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Ask HN: What do you listen to when you code?
22 points by netconnect on Aug 18, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments
I like to listen to indie rock whenever I'm writing anything, other people I know think that classical or tribal (ugh.) music is the way to go.

What gets your mind going? Do you need total silence or are you incapable of coding without your favourite tunes?

If the coding is routine, I sometimes listen to my favorite music (EBM or psy/goa trance) while coding. I especially like to listen to music while coding if I'm in a noisy environment (earplugs are good too).

However, when I get to a really difficult problem, I prefer total silence without any distractions. Again, earplugs are good for that. But if I need to, I'll go for a walk somewhere quiet to think about it (somewhere with a whiteboard, and/or maybe talk the problem over with a friend/colleague). Or I might even have to sleep on it. In all of these cases, there's no music involved. Music is more for the relatively easy/routine coding.

Same here. Basically, I don't want music while I'm in the process of figuring out how to go about doing something, but there's nothing better than a good beat (Infected Mushroom for me) while actually doing it.

When I'm doing design, music just distracts me -- but when I'm hammering out code, a repetitive rhythm definitely helps to keep me focused. It is strange that music has different effects depending on what kind of thinking the brain is doing. I wonder why that is...


Rock (Tool, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Rage, Muse) Post-Rock (Explosions in the Sky, Mono, Pelican, Mogwai) Hip-Hop (A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Outkast, Digable Planets, The Coup)

The post-rock/instrumental stuff probably works the best since you aren't tempted to sing, and it helps to listen to something that is a little more repetitive.

Old Metallica always does it for me.... actually silence is usually better but I don't get that very often around my workplace.

Orion is the goddamn jam.

Two more good post-rock bands: ISIS and Red Sparowes

I also like to listen to some down-tempo/electronic stuff like Thievery Corporation, Kruder & Dorfmeister and Sound Tribe Sector 9.

very true about the post-rock (I listen to Mogwai while coding as well). I'd add movie soundtracks / scores to the list for the same reason. Still a huge fan of the Battlestar Galactica soundtracks, esp season 2, and pretty much anything done by John Murphy (28 Days Later, Miami Vice).

just wanted to say: porcupine tree++. i do listen to a lot of post rock (mogwai of course, kinski, explosions in the sky, and post-metal like isis, neurosis, cult of luna).

i'm probably one of the rare developers who listens to a lot of death metal though. the mathematical structure and intensity helps me get into that "flow state".

a really nice set of studio quality headphones is one of those things that i consider a professional necessity.

The Code Of The Streets by Guru and Premier huh? You know how we do it!

Techno / electro. These often have the energy and rythm of machines, and it helps to keep a good pace. I especially avoid any music with lyrics in a language I understand, so it does not steal my attention. All in all, I want my surrounding to be an atmosphere of "going forward" and no distraction. I also need to regularly look away from my screen, release my brain for a minute, get up and stop being static.

Hell Im here just a short time but this is at least 3rd discussion of this since I registered: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=668087 http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=716219

Sorry man, I've only been here for one of those but I dont remember it. Guess we just like to talk about these kinds of things?

If I am at my house, then I like blasting the music as high as possible. Me sometimes getting up and dancing really isn't a problem because it only means that I'm in a good mood and the coding is easier. (Of course I sit back down and code vigorously to make up for lost time afterwards.) However, if I am in a public place, coding can be hard because I don't like hearing people shouting (who does? the shouter?) so I prefer silence in that case, but when you are at home and have the ability, whatever music you like- you should play.

I listen to a lot of hip hop and rap, so I start break dancing and crypt walking. Pretty sweet I know =p

Thanks for this, I usually listen to deep house/trance, but this is really relaxing.. I especially like the brown/red noise with oscillation.

Is there a rationale for this? I read on wikipedia but couldn't find anything - have links to any good papers?

White noise is a common synthetic noise source used for sound masking by a Tinnitus masker.

White noise machines are sold as privacy enhancers and sleep aids and to mask tinnitus. White noise CDs, when used with headphones, can aid concentration by blocking out irritating or distracting noises in a person's environment. In open plan offices, large corporations such as ExxonMobil apply white noise to reduce the reach of speech, thus, by preventing office staff from being distracted by conversations in the background, safeguarding productivity.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_noise

Depends on mood and problem I'm currently solving. For trivial coding I can listen to anything and would probably go for something indie. (Currently the "trivial music" has been Florence+The Machine, Dirty Projectors, Crystal Castles and Grizzly Bear).

When I'm stuck on a hard to solve bug/issue I like to go for metal as I tend to get aggressive and that helps me get the aggression out and focus on the task.

But for all other causes I prefer classical music or something akin to it and electronica, especially Niccolò Paganini. And Vivaldi, Wagner, Detektivbyrån, Slagsmålsklubben and Mozart.

I would love to be able to work in complete silence once in a while, but open office makes that impossible.

I agree, Paganini is great.

(And, it is quite fun that your nick is the title of a Motorpsycho song. Yeah, mine is too.)

This is sort of un-related, but for fans of coding to ambient music (or anyone for that matter) - if you haven't already, check out "9 Beet Stretch" - http://www.park.nl/park_cms/public/index.php?thisarticle=118 - Beethoven's 9th Symphony stretched out over a 24 hour period. I heard it first on the "Time" episode of Radio Lab (great show). It's a real trip to listen to.

http://www.dubstep.fm It's fat and awesome, and rarely are there vocals to distract you.

Silence, I need lot of concentration.

Bach. I find it perfect for coding because Bach is mathematically and algorithmically beautiful so it gets the mind working in those ways.

I find IDM, electronica to work pretty well too. Autechre, for instance.

Grooveshark.com | Mugasha.com

I like trance when studying. If I'm seriously in to the work, the music doesn't matter. I just want some music playing in the background.

And of course there are times I need just plain silence.

Something without lyrics. Usually I listen to Juno Reactor.

I have to throw a shout out to Tarlton, mum(there is a back tick over the u but I am too lazy to find the letter), and Sanchez is Driven By Demons. They have gotten me through some tough coding sessions and they are all close enough to instrumental without being instrumental to make it work. If you needed to classify it I guess it they would be post-rock.

I listen to metal (Mastodon, Neurosis, Isis, Misery Speaks, Cult of Luna) in the day if I'm wired on coffee. Otherwise, I listen to a lot of ambient/IDM (Marconi Union, Signer,Arovane, etc).

Generally if I'm drawing, daydreaming, designing, or what have you I listen to a lot of indie, downtempo, sexy/chill house.

When all else fails, it's Wu Tang all day, son.

I like the classical and chill selections at http://icebergradio.com

I hadn't heard of this one before - I really like the Comedy channel. Been listening to it doing some mundane work.

I think I will be switching between Grooveshark and this depending on the type of work I need to concentrate on.

I'd rather prefer silence. But in noisy environments, I prefer any instrumental music. Western classical mostly.

I usually watch tv or movies on my iMac's secondary screen while coding in vim on the primary. Most of the time it's not distracting. If it is, I switch to techno or trance on iTunes to get into the flow.

However, when reading books, I am unable to watch or listen to anything at the same time.. Silence required.

Cool links guys, I just discovered this site for some nice indie tunes along with some other stuff, all totally free of course http://www.triplejunearthed.com/Charts/

Anything really (rock to trance), but i will turn it off when i have a really difficult problem that i havnt solved before or if i am learning something new.

Instrumental, or indie. Altough I have to say, after coding for about 20 minutes I don't notice the music anymore because I'm too concentrated on the code.

when i focus - soundtrack music. this means john williams (jaws, memoirs of a geisha, minority report, star wars), bear mcreary (bsg), hans zimmer (gladiator, last samurai, the dark knight), howard shore (LOTR soundtrack!), michael giacchino (ratatouille), klaus badelt (pirates), etc.

it let me concentrate, by not having words, but also lets me register some background noise in order for me to focus on my code.

Now: the new Mew album: No More Stories/Are Told Today/I'm Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I'm Tired/Let's Wash Away

I listen to goa music (psytrance). Generally I like rock, but listening to electronic music while I code helps me to concentrate.

A lot of punk music, combined with blues and jazz during the coding routines, but turn music off while working on something hard.

I usually hit Pandora at the start of the day and leave it on unless I'm in a meeting or working on a really difficult problem.

A music for the space traveler: http://www.bluemars.org/

Postrock. Lately it's Epic45, Lymbyc Systym, Petrograd in Transit, The Berg Sans Nipple, My Education.

southern gangster rap

The same songs over and over. My girlfriend and her blues band rehearse at home.


Philip Glass: Mishima

It makes reading/typing anything seem more deeply important than it should be.


Groove Salad on SomaFM: a nicely chilled plate of ambient beats.

Let's be friends :D

Lots of groove salad and drum n bass. post-rock is great too.

vocal trance channel on http://www.di.fm Lots of other great channels on there too. Sometimes somafm.com as well.

i find last.fm 'jazz+funk tag radio' quite nice for coding


Four Tet or similar, or silence.


Bach. Any other music causes me to lose focus. Total silence drives me slowly insane. Bach is just perfect.

While I play a fair bit of J.S. Bach material in my free time, I find that listening to Bach over long periods of time rather depressing. It builds a heavy darker mood.

Ambient & lighter Electronica is easier on the mood and the repetitive patterns help pacing myself (it also works for working out/ running). Jazz gets too involved; HipHop as well; Rock has dominant vocals that grab attention.

And no other 'classical' music does it for you at all? You'll excuse me if I find that hard to believe.

Probably because I haven't really listened to Bach (youtube et. al. are blocked for me so I can't go and listen right this instant).

I like violin, cello and piano. No singing. I can't work when listening to opera, for instance. Italian opera is almost OK, but German opera is too distracting.

Classical composers other than Bach would probably work, but since most of the classical music CD's I have are Bach CD's, I can't say I have tried listening to many other composers, to be honest. I like Mozart, but his music is too "happy". Bach's music is more mature.

My take on a lot of classical music is that they seem to be trying to hard, doing too much with the instrument (been listening to some piano pieces by Liszt, Chopin, etc recently). That and I really don't appreciate a lot of high treble sounds (it depends, but genereally flutes and violins aren't my favourite instruments).

My recently instrumental fascination has been the work of Yann Tiersen (Amelie soundtrack), which has recently inspired me to try my hand at the piano again after 20 years. Not sure if that'd float your boat though. May give Brahms a go though.

Let me recommend Franz Schubert. I think you'll find he meets your criteria quite well - the Pandora station for Schubert is fantastic.

Every forum on the internet gets someone to start one of these threads which goes on seemingly forever and nobody reads them. What is this? MySpace?

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