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Ask HN: What, if anything, do you listen to while coding?
53 points by cleanyourroom on May 21, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments
I rarely listen to anything, but I'm going to give it a try for a week and how it affects my productivity.

Looking for playlist recommendations.

Vocals tend to pull my focus, and repeated phrasing in a lot of EDM is distracting. I find post-rock as a great genre for coding. I frequent the r/postrock sub-Reddit and keep yearly Spotify playlists updated with new releases [1].

I have also enjoyed combining jazz with a rain simulator like RainyMood [2]. Volume-balance them together and it's sublime.

[1]: https://open.spotify.com/user/edlerner/playlist/5TJbCB33vOzT...

[2]: https://www.rainymood.com/

Similar for me.

Mostly: anything without easily discernible or deep lyrics that distract me. This could be Black Metal, EDM, classical music.

Also ok: Stuff I really like and know really well, e.g. Metal with understandable lyrics, 80s Synthpop, Soundtracks

Usually not ok: ballads, rap, stuff with lyrics in my mother tongue

Special mentions: EVE Online OST: https://soundcloud.com/ccpgames/sets/eve-online-login-screen..., The Cat Empire, Dirty Doering, Pendulum, Massive Attack, Portishead, or random DJ sets

Wolves in the Throne Room and So Hideous are great examples of metal bands with sweeping atmospheres and non-intrusive vocals.

The Algorithm and Master Boot Record are metal-inspired electronic music with no vocals.

Video game soundtracks also work well. Danny Baronowsky, Ridiculon (The End Is Nigh soundtrack is phenomenal), and Disasterpiece are some of my favorite indie game composers.

Metroid Metal is kinda similar, but it's highly technical prog-metal covers of music from the Metroid series. Descendants of Erdrick and Armcannon are also enjoyable metal video game cover bands.

If you want to get lost in coding for a long while without needing to change albums, Chronicles of Time is a 5 hour long compilation of covers of music from Chrono Trigger by a huge variety of artists. If you listen to this from start to finish without stopping, you should probably take a break and stretch for a while.

I really enjoy the soundtrack from Elder Scrolls Online. The new Doom has an excellent soundtrack as well, though it does have occasional voice-over.

I love listening to video game soundtracks when working.

If I want to focus 100%, work fast and have no idea what’s going around me, I’ll put some fast paced Kirby music from the SNES versions and code away as if I was racing King Dedede.

If I want to get in the mood for some architecting or refactoring, I’ll put some Final Fantasy chip-tunes to work through the mysteries.

The soundtrack for Shovel Knight is also excellent. Even though the game is recent, the music is completely authentic to capabilities of the sound chip in the NES.

That said, I find the sound of the NES to be a bit too bright and crisp for background listening. I agree that SNES era music is easier for programming. Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Final Fantasy 2 (FFIV in Japan), Final Fantasy 3 (FFVI in Japan), Chrono Trigger, and Earthbound immediately come to mind as great soundtracks.

If you want to listen to soundtracks for SNES games, you can use Audio Overload (free and multi-platform): http://www.bannister.org/software/ao.htm

The music from SNES games is stored in SPC files (individual songs) and RSN files (collection all SPC files for a game). The files are extremely small. You could probably fit the soundtracks for every official SNES game into a few dozen megabytes. You can learn more about the format at the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation wiki: http://www.vgmpf.com/Wiki/index.php/SPC

The London Philharmonic has some great video game cover albums as well.

That’s exactly what I do. I’ve been using Bannister’s emulators and Audio Overload since my childhood!

Though nowadays I prefer playing the SPC files in a player called Vox: https://vox.rocks

And in my phone I have a collection of maybe weeks worth of music in a few MBs

I've tried listening to metal and it works if the lyrics aren't distracting, but anything I know the lyrics to or any lyrical styles I hate (the grunting or pig noises) really distract me. It's hard to find a good random metal playlist that doesn't have any of those two distracting factors.

Instrumental prog metal is really good for getting work done though.

I've recently discovered post-rock as well and it's perfect. It's so boring that my mind tunes it out, which is what I'm looking for.

I've spent so much time trying to find good electronic music that doesn't have any vocals at all, and it's frustrating. Post-rock is great for letting your subconcious drift away while you work.

I tried a bit of everything and its really random for me. As i metal/rock fan i rarely listen to the genre. Here is some artists to get you started that really help me focus on programing:

- Trent Reznor and NiN: Social Network, Ghosts and The Fragile.

- How to destroy Angels (also a subproject of Trent Reznor).

- Daft Punk: live album and Tron soundtrack.

- Miles Davis: Bitches Brew.

- RadioHead: OK Computer, KID A and Amnesiac.

- Gojira: Magma and From Mars to Sirius

- Opeth: Live at Royal Albert Hall

- U2: Songs of Inocence and Songs of Experience.

- Massive Attack: Mezzanine

- Blade Runner soundtrack.

- Interstellar soundtrack.

Recently Synthwave DJs

- Kavinsky: Outrun

- The Midnight: Any song (i really love these guys and the atmosphere they put into their songs).

Hope it helps you find a music for your mood.

I love the Bladerunner soundtrack, except I haven't found a version without a few snippets of movie dialogue.

Second Daft Punk's Tron score. It's kind of my default.

On the Miles Davis front, check out Panthalassa.

NIN "Ghosts" is fantastic

Yes, anything Miles Davis, and most of Vangelis have been for my coding.

For synthwave M|O|O|N is awesome. The 'Hotline Miami' OST is great.

Any of the lofi hip hop live streams. Usually calm with minimal vocals. This is my favorite one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilxhlnDo7_M

I'll second LoFi. My other go-to is Yann Tiersen.

Boards of Canada are the obvious one (as seen from their heavy usage across here https://musicforprogramming.net/), along with a bunch of Warp record acts from the 90s.

Recently been listening to loads of Hard Bop Jazz though, Sonny Rollins in particular.

I like that music for programming website. I also use it often for background music while coding.

Video game soundtracks should be really good, as they often contain no vocals and are supposed to keep you focused (on the game). E.g. Deus EX Human Revolution Soundtrack [0]. Movie scores from Hans Zimmer are also really good (e.g. Inception OST)

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyG6YMLEWus

When I need a boost I always listen to Quake II: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY6yBTYxLko

Been listening to a mix of video game and movie soundtracks as well as some piano scores mixed in... https://www.pandora.com/station/play/2476798788059171414 ...definitely allows me to drown out everything and focus.

Excellent suggestion. I kept using the Lord of the Rings Online soundtrack as coding music long after I stopped playing LOTRO itself. It really is well suited, for the reasons you mention, but it's not bland or boring.

When lines > quality, deep/tech house is good: Stimming, and Oliver Schories

While thinking/reviewing/learning, generally instrumental jazzy/stoner trip-hop stuff:

Jan Jelinek - Loop Finding Jazz Records: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hIgBEXuQD8

Fila Brazillia - A Touch Of Cloth: https://youtu.be/RjuP9cvgLic?t=4m56s

Also Kruder & Dorfmeister/Peace Orchestra, John Abercrombie, Hidden Orchestra (highly recommend the albums Archipelago and Wingbeats).

Quite a few good streams on http://somafm.com/

I definitely recommend the defcon station - literal music for hacking https://somafm.com/defcon/

Thanks for this - kind of neat to have a community "hacking" channel. Seems to be mainly downtempo-ish, which is great.

defcon is great! another really cool one is Mission Control

I should really donate on monthly basis, i listen to that radio a lot

Drum & Bass without vocals. I've put a lot of time, thought, and experimentation into this; nothing else comes close to keeping me as focused and highly productive.

Some examples:

Monrroe https://youtu.be/TmENer4RPhw https://youtu.be/41OKIznqMCg https://youtu.be/IKbadsY2MSs

Mix https://youtu.be/LYgNN8lDQ5s

You're thinking, "but it all sounds the same!" That's the point. It keeps you moving forward without breaking your stride.

For longer, less mentally demanding tasks this kind of stuff works great, too: https://youtu.be/VNP0-Tb9big

brain.fm I really liked.

Unfortunately the Android app stopped working for me.

I've contacted their support, they were initially quite responsive but no solution yet.

Update: working now! There were app updates and server-side changes. One of those must have fixed it.

Recommended for support.

Concur on di.fm, not chillout though. I find Psy keeps the easily distracted half of my brain occupied whilst the other half gets on with work.

For calm, I go to Calm Radio on YT. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxn8p26WTR4

I've got tons of playlists that I listen to while coding, usually instrumental music of various styles, sometimes I also prefer silence, especially when I need to focus on learning something completely new.

Most common genres that I listen to are electronic, trip hop, trance, techno, drum & bass, ambient and post-rock. Some of my favorite artists include Bonobo, Emancipator, Tycho, Gramatik, The American Dollar and DJ Shadow.

Here are some interesting Spotify playlists that you might enjoy during coding:

https://open.spotify.com/user/chillhopmusic/playlist/74sUjcv... Or find more like this on chillhop.com

Here's a few from me:

Post-rock / instrumental rock https://open.spotify.com/user/116691196/playlist/78eqGh29jt0...

Chill House music https://open.spotify.com/user/116691196/playlist/6DalghuQizi...

Opeth Bloodbath Leprous Soen Haken

Mostly prog metal that I know well already. I find it hard to focus with music I have not heard before, but can quickly go into very deep focus mode with something well known.

Alcest is very Opeth-inspired, you might give them a shot. Also Fallujah, which I might call prog-death? They're not everyone's cup of tea but they've got some atmospherics going.

Mostly music without singing. If a voice starts, I automatically listen to the words and loose my focus.

So a lot of OST (movies or games), jazz, neo rock, electronic music, etc..

Somafm Suburbs of Goa: https://somafm.com/suburbsofgoa/

Shanghai Restoration Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09b-jSbPreU&list=PLxjXphoR4Y...

Breaking Benjamin

Thank you for somafm - that's pretty awesome

I have definitely found that controlling the sound around me has an immense effect on productivity, and that I can use different sounds to influence my work. I use several tools for playing non-music sound when I'm working.

SimpleHabit Focus Player (beta) [0] and Focus@Will [1] both play instrumental-y type sound, not really music per se. These two require a subscription but are inexpensive relative to the productivity boost they provide. Then SimplyNoise [2] and Zero Noise [3] for playing just colored noise in a noisy environment. The former uses Flash, so the latter is a bash script I made that's similar. I use the Spotify Focus playlists like Deep Focus sometimes, but they're more general and not as good as the dedicated services.

I find these are especially good for combatting interruptions, conversations, and variable noises like conference calls. Sometimes I'll use something upbeat and EDM-y to get into flow when working on simple things.

Another recent HN thread where I listed a few more related suggestions is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14886317#14888870.

[0]: https://www.simplehabit.com/beta/focus

[1]: https://www.focusatwill.com/app/music

[2]: https://simplynoise.com/

[3]: https://github.com/tedmiston/zero-noise

I like instrumentals. I mostly hit up Spotify's focus playlists (not as good as the old Songza ones). They tend heavily to the electronic side, so I made a couple I enjoy.

Prog Rock Instrumentals: https://open.spotify.com/user/frogblast/playlist/1RqHAhrFCEI...

Calexico Instrumentals: https://open.spotify.com/user/frogblast/playlist/6KDPLvi4akh...

Movie and video game soundtracks.

Can't recommend Ramin Djawadi enough(he wrote soundtracks for Game of Thrones and Westworld). Here's a great example of his music:


Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard are also great:


And I love halo soundtracks, here's my collection:


The only time I listen to music while coding is when I'm really sleepy, and need something to get juices flowing again. For this, I have my "waking up" playlist, which is pretty much a bunch of really intense opera classics, with Russel Watson (I don't know Italian, so the lyrics don't distract me): https://open.spotify.com/user/smllmp/playlist/4VfhqzNUFHQntX...

Anything instrumental. Classical, Vangelis, Jean-Luc Ponty, Pat Metheny, Steps Ahead, John Abercrombie, Brian Eno.

Lo-Fi Chill hop 24/7 live playlist such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FlxM_0S2lA

Surfpop / Shoegaze mixes, this is one of my faves! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiwd4yCrws0&t=2515s

Artists such as Mogwai

Sometimes skate punk or metal (weirdly first thing in the day to get my brain going!)

Liquid/Intelligent Drum 'n Bass mixes (again good for motivation) This Netsky mix is a classic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwTU4IVHlEg

It's not free, but I listen to brain.fm while writing code at work: https://www.brain.fm/app

I have found my ability to focus is increased when listening to their "Focus" music.

Most often: Rage Against The Machine on a loop. It's been working for me since ~1999.

I just loop the first 2 seconds of guerilla radio

I like RATM but this would drive me crazy

For (more or less trivial) code reviews, JIRA or email work I often just listen to whatever I like and whatever fits the mood. Works well by giving me some endorphins while keeping me able to focus (sometimes I have to avoid listening to stuff I like too much :)).

For coding, design and code reviews that require focus, silence is the best.

My long-time addiction that has helped me a lot on numerous occasions is https://www.focusatwill.com/. I also use it as pomodoro timer. Silence is still better, if you're in a distraction-free environment.

Also learned recently: if your headphones are too good, they may prevent you from doing anything other than listening to music :)

I'm going to be boring and say "music". I don't really get distracted by lyrics - I never really take them in anyway. So, whatever I want - Jazz, Electronic, Rock, Folk, Classical, Metal. Anything.

I found plenty of nice background music in here(50 playlists) http://musicforprogramming.net/

Brain.fm or my coding playlist (mostly synthwave) also instrumental surf


Lofi beats for late night coding:


For upgrades, patching, P1 issues, anything high-stress I prefer classical - Corelli, Locatelli, Handel.

For coding I usually like electronica. I go back and forth between ambient stuff, like Koan or H.U.V.A Network, and vocal trance which has a pleasing, hypnotic aspect.

I've tried binaural beats as well, they're not awful but they're not my go-to. Spotify has a ton of these kind of 2-hour tracks. Rainstorms can be nice as well.

Psy-ambient has been my go-to as well for years (see username!). Anyone releasing music on Ultimae (run by Vincent Villius of the aforementioned H.U.V.A. Network) is a pretty good bet. All time favorites of mine are Solar Fields (also of aforementioned H.U.V.A. network) and Carbon Based Lifeforms, who also release music on Ultimae

There's only one right answer to this question and it's: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZcmTl_1ER8

I'm only kinda joking but otherwise seriously check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqOVpiXfq0o

In the "listening" mood I code with atmospheric black and post-black like Alcest, Agalloch, or Kauan. I find both "Sorni Nai" and "Pirut" by Kauan to be able to induce almost trance-like focus.

Otherwise, I put on my trusty 3M Peltor X5A with -37 dB rating, so most of Wework's office noises and sticky pop background tune down to a barely audible droning.

One track of pop, on repeat for the duration of the session. Today it was something by Dragonette, but that’s just what came to hand. After a few repeats, it becomes somewhat hypnotic, and something with human voices in is helpful for cutting out external distractions (open plan office, at the moment...)

Coding music has little overlap with what I’d pick if I actually wanted to “listen to music”.

I typically listen to podcasts when writing documentation, but when it comes to real development time, I listen to "minimal techno"/edm as in Tycho, deadmau5, marshmello, apex twins, thievery corporation, ODEZA, Emancipator, Tame Impala

I put together a sample playlist for a teammate who didn't usually listen to music: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLm761ub-NrD7jq1zwjHlS...

That stuff works for me, but, uh...I doubt a lot of people share my taste in programming music.

On one screen, I have inspirational / epic / fantasy music going with pictures always changing (example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWQbkJA9ZQs)

I get bored of coding so I like looking at the pretty pictures while I vim away on the other screen.

Mostly ambient, enough to register but still stay in the background. Some examples:



typically I can't listen to music with words while coding. I stick to EDM, mainly Drum and Bass. Many years ago I found http://www.bassdrive.com. Streaming Drum and Bass from DJs around the world. They have IRC interaction and mostly Live shows. Cheers!

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you might have for vocal-free drum n bass. DnB works best for my productivity, but vocals ruin it. Here are some that I've found:

https://youtu.be/CL-vqNpGVQs https://youtu.be/-e-jXfHeUy0 (terrible transitions) https://youtu.be/TmENer4RPhw (anything by Monrroe) https://youtu.be/Q0dK7_3mkQM https://youtu.be/_QVbDoVT9Ro https://youtu.be/-qiMuebvq9E https://youtu.be/LYgNN8lDQ5s https://youtu.be/egd1cC5hH7s https://youtu.be/tRCvp0DI-Qg

Unfortunately, a search for "Drum and Bass no vocals" gives you every genre of vocals you can imagine.

I do movie soundtracks a lot. Hans Zimmer, Bernard Hermann, and so on.

I'll just leave this here. 8 hours of concentration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk26FUe38y0

Helped me work through many a days.

Otherwise anything ambient that I find on youtube :)

Deltron 3030 Virus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrEdbKwivCI

I'm not writing viruses but when writing simple bash scripts with white text on a black background terminal it can be very enjoyable

https://mynoise.net which is a fantastic source of ambient sounds to block out outside noise or help to focus/relax. Made by a very knowledgable sound engineer.

I'm a big fan of Raymond Scott's electronic stuff because it's interesting, non distracting, and usually doesn't have lyrics. https://youtu.be/rYVIDJtKU-A


listener-supported internet radio. Lots of different channels, mostly ambient electronic music.

Synthwave and lo-fi mixes on youtube. This is almost becoming a cliche, but they work.

Krelez's chiptune livestream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gdhoj8HgaQ Or sometimes a white noise generator..

Ozric Tentacles. No vocals in 30 albums except for 1 or 2 songs. I can't code well with words going on. Some would say I can't code well without words going on, either. LOL.

Tycho. Also no vocals.

I didn't see them or may have missed them - this will destroy you, if these trees could talk, russian circles, john frusciante and my fave would probably be clouddead but what do I know :)

For me, it depends on the mood. Usually I just put in my current state of mind in the search bar and usually a playlist is present.

I've seen that songs I know already provide way less distraction than new music.


It has a similar effect to white noise while providing high energy rhythm.

Recently most played:

* Norma Jean

* Devil Wears Prada

* Blessthefall

* The Anchor

I prefer silence or isolation most of the times. When I can’t get that or I am in the mood for music, I usually listen to random video games music, or tavern music in games ( on YouTube ).

Classical music in loop, such as this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzeRSsNHtsQ

Mainly video game music and remixes: http://ocremix.org/

Medieval and Renaissance music too, sometimes.

For some tasks I can listen to audio podcasts like Fresh Air and comprehend it while coding but for other things I need silence. Music often distracts me.

ADULT. makes for good background noise http://www.adultperiod.com

I listen to almost any music I know well, typically in album order. Novelty in the background is terrible for my attention.

Trip hop, metal, or asmr. I don’t really feel like music I enjoy with discernible lyrics distract me though.

I don't usually listen to music. Two Steps From Hell isn't bad while coding, though

when i absolutely must think very carefully: silence.

when i’m doing something tricky but not right at my limit: palestrina and other polyphonic composers of medieval and renaissance sacred music.

plug and chug coding: kind of whatever.

Anonymous 4 did some recordings of medieval masses and they were... otherworldly. They really put you in the contemplative mood.

yes. i like the tallis scholars as well. i’ve even seen them in concert a few times.

I listen to a lot of beats or samples usually. J Dilla is fantastic


Boiler Room on air or archived shows, summer festival sets and Mixcloud.

Today? Mostly Weezer. Sorry to be the one to buck the trend!

Drum and Bass. Usually pick something from bassblog.pro

I like instrumental space music, like Tangerine Dream.

I listen to art/programming streams on twitch

if you concentrate with no music, you’ll lose focus. some great recommendations in the thread, I’ll add frank ocean - endless

Goats yelling like humans in G major.

Can you hook me up with a source? I'd check the torrent sites, but I want to support the artists ya'know.

Chopin + Rainymood (dot) com.


DeadMau5 radio on Pandora.

Jazz or Drum and Bass.

Math rock.


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