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Ask YC: What music do you listen to when hacking?
38 points by moog on March 8, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments
What music, if any, do you listen to when hacking? Do you find it helps you concentrate or is it just a distraction?

The Feel Good Initiative http://thefeelgood.com/

Found it here on YC, actually.

The Feel Good is the bomb! ;)

Yeah, I listen to that too

Sometimes, music with lyrics in the language I'm learning. I don't understand most of it, but my ear gets better at picking out words, and properly-conjugated phrases start to sound natural to me, even if I don't know what they mean yet.

But that's only when I feel I need to be pulled along. Once I get into flow, I don't see or hear anything except what I'm doing. My music will end and I won't notice until 2 hours later when I come up for air.

In "Peopleware", DeMarco and Lister are even more explicit: if programmers need to put on headphones to drown out ambient noise, they're using up the very creativity they're being paid so much for.

"Sometimes, music with lyrics in the language I'm learning"

I assume you don't mean programming language? If that's what you did mean, where can I get music with lyrics in Python, Lisp, etc?

Digitally Imported radio (di.fm) is a great trance channel. I used to subscribe for $5/month to get their higher quality feed, which was worth it when I had good headphones. I spent a lot of hours in the library coding and doing math listening to di.fm. They have other great channels like "chillout" and "house" which are also good for coding. Chillout is, well, chiller and good for relaxed coding sessions and house is a bit more funky and less "poo tsh poo tsh poo tsh poo tsh" like trance can get (and can get annoying).

ASOT++ btw. I listen to it every week. You can d/l it on most torrent sites, which isn't even as illegal as d/ling other music. Its like taping the radio and giving it to your friend. And this radio doesn't have commercials. Plus trance style music lives on a different plane of business than the rest of the industry they way I see it - which is a whole different tangent I'll not go down.

di.fm used to be good; then they grew bigger and started charging (about the same time their music selection quality started to decline).

These days I'll listen to MrsFudge Streaming Radio, which has the best music voting system I've seen: http://gurba.sytes.net

Alternately, there's Proton radio: http://www.protonradio.com/

ASOT, nice, I listen to that as well :-)

Check out the DL section of that site... lots of radio mixes by Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Paul van Dyk, Tiesto, et al.

I find trance excellent for coding. It's relaxing yet energizing, and not distracting.

It's a dup, but I think lots of people don't mind that. I for one don't mind seeing this pop up every few weeks if people suggest new songs.

Toward that end, here is some music I haven't seen mentioned here before. List of Demands, and Black Stacy, both by Saul Williams (see also http://niggytardust.com/, which many here may have heard of). He's on tour right now, if any want to see him live.



Brian Eno - Music For Airports

Maybe someone should create a Hacker News (or hacking music) group on last.fm?

My hacking music preferences:


Boards of Canada, Thievery Corporation, Morcheeba, Zero 7, Massive Attack, Daft Punk, Kid 606, Royksopp

zenlinux's idea of a last.fm group for this is an excellent idea.

This question seems to come up once a week. People never get tired of answering it.

If we don't keep our supply of hacking music fresh then we could all die... I mean, stop hacking as well.

I tend to listen to something from the death metal genre http://www.newmetalarmy.com/band/unleashed

or maybe in the thrash genre


Space rock (God is an Astronaut) http://www.last.fm/music/God+Is+an+Astronaut

and another in the same sort of genre 'Gold Four' http://www.last.fm/music/Au4

They're on a US tour at the moment. Playing in Boston at the Mid-east on the 19th of March. Great band, a friend in Dublin claims they're the loudest band he's heard in ages.

I think this has been discussed a couple of times here:



As new users sign up to HN, and older submissions drop down the list, it's the sort of question which is apt to come up a couple of times.

Yes, and it's the kind of thing searching was invented for. But for some reason HN refuses to provide a way to search posts and comments (no, having to go to Google and search news.ycombinator.com is not decent search. Google doesn't take into consideration how long ago a post was, how many comments it had and how many votes it received, all information I think is useful for determining relevance of the results).

Can one get an RSS feed for specific topics here? (I looked but did not see a way.)

It's a feature on Reddit, and being able to subscribe to something such as listings of books, music, etc. would be handy.

Then if someone wants to pose the question again they can refer to the initial posting and ask people to add their comments there.

Philip Glass is my favorite to listen to while coding. It's prefect for both background music while focusing on a difficult problem and for putting into the foreground when you just need to take a second away from the problem.

All kinds, the only time I avoid music and keep silence is when I have to do reading/writing stuff. Probably the same reason I find reading and writing to be more of a chore and coding/designing more enjoyable.

Go for instrumental music, it doesn't activate the part of your verbal part of your brain. Essentially to hear singing (or talking) your brain mimics it, however when you're trying to read/write you've got two processes and only one processor to put it through. You can struggle through, but not nearly as well as running them solo.

Also, just go onto TPB or usenet and download some Beethoven or Wagner. It's 100% legal, no copyrights exist on them and even if they did they're so old it'd be void anyway. Even the BBC offered them up for free at some point, they were surprisingly good quality too.

I learnt this a long time ago when I was working doing reviews. When you spend 10 hours writing reviews, you need something to listen to or you're going to start shooting kids and spearing dogs for making the slightest noise.

What also works is recorded rain sounds, and James Horner (A Beautiful Mind soundtrack). Loud enough to drown out the talking, but doesn't interfere with the thought process.

I heard whale song, and ocean sounds now thinking of it, is supposedly good, however I've never bothered to try it. I'll have to find somewhere to get it that doesn't charge $20, it'd be cheaper to go to the ocean myself.

Progressive trance streamed from ETN.FM.

Yeah, progressive trance, dnb, and hard house (I think it's called).

I listen to a lot of Pandora... but recently, I realized that iTunes has radio stations built in. A really good trance station is Electronic -> ABF Underground.

Devo, Gary Numan, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Drexciya, Dan Curtin.

It varies, though it tends to be noisy repetitive semi-drone electronic-ish stuff.

Lately I'm liking Holy Fuck.

(Though I dug up some Hawkwind, too, for some odd reason.)

I prefer to Enjoy the Silence.


Wow, we all have pretty similar tastes. I always listen to something that has a steady beat and fight for my attention, so anything too lyric heavy is out the window.

Proton: www.protonradio.com Frisky: http://www.cbs.nu/home/ CBS: www.cbs.nu/home/ Radiomagnetic: www.radiomagnetic.com

Mostly instrumental music, primarily some type of jazz or classical.

If I am in a noisy working environment, then I keep the music going pretty much constantly, to block out extraneous noise. In general, the more quiet and peaceful my environment is, the less music I listen to while working.

Bands: Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, Sigur Ros

iTunes Radio: Electronic->AH.FM, Ambient->Drone Zone on SomaFM

NIN - a downward spiral. Daft Punk - Alive. Timbaland. Kraftwerk, Chemical Brothers, Radiohead.

Gothic radio on the net. R1Live, darkwave or www.gothicradio.tv.

All that screaming behaves almost like white noise for me :-P

I once downloaded a recording of heavy rain from a nature site. I found that sound very very conducive to coding :)

Mostly dubstep recently, since you can just sink into it and get into a nice groove: http://dubstep.fm

IDM or drum n bass for occasions where hardcore coding is needed.

bassdrive.com, itunes -> radio -> electronic -> bassdrive ...

Pandora's (http://www.pandora.com) is pretty cool to run in the background. I've discovered lots of new music through the site..

When I was still working in an office, I found listening to film scores, in particular, very helpful in shutting out the noise of the office.

I'll second that. My suggestions are: American Beauty, Atonement, Braveheart, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings I II III, Meet Joe Black, Requiem for a Dream, The Last Samurai, and There Will Be Blood.

The soundtracks to Batman Begins and the Battlestar Galactica mini-series are not dissimilar to that for There Will Be Blood (which I've just been to see).

For this last project a lot of what I listened to was the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack by Bear McCreary.

Mozart and Bach! Agreed w/ one of the other entries. "Accept no substitutes for true greatness."

This is definitely a page I'm going to have to come back to. One look through is not enough.

Groove Salad at SomaFm: http://somafm.com/

I beatbox.

Music when coding is a MUST! Preferably a band you love/like.

Lately: Moby, Kenna, Cee-lo, goodie mob, david bowie, prodigy

techno/trance. ETN.fm / DI.fm type stuff in iTunes Radio

J.S. Bach. Accept no substitutes for true greatness.

Lately I'm listening: Read My Mind - The Killers

Mostly hip-hop, especially freestyles.

pandora FTW!

stations i created "rabbit in the moon" "hacker radio" "garbage" "fluke"

any other cool strings to create stations off of?

They Might Be Giants

Paul van Dyk

daft punk


psytrance or any kind of hypnotic techno music when programming

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