For me, I can usually listen to music with lyrics during revision or when I'm reading over a scene and reviewing it for the mood and pace. However, when I'm just starting out on a scene or I'm working on a part of my manuscript that is extra difficult for me, I can't really focus when I have music on that contains lyrics. That is when I turn to my playlist of instrumental music.
1. Check out some of your favorite movie soundtracks for hidden musical gems. Soundtrack music is created to help tell the story of the film they represent, so they are packed full of suspense and tension, sadness and happiness - whatever is going on in the scene they represent. Use that! Some of my go-to movie soundtracks as of late have been Inception, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Fountain, and Harry Potter.
2. Comb the internet for instrumental musical masters. I can help you out a bit on this one since I have found a few that I really love to listen to. Check out Yiruma for some awesome instrumental piano pieces (especially River Flows In You which I had played at my wedding ceremony!)
Clint Mansell is another good one, and although he usually does movie soundtracks, I really like to listen to anything he has out. Oh, and he does Lux Aeterna (Requiem For A Dream). Look it up. You'll know it, trust me. Ludovico Einaudi and Ola Gjeilo are a few of my other go-to instrumental musicians.
There are also some bands that actually are just purely instrumental, like This Will Destroy You.
Oh, and definitely Lindsey Stirling on the violin. But I didn't really have to tell you that one, did I?
3. Cover instrumental artists are also powerful choices. As I talked about in my post about covers and finding one to match your manuscript mood, there are also a ton of talented musicians out there who do instrumental versions. Look up The Piano Guys for some awesome ones (especially the Pirates of the Caribbean themed one!), Piano Tribute Players, Vitamin String Quartet...you get the idea.