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Whether you’re meditating, or reading a book with your morning coffee, or just lying on the couch wondering if you should take a nap, sometimes you just really need a soundtrack. Stress and anxiety are a mainstay of many people’s lives—especially during the pandemic—and relaxation music has been scientifically proven to alleviate these sorts of concerns.
Here is our list of our top 10 favorite relaxation music playlists on YouTube. This list includes relaxation music by single artists, by single composers, soundtracks, and compilations. Some include videos that will also work to relax you, and we provided a bit of commentary to help you narrow it down. Which one of these relaxation music playlists will work best for you?
PEDER B. HELLAND (3 HRS.)
“Flying” runs the gamut of soothing sounds—tinkling piano, celestial choruses, long-running synth chords. This relaxation music has underlying waves washing on the shore throughout. The accompanying video scenes of nature, from frolicking sheep, to pretty snow-falls, to palm trees swaying against the night sky, makes it ideal if you need visuals to focus on when you relax. “Flying” is wildly popular.
One YouTube commenter made this astute observation, “THIS HAS 240 MILLION VIEWS, and he didn’t put any ads on so we could sleep. He put us before all the money he could’ve made. Mad respect.” Thanks, Peder B. Helland.
2) “DEEP RELAXATION MUSIC”
THE RELAXATION GUY (7 HRS. 13 MINS.)
Also ad-free, this new age synth music overlays nature sounds like birds chirping and wind blowing. According to the Relaxation Guy, “This music has been composed from scratch, specifically to help you relax, sleep or study. We use Delta Waves, Theta Waves and Alpha Waves (also called Binaural beats) to help you get into a state of relaxation. It will help you study better, sleep better and more.” This relaxation music video also displays soothing scenes from nature.
YouTube commenter crazysingingchick writes, “According to Fitbit, I slept 7 hrs. 16 min. This video is 3 minutes shorter than that, so I guess it worked for me! I had a really crazy dream, too!”
MARCONI UNION (8 MINS.)
“Weightless” by Marconi Union has been hailed as “The Most Relaxing Song on Earth” and was created with advice from sound therapists. A study showed that the song reduced stress and anxiety in listeners by a whopping 65 percent.1 According to TBI Therapy, the study on sound therapy was conducted by a team of neuroscientists led by Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson. During the study, “participants had to attempt to solve puzzles, which induced stress, with sensors attached to their bodies. They then had to listen to different songs while researchers measured and recorded their heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.”2
You can't go wrong with relaxation music that is backed by scientific study! The accompanying video in this version features drone-like figures hovering over and reflected in a body of water. It’s a bit boring, but it’s supposed to be.
4) SIGUR RÓS
WITH THE LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC (1 HR. 45 MINS.)
This is a recording of a live concert, so there is some crowd noise throughout. But Sigur Rós is definitely a band to have on your radar if you are looking for relaxation music. This Icelandic “post-rock” band might have been considered New-Age years ago, or maybe modern classical, but the band is so unusual it does them a disservice to name it.
The musicianship in Sigur Rós is truly the band’s focus. Lead singer Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson’s vocals are all in a language called Hopelandic, which was derived by the band. While it’s reminiscent of both English and Icelandic, it is neither, and while you think you might be able to understand what he’s singing, you can’t.
Here the band performs first with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and then by themselves. YouTube commenter JJ has the most amusing (but mostly true!) take on Sigur Rós: “Stages of listening: (1) Hey, that sounds like my cat. (2) Hey, that's pretty good. (3) So, this is what people hear when they said God spoke to them.”
AIRSTREAM (1 HR.)
If you’re looking more for “chill” music than sleep music, then “Electra'' is a good choice. This hour-long song has a groove to it—I wouldn’t say you could necessarily dance to it as there are lots of transitions in the song, but it definitely has a beat. “Electra '' would be the perfect soundtrack for a romantic evening, not the kind of song you’d want playing while you were getting a massage, like most of the songs on this list.
YouTube commenter Andrew writes, “It calms my nerves. I’ve suffered with this for many years, and when I was told about this lovely relaxing music… I thought I’d give it a whirl and omg it works better than any drugs the doctors can give me.”
6) COMPILATION LIVE
ENYA (1 HR. 45 MINS.)
It wouldn't be a complete list of relaxation music without Enya! Irish singer and songwriter, Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, more popularly known as Enya, has been a soothing presence in the music world since the late 1970’s when she got her start in her family’s band, Clannad.
She’s produced eight studio albums and has been featured on countless soundtracks. In the early 2000s, she had two songs featured on “The Fellowship of the Rings” soundtrack and she continued to produce music inspired by Tolkien’s masterpieces for several years.
The link we included is a recording of a live performance from 2018 and features many of her greatest hits. There is no video accompanying this audio.
7) “BEST RELAXING GUITAR MUSIC”
OCB (1 HR. 7 MINS.)
The title is a bit hyperbolic, but this playlist of 25 solo acoustic guitar songs is pretty darned good relaxation music. The artist behind “One Conscious Breath” (OCB) is Hungarian, and the playlist has more than 11 million views. But this is just one of many albums by the artist (whose name is left off of all playlists and social media channels), who began recording in 2017 and releases a new crop of songs nearly every two weeks. So if you get bored of this one, there’s a ton more to choose from.3 Other playlists by OCB include solo piano for extra-relaxing tunes.
8) “THE MISSION—SOUNDTRACK”
ENNIO MORRICONE (14 MINS.)
“The Mission” is the soundtrack to the 1986 film of the same name. The work combines liturgical chorales, Native American drumming, Spanish-influenced guitars, and solo oboe, often in the same track, in an attempt to capture the varying cultures depicted in the film.
This soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award in 1986, and it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and the BAFTA Award for Best Music. It was selected as the 23rd best film score in American Cinema in the American Film Institute's 100 Years of Film Scores. The music was also used during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.4
This version of the soundtrack we included here is recorded off of vinyl (and the video shows a still life of the record spinning), so it includes the soothing sounds of the hissing and popping of the album playing.
9) CLASSICAL MUSIC FOR READING
VARIOUS ARTISTS (2 HRS. 27 MINS.)
This playlist (a two-CD album) includes work from some of the most famous composers of all time including Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and Tchaikovsky. It was compiled by Halidon Music specifically to be played in the background while you are reading or studying. Most tracks feature solo or dual instruments—all are instrumental.
YouTube commenter Amani writes, “I’m just 12 and this is helping me with my anxiety, thanks!” Lauren writes, “Out of all the classical musical compilations on YouTube I keep coming back to this one time and time again. A perfect balance for reading and writing.”
10) THE SHIRE - MUSIC & AMBIENCE REMIXED
TYLER (2 HRS.)
This clever little bit of sound-landscaping mixes songs the various “Lord of the Rings” soundtracks with ambient noise (no Enya though). It sounds like you’re actually sitting in the Shire outside your Hobbit hole listening to the music. In fact, the video is an illustration of a Hobbit hole with clouds rolling by above. This playlist is bound to fuel your imagination and set you to daydreaming.
Tyler, who remixes these relaxation music playlists for Ambient Worlds, has created a number of them for movies and for video games including Harry Potter and Skyrim. YouTube commenter Lover of Cereal writes, “Sitting on my porch, sipping coffee… reading ‘The Hobbit,’ with a great view of the Rocky Mountains while listening to this, doesn’t get much better.”
Disclaimers for all included playlists: Do not use these relaxation music playlists while driving or operating heavy machinery; only use them when you can safely and fully relax. Most of these playlists are best enjoyed with headphones. Although an audio/video recording can offer support, it is not a replacement to traditional medical care