10 Best Albums of Music for Meditation
Meditation music is an interesting concept because the goal of meditation is to empty the mind of thoughts (or at least detach ourselves from them). If we use an external input like music to “replace” those thoughts, there is always the possibility that we will fixate on and become attached to the music instead. We can start to think… Do I like what is playing right now? Does this feel right? What does my response to this music say about me?
Mediation is something we carry with us that requires nothing other than our dedication to doing it.
As a frequent meditator, I have spent time meditating in almost every situation imaginable: alone at home, in a parked car, in a raging after-hours warehouse party, economy airplane seats, train stations, classrooms, park benches, etc. I have always felt that mediation is something we carry with us that requires nothing other than our dedication to doing it. We could be naked and possessionless, and still, we have everything we need to meditate.
And yet… music can be an amazing enhancement to the process. Like a verbal guide instructing us and encouraging us to go deeper and let go, music can take us on a journey in a way nothing else can. With this in mind (pun intended), here is what I look for when selecting music for meditation (when I do choose to add music to the experience).
Criteria for Good Meditation Music
Wordless – Words are the quickest and most sure way to get our minds actively thinking and reacting. For meditation music to be helpful in our ability to let go of thoughts, the first thing it needs to do is avoid inserting more thoughts through lyrics. Now, the occasional word or short phrase can be fun for those who are more advanced to see if and how we respond, but complete songs with lyrics are not helpful for most meditations.
Subtle – During meditation, we become hyper-aware of our senses – both physical and spiritual. For example: if our eyes are closed, then our hearing and feeling senses are enhanced. The meditation music I prefer has enough layers and subtlety to be deconstructed by the mind and heard differently through focused and conscious listening. If there is percussion, it is usually diminished in the mix, sounding more like an instrument than a feature. We could say that music for meditation should imply rather than insist. Another element of subtlety would be smooth transitions. My favorite changes are the ones that I don’t fully notice until it has already completed.
Harmonic (Consonance) – Most meditation music has some melody and harmony, with percussive elements either completely missing or diminished in the mix. To promote relaxation, the melodies and harmonies should be pleasing and resolve themselves in satisfying ways. For those new to the word “consonance,” it is the opposite of dissonance or discord. It means that tones are harmonizing with each other in pleasing ways (typically in major and minor keys). Dissonant sounds are more often used to create tension and suspense in film and television. We are conditioned to respond negatively to discord. That said, the advanced meditator may find it interesting to allow for some dissonance in their experience to see if and how they respond – a great lesson in resilience in the face of potential disruption.
Warmth & Shine – These are all about the mix. As a music composer and audio producer, I thoroughly enjoy hearing a world of sound crafted to perfection. I define warmth as round and present low and lower-midrange frequencies (roughly 20 Hz – 250 Hz). These can be felt in the body more than heard with the ears. These low tones have the ability to stimulate the body and help us to relax. Shine comes from clear and distinct higher frequencies (roughly 2 kHz and up). The combination of warmth and shine can help us to let go and feel rather than think. When both are present, I can feel chills up my spine. The mid-range frequencies are typically easier for composers and producers to work with and are generally where most of what we perceive as music is taking place. A true master of sound knows and can capitalize on opportunities to expand our sensory awareness at the extreme low and high frequencies.
Consistency – Meditation music is working when we don’t have to pay attention to it. If it is constantly changing, then it becomes entertainment and a distraction from our inward focus. Mediation music should be more like a natural environment – like air or light – something we can be aware of but is also just there, suspending us in the space we are creating. I look for slow and gentle changes that transition between similar or related sound palates. We can let go when we are not wondering what is going to happen next.
The Journey – Within the consistency described above, there is still room to move through different sonic spaces. A great album of meditation music brings us along on a feeling journey with heights and depths, introducing us to different corners of the world of sound we are inhabiting. A common journey may consist of establishing the world, exploring the world, introducing some light tension, then resolving that tension with a blissful reward and release.
What you WONT find in this list…
Flutes. Worldbeat rhythms. Hindu chanting. Sounds that you are likely to hear any new age crystal shop. There is a stereotypical sound that most people imagine with meditation music. I guarantee there are some great albums of music that sound like that, but you won’t find these things here. Why? Because these sounds do not help me personally go within and hear the music of my own soul. What you will find here are unexpected instruments and synthesized drones, the human voice as an instrument and plenty of empty space.
The Meditation Technique I Use
There are many techniques and methods for meditation. The method that I use definitely informs the music I select for meditation. I work with a system taught by The Modern Mystery School called The Max Meditation System™. This technique combines meditation styles from Japan, India, and Tibet with modern psychology and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). In this system, we achieve detachment from thoughts and clarity of focus by moving through the following stages.
using NLP to command the body to relax
- Passive Meditation
emptying the mind of thoughts
- Active Meditation
focus on a single word/concept
- Guided Visualization
engaging the imagination
- Soothing Down
slowly returning to normal consciousness
If you are interested in trying The Max Meditation System™, please check our schedule of events.
A List of My Favorite Meditation Music
This is a list of my favorite albums to meditate with. I have ranked them from most accessible and universally useful to the most challenging. If you give them each a listen, you will find that the lower albums on the list have a greater range of feeling and some include some uncomfortable moments that do eventually resolve. So, if you want endless bliss, start with number one. If you are ready for a journey, skip down the list and see if you can find something you like. What is most important is finding something that works for you and gets you into that state of clarity and non-attachment. Ultimately, we may all find that the best music for these goals is no music at all.
#1 – Lucid Surrender: The Ambient Meditations
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Entheo is a duo from the Portland, Oregon area. Their catalog of albums is epic, and they could have easily held half of the spots on this list, but instead, I chose my favorite of their many great meditation albums as number one overall. This album is all about higher vibrational spaces for healing. The tracks are long and each is a unique uplifting synthy journey. This album can be played from start to finish with nothing but the supreme chill atmospheres to go deep and commune with the divine.
Full catalog is available on BandCamp:
#2 – Weightless (10 Hour Version)
by Marconi Union
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Weightless (part 1) by Marconi Union (2014) has become the gold standard for relaxing ambient music. It is so popular that Marconi Union released a 10-hour version in 2017. That’s right… 10-hours of one amazing meditative track. If you want to go deep into a single blissful space, then there is nothing better out there. Just make sure you set an alarm when you want to be done, or you may be meditating for much longer than you think. Warning, the download of this file is HUGE.
Full catalog is available on the artist’s website:
#3 – Caverns of Time
by Evan Bartholomew
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Evan Bartholemew is one of the many monikers of the artist most commonly known as Bluetech. This release was his first completely beatless ambient album and was originally released as a limited edition CD in 2007. It is now available in full as a digital download. This album covers a range of depth and emotion featuring instruments built from the human voice. Wordless breathy voices weave an experience of ethereal bliss and haunting contemplation. This album is excellent for those who are comfortable exploring a range of feeling through meditation.
Full catalog is available on BandCamp:
#4 – Music for Airports
by Brian Eno
Brian Eno had a problem with the canned music he heard while traveling. Rather than just complain, he decided something needed to be done. So he created Ambient 1: Music for Airports in 1978. His goal was to create musical atmospheres that enhanced an experience without competing to be the center of attention. This music could be forgotten while still being felt as an enhancement to the experience. This incidental quality makes this album ideal for meditation.
More recent work is available on the artist’s website:
#5 – A Winged Victory for the Sullen
by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
A Winged Victory for the Sullen is the name of the artist and the album. Piano. Strings. Foley sounds. This organic and acoustic experience is both uplifting and deep. There are threads of melancholy here, so this is not going to be ideal for everyone. I particularly like this one in the morning as it inspires me to feel the hope of opportunities to come while letting go of the stories I tell myself about what got me here.
If you like this one, definitely try their next full-length release titled Atmos.
Full catalog available on their website:
#6 – Flying
by Garth Stevenson
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Garth Stevenson is a musician and composer from Brooklyn, NY. This album was inspired by a trip he took to Antarctica. Talk about warmth and shine, this album has it in spades. A rich blend of solo instruments, layers, and blips that paint an exquisite journey through time, space, and memory. Texture and tone, melody and mood… Stevenson knows how to draw you in and lead the way toward natural depth and reverie. This album has more melody than most of the others on this list. It is just a great album for a variety of occasions, especially meditation.
Find his entire catalog on BandCamp:
#7 – Solaris – Original Motion Picture Score
by Cliff Martinez
Cliff Martinez is a prolific composer of soundtracks for film, television, and video games (among many other things). His soundtrack for the movie Solaris is particularly stellar (pun intended). If you never saw the film or forgot what it was about, it is essentially a story of love and loss in flashbacks from a space station. As you might imagine, this is a sparse and minimal soundscape, intimate and emotional.
Find his entire catalog on his website:
#8 – And Awake
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Ishq’s “And Awake” is a near-perfect blend of atmosphere and texture. The environments are mostly synthetic with some natural sounds to bring an otherworldly organic reality to life. This album feels like it invites us to relax and asks us questions about the nature of reality, time and existence. This is definitely more of a journey and could be challenging for some to meditate to. Through the challenges, you will find gratitude for the careful and gentle precision of the worlds of sound we are immersed within.
Find the artist’s entire catalog on BandCamp:
#9 – Deconsecrated and Pure
by Alio Die
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Alio Die is a project of a prolific Italian composer and electronic musician, Stefano Musso. This album blends electronic techniques with a medieval tone to create a deeply spiritual set of deconstructed soundscapes. This album feels like it comes from a future past where chapels could change shape and gravity’s grip is loose at best. This is style is not for everyone. If you like a mix of history and mystery, then definitely give this experience a try.
Find his entire catalog on his website:
#10 – Somnus
iTunes | Spotify
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Phaeleh takes us to an alien world complete with weather and whispering winds, temples and caves to explore. This is the most challenging album on this list because it has a more dynamic range of tones and moods. This experience has peaks and valleys, and sometimes there are sonic creatures that share this alien landscape with you. If an otherworldly adventure is what you desire, this album is a great choice.
Find his entire catalog on his website:
Am I missing something?
Do you know of some other great meditation music albums that are not on this list? Please share the album name and artist with a link to hear it in the comments below.
An initiated Spiritual Guide and Ritual Master in the Lineage of King Salomon through The Modern Mystery School. He works with the universal system of Living Kabbalah to help others cultivate the Tree of Life in their own lives and become powerful creators. Osiris produces events and original music through Blessoteric Records, using this medium to showcase conscious artists and music.
Thank you so much for this article! Such a beautiful choice…
Thanks for this great list! I also like albums by Steve Roach and Byron Metcalf… Wachuma’s Wave, and Mantram.
Thanks for the suggestions! Checking them out now.