep going.  To me, music is the biggest success when it is able to get me in the zone and I eventually forget that it's even playing.

From The Animator's Survival Kit


  1. It's a total crap shoot ya know? I think you nailed the whole thing on da nose ya know?

    Some listen and others don't, I myself do listen occasionally and like you I let the music overwhelm me with an emotion that I am trying to convey through the drawing I'm doing. It can really throw you into the heat of the moment, and from there the music almost becomes white noise to me.

    Of course when it comes to deep concentration music becomes a little bothersome. Like when you have to do breakdowns or in-betweens it really comes down to focus and precision rather than "emotional punch." I would state confidently that in the planning stages of animation/drawing music is a very handy device if you can't pin point the story of your drawing right away.

    Afterwards though, I wouldn't bother hitting the replay button.

  2. It's interesting - this element of music - I am a firm believer of the efficacy of music to "warm up" the brain and get the neurons firing. As you say - low level music that sits in the background so that you ultimately don't notice it is exactly the kind of thing I shoot for.

    I don't create animation but often work with imagery to tell a story - I don't really distinguish between images and words when it comes to getting a point across. I find music with lyrics totally distracting when I do this as it occupies my language centers and I don't need the influence.

    My grad thesis was on the effect of noise on performance - - have been working on that ever since.