These days, I don’t need a jacked-up Spotify playlist to get me going in the morning. In the age of coronavirus, my heart tends to be racing already. What I need is something to calm me down, so I can focus while I’m working from home. I’ve found white and ambient noise astonishingly effective.
Now, you might think of white noise, which Live Science defines as “random noise that has a flat spectral density” (consider it the sonic equivalent of white light), primarily as a sleep aid or a mainstay of ASMR artists. Maybe so. But if it works, I’m game—and indeed, there’s a particular Spotify track of a running air conditioner that helps me sleep like a baby.
Beyond helping you slip into a peaceful doze, white noise can be particularly soothing while working at your dining room table—and when I say “white noise,” I’m using the term loosely. There’s also “pink noise,” which is like white noise but at a higher frequency, encompassing sounds such as rainfall or a soft breeze. There's also “brown noise,” or deeper sounds, such as those of a waterfall or a distant, rumbling thunderstorm.
It turns out that Spotify is a gold mine when it comes to white, pink, and brown noise playlists, while a search for “ambient sounds” yields a mix of the three. Some of the playlists feature the calming, droning sounds of household appliances, such as fans, air conditioners, and washing machines; others include the natural sounds of rainforests and the crashing surf. You’ll also find playlists of busy airport terminals and even airline cabins.
I’ve gathered five of my favorite white, pink, and brown noise playlists on Spotify. Your mileage will vary, of course, but these tracks should come in handy if you’re stuck at home missing the sounds of the great outdoors or the bustle of the office.
Coffee Shop Background Noise for Studying
Number of tracks: 21
Overall length: 1 hour
If you’re a Starbucks fan who misses typing away on your laptop amid the hustle and bustle of fellow coffee aficionados, this Spotify playlist is for you. Sit back and enjoy the casual chatter of coffee shop patrons (don't worry, you can’t really make out the words); the gentle clatter of silverware; the soft beeps of cash registers, flipping pages, chair legs scraping across the floor (at a good distance, mind you); and so on. If you’re WFH and alone, this playlist will make you feel like part of the crowd again.
Number of tracks: 50
Overall length: 2 hours 39 minutes
Some folks find nature sounds incredibly soothing, but my tastes tend toward the more industrial side, and it’s hard to beat the deep rhythmic rumble of a train. This playlist features a variety of soothing train sounds, some recorded from inside a train (which gives you more of a steady rumble) and others from the outside (which might feature panning effects, or the squeal of wheels on the tracks). I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve listened to this playlist for hours.
Rainforest Sounds: The Sound of Nature
Number of tracks: 197
Overall length: 7 hours 8 minutes
If you want to feel transported from your cramped home office into the wilds of the Amazon, this eclectic playlist is a great place to start. Featuring a mix of waterfalls, rolling thunder, the pitter-patter of raindrops, and exotic birds tweeting in treetops, the Rainforest Sounds playlists makes for a relaxing, peaceful companion when you’re spending hours indoors tapping on your laptop.
Appliances and Other Household Ambiances
Number of tracks: 32
Overall length: 42 minutes
I love falling asleep to the comforting sound of my dishwasher chugging away, and I have a tough time working in my dining room without the soothing whirr of a fan. So, even if you don’t have any dishes to clean, you can still bliss out to the drone of a dishwasher, an air conditioner, or a running faucet with help from this homey playlist, which boasts tracks that don’t fade in or out and are thus easy to loop.
Car and Traffic Sounds for Sleep and Relaxation
Number of tracks: 12
Overall length: 3 hours 59 minutes
While nature lovers find the sounds of chirping birds and gentle breezes the most relaxing, city slickers might prefer the zen-like pulse of urban life. You get the sounds of cars passing in the street, a drive down a rainy highway, the crunch of gravel beneath wheels, the rumble of an idling diesel truck, and a patter of raindrops heard from inside a parked car.
Tip: Enable crossfade for smooth transitions
Nothing interrupts the flow of a soothing Spotify white noise playlist like a jarring transition between one track and the next. That's why I strongly recommend enabling Spotify's crossfade feature, which gently fades out one track while smoothly fading into the next one.
For the iOS and Android versions of Spotify, tap Settings > Playback, then swipe on the Crossfade slider to adjust the length of the fade (anywhere from one to 12 seconds).
For the desktop Spotify app, go to the Settings screen, scroll down, and click the Show Advanced Settings button, toggle on the Crossfade songs setting, then adjust the slider.