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What is a battle playlist and why do you need one?

You may remember me mentioning the ‘battle playlist’ in my ‘Rituals and Superstitions’ post a couple of years ago.

However, I didn’t go into detail about what it actually is, why I created it or how I use it.

You know how boxers and dart players have their ‘walk-on music’ which helps to boost their confidence and get them ready for their match?

In essence, my ‘battle playlist’ is a collection of songs that I listen to in order to get me ‘pumped up’ for a performance, especially before a contest.

Why am I talking about this in a time when we can’t perform and contests won’t be happening for a long time yet?

Well, during the last 12 months, my battle playlist has become so much more than what it was initially intended for.

So I thought I would explain everything about my battle playlist, how it has helped me and why you should create one yourself!

I’ll also give you some tips on how to create your own!

Let’s go!


Where did the battle playlist come from?

Rewind to 2019, I returned to banding, on a soloist seat, after a break from playing full-time.

My confidence wasn’t great and I was struggling with performance anxiety in rehearsals.

When The Three Musketeers (me and my two banding besties, Matt and Natalie for those of you who are new) were on the way to the North West Area, ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ from Les Miserables came on in the car.

This song had a magical effect on the way my brain was working.

Instead of visualising everything that could go wrong and worrying that I wasn’t good enough, images of my band putting on our jackets, lining up and laughing before going on stage and smashing the performance flooded my mind instead.

When we were actually preparing to go onstage, this ‘montage’ stuck in my head and instead of feeling nervous, I felt really good and a little bit powerful.

At the time, I used to have a massive playlist with all my favourite songs that I used to listen to when pottering about the house or driving and I noticed that some of these songs gave me the same, feel-good, powerful, badass feeling that ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ gave me.


I decided to put together a playlist full of these types of songs, to see if it would help my confidence before playing.

I decided to trial it before the 2019 Spring Festival, where I had quite a substantial solo to play.

I listened to it when driving to and from rehearsals, which boosted my confidence and prevented me from constantly criticising myself if a rehearsal didn’t go to plan.

I listened to the whole playlist from start to finish the night before the contest and had it blaring in the morning when I put my war paint (AKA makeup) on.

Long story short, it was one of the best contest performances I’ve ever given - despite physically shaking I managed to focus my mind on my playing and the shakes had no effect on my actual playing!

It was a miracle.

Since then, the battle playlist has become essential to my performance prep.


How to pick songs for your battle playlist

I started my battle playlist by listening to existing Spotify playlists that I already had and extracting songs that gave me that confident, empowered feeling.

Songs such as ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked, ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ by Barbara Streisand and ‘Fortunate Son’ by Jon Fogerty and the Foo Fighters were some of the first songs to be added to my playlist.

After compiling the initial playlist in 2019, I continued to add to this playlist every time I heard a song played on the radio, in tv/film soundtracks or on other people’s playlists that made me feel confident.

The basic requirements for a battle playlist song are:

Makes me feel like myself

Sounds weird, but we go through so many changes in life that sometimes we forget how to ‘feel like ourselves’.

We are at our most powerful when we feel like ourselves, so picking songs that fit our personality and who we are can really ground us and help to improve confidence!

Provides a soundtrack for my ‘power montage’

I mentioned this ‘montage’ earlier in the post, but I’ll explain the importance of this in a bit more detail.

Seeing yourself succeeding, enjoying yourself and smashing your performance can help you do just that.

‘Positive Viisualising’ is a really good prep technique for performances and other high-stress situations.

When we enter situations where we’re likely to feel nervous we tend to visualise EVERYTHING that could go wrong - not helpful!

Constantly focusing on potential failure increases worry and anxiety about that particular situation which makes it hard to focus and means we are more likely to be dissatisfied with our performance.

Listening to music that allows me to visualise a ‘power montage’ of me feeling confident before a stressful event and absolutely bossing my performance has helped me to play better on stage.

Away from the banding world, it has helped me to perform well in job interviews and increase my confidence in social situations.

The battle playlist is truly multifunctional, which I will explain further in just a sec!

Makes me feel good!

Again, seems obvious, but the songs in your playlist don’t just have to be aggressive, powerful anthems.

They can be songs that remind you of a time where you felt great.

For example, I included ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, which may not scream empowering, but it reminds me of some amazing times with past band mates.

This is confidence-boosting because it reminds me of my true personality around people I’m close with, good times I’ve had during my time in banding and also reminds me during tough times why I decided to be a bander.


Why you need a battle playlist now

So, it may seem weird that I’m talking about the battle playlist in a time when we’re not at band.

However, 2020 really taught me the true importance of this playlist.

As the aim of the playlist is to ground you and make you feel like your best possible self, it’s obviously useful before stressful events like job interviews.

Let’s not sugarcoat it, the last 10 months have been horrendous and a lot of us have had to spend so much time on our own.

We may have been furloughed, forced to self-isolate or unable to form a social bubble and that isolation can cause us to lose sight of ourselves and our personality, as well as demotivate us and cause or exacerbate mental health problems.

This is why I want you to make a battle playlist!

Like all of us, I had to spend time on my own with not much to do, which terrified me as I know this can make my anxiety and depression symptoms much harder to manage.

My battle playlist genuinely saved me:

  • Thoughts getting too loud and making me feel like crap - drown it out with the battle playlist

  • Feeling low - dance (badly) to the battle playlist

  • News/social media making me feel worried - log off and log on to Spotify to listen to battle playlist

  • Not feeling like myself - listen to the battle playlist and remind me of the badass I am

I’m not saying that having a battle playlist will fix everything and if you are in a tough place at the moment, please dear reader, I urge you to reach out to someone or utilise a helpline such as:

What’s going to be on your battle playlist?

I’m always looking for new music so if you have any suggestions for my battle playlist let me know!


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