Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
What music do you listen to while programming? (biodegradablegeek.com)
31 points by AndyKelley on Apr 18, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

I tend to avoid music with lyrics, while programming. Surprisingly, it distracts me. I also frequently listen the same track for few hours, so I stop "hearing" it and becomes the background.

I thought I was the only one who had a problem with lyrics. Parsing language must interfere with the same part of the brain that programming requires.

Strangely, even though I'm nearly fluent in English, I can tune out English lyrics effortlessly, but not Dutch ones (my native language).

Similarly for me, I can understand spoken english almost perfectly easily but I'm having a hard time understanding even a couple words from an english song even if I try hard. (native language: french)

This must be true. However, once I've heard a song 20-30 times, it no longer causes distractions. Then again, when I work on a problem that takes 100% of my thinking power and concentration, I have to press pause, shut the door, and close my eyes.

I'm beginning to think I'm the only one who doesn't. Songs with lyrics are better for me than pure instrumental songs... I code best to europop and hip hop.

[edit: and by "hip hop" I mean gangsta rap, not stuff like Digable Planets.]

Strangely, I only have a problem with lyrics when I'm not singing them. That, of course, doesn't take into account to possibility that while singing, others might have a problem with me. ;-)

That's funny, I do the opposite - I choose songs that I can sing along to (lots of Jonathan Coulton). Keeps me calm and productive.

Same here. Or muffled, fuzzy, unintelligible lyrics are OK too.

Mogwai, Pelican, Explosions in the Sky, Pinback, Castor, Elliott, National Skyline, Isis, My Bloody Valentine, Jesu, Portishead, The Mars Volta, Low Frequency in Stereo...

Lately, Japancakes' Loveless cover album has been in non-stop rotation. Good stuff.

I like to listen to movies soundtrack, because most of the times it has no lyrics. I listen specially a lot "The Lord Of The Rings soundtrack. Also Pink Floyd which is a lot instrumental.

Agreed. However, it's surprising because normally I don't even pay attention to lyrics when I'm listening to music. I couldn't tell you the lyrics of some of my favorite songs.

I tend to listen to some of the electronic / trace channels in iTunes radio: ETN.fm, SENSE.FM, XTC Radio, AH.FM, DI.fm, Philosomatika ... it really doesn't matter what the actual music is as long as I like it and it's not distracting.

For some reason lyrics don't bother me that much. It's probably part of the same mechanism that makes it impossible for me to remember lyrics, whether they're in my native language or English. To my ears the human voice is just another instrument, I guess.

I also frequently listen the same track for few hours, so I stop "hearing" it and becomes the background.

I do this too, often using the same track for several days in a row. When I do this without headphones my wife complains for some reason ;-)

"I stop 'hearing' it and becomes the background."

Like what snoopy does in this video:



http://www.thesixtyone.com/james (click on "listen to radio")

instrumental stuff usually works best, but i like variety.

i've recently become very fond of danger and m83.

http://www.thesixtyone.com/danger http://www.thesixtyone.com/m83

AFX, Aphex Twin, Tool, Boards of Canada, Kyuss, Pink floyd..etc because it makes me think like a computer Beeep...beep...beep!

Alex Brandon's Deus Ex OST. Kahvi Collective (all free). Schiller. 120 Days. Yoko Kanno's Ghost in the Shell OSTs. Other minimal or bassy electronic music (James Holden). But when I have to fix some difficult logic, I just put the music away.

All of Yoko Kanno's stuff is pretty good. I'm really partial to her songs from Cowboy Bebop.

An amendment: Thinner(ism): http://www.thinner.cc/pages/home.php or straight from ftp.scene.org

Electronic music with minimal lyrics. It's the only time i listen to that genre - it puts my mind into work-mode.

I listen to a song on repeat for a day or two before moving on to a new song. It seems to distract part of my brain so the other part can code. And oddly after 2 days of listening to a song I only know the lyrics to the chorus. Its very strange but works great for me.

"Were no strangers to love You know the rules and so do i"

The only song you ever need. Endless loop.

Wow! I recognised the lyrics, how scary is that....

In really stressful situations, old hardcore or punk (that I know really well so I won't actively listen to it) helps me get things done.

But usually it's just post rock or techno or something else that's kind of boring and instrumental.

White noise--ocean waves, rainfall "sounds of nature" stuff. Another post today from science blogs may explain why it works (although I don't have adhd)

Just about anything that suits my mood. I do tend towards instrumental music when coding though. Lately it's been lots of Amon Tobin.

SomaFM and DI.FM, in particular "Groove Salad" on SomaFM.

I'm weird, I have a tendency to sing along to the song I'm listening to while I'm working. It gets me through the non-thinking parts of my day.

I listen to a lot of different types of music. In order of popularity, probably reggae, folk rock, bluegrass, punk and then various other miscellaneous odds and ends. I tend to prefer songs with lyrics that are either clever or witty, or both. A particular favourite of mine at the moment is "The Battle" by Lady Sovereign et al. Lyrics like "Eating MCs like Ready Brek" and "I kill you little kids like morning after pill" never fail to make me smile.

Also, allow me to apologise in advance for the trauma caused by placing the image of a middle class white British guy singing reggae in your mind.

I like classical while programming. Check out Otto's Baroque Musick: http://www.shoutcast.com/directory/index.phtml?sgenre=Classi...

I don't get distracted by music at all.

If I want to get focused quickly, I listen to some particularly horrible electronica (Winnipeg Is A Frozen Shithole by Venetian Snares is a good example). If it's three in the morning, I listen to some minimal electronica (Vladislav Delay, B. Fleischmann both good).

Otherwise, it's whatever I'm enjoying at the moment (recently: brutal hardcore like Circle Takes The Square, weird indie like Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown).

Finally, long albums are good because of the longer gaps between ends of songs and ends of records.

Lately it's been Crass into Cro-Mags (age of quarrel), dag nasty and damage control. The power of the alphabet. But when I am fleshing out entirely new stuff I need to listen to something that just blows my mind away so I don't even try to drum along to it etc. For me buddy rich stuff from the 70s does the trick. INSANELY complex/fast and super polished in a way that most jazz isn't which is normally a turn off but some how it works with his stuff.

I like stuff with driving beats that keep me focused on what's in front of me.

Talking Heads is really great hacking music. "Born Under Punches" is a really good example of a song that you can hack to.

I listen to an insane variety of music while hacking. Some highlights of the past month or so: Bob Dylan, Ruby Suns, Evangelicals, Paul Simon, Anton Webern, The Dodos, Xiu Xiu, The Velvet Teen. A pretty good variety of classic rock, indie rock, experimental and classical.

If I'm really in the zone, I'll listen to punk or hardcore like AFI or Saetia and not notice. Other times, I pretty much stick to cello or violin music.

Mostly, silence.


Armin Van Buren - A state of trance Above and Beyond - trance around the world Tiesto - club life David Guetta and plenty more. I love electronic music.

I also go for http://etn.fm sometimes.

I find trance great, because it typically has no lyrics, or even if it does then they are very simple so they just become sounds that are part of song itself.

Once in a while though when I'm at some crossroads and need to truly concentrate on something for 3 minutes I just mute everything around me for total silence.

Complex music doesn't distract me, although I also avoid anything with lyrics. I listen to a decent blend of orchestral, chamber, and solo music. Bach is my favorite composer, but I like all polyphonic Baroque for when I need to concentrate.

If I'm in real trouble and really need to focus, I break out Philip Glass. His early stuff, like Music in Twelve Parts, is mesmerizing, really helps concentrate.

Wow. The title is almost exactly the same as this much older AskYC question.


My answer is pretty much the same as before: Anything my brain doesn't try to process. I'm still listening to Nujabes - Modal Soul, actually.

Oops, sorry. I didn't see an easy way to check for duplicate entries.

Daft Punk

This question has been asked so many times here, I think it's better to have this sticky.

Silence. I am easily distracted.

I would say mostly political punk and KMFDM. Listening to music with someone spewing their personal views which most of the time I share, helps anger me and get me going... ;)

Anyone else beatbox while they work? I really like rhythm for some reason.

Chamber music works great for me. I especially like Mozart's sonatas.

None. Listening to music just distracts me.

The only music I listen to is music from my brain. May sound crazy but its true. Any music distracts me.

Post-rock, because I find it kind of boring and I get distracted by music that I like too much.

A lot of hard rock. It compliments the liquor

www.limbikfreq.com (Limbik Frequencies)

Lots of experimental electronic music and glitch. Seems perfect for the kind of programming I do...

For a long time I was powered by radiohead.

lately, the field and clinic

Clinic is good, simple rhythm for detailed work. Good call.

John Hartford!

somafm.com ftw!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact