51

Does listening to music (or podcasts, Internet radio, etc.) help a programmer be more or less productive?

What do you listen to while programming?

81 accepted

When there are people speaking nearby and I'm having trouble concentrating, I find that some pink/brown noise is very easy to ignore. There is a nice Flash noise generator here:

http://simplynoise.com/

It sounds sort of like running water.

40

I listen to music while just doing general programming but when I need to solve a problem or step through a proceess I find music to be a huge distraction.

21

I find anything that isn't music to be distracting. I definitely find that listening to music increases my productivity.

19

Depends, I prefer to code in silence but I'd rather code listening to music than to other people's conversations in our open-plan office.

If I am listening to music, I'm not really bothered what; as long as I don't have to think about it, so anything without talking / speaking. I don't mind singing, as long as it's not at the front of the mix, burrowing into my sub-conscious.

Andrew

15

Good Instrumentals with No Vocals

Current favorites:

BSG Soundtrack

Firefly Soundtrack

Enighma

A variety of stuff found under a search for "Guitar" on magnatune.com Especially Reza Manzoori and Heavy Mellow.

http://magnatune.com/artists/reza

http://magnatune.com/artists/heavy%5Fmellow

13

Depends on the type of work. If I'm shuffling HTML, I absolutely listen to music. If I'm trying to think through a design structure or an algorithm, then I prefer silence.

I cannot work on anything while there are voices talking, but singing is ok.

13

my answer..

all kinds of metal - fasterloudermeaner the better

double kick on thrash and death metal forces my focus and puts my blinders on. it also tends to make me clench my jaw notgood

got a pc at work about 120 gb of music. as we had a company crack down on mp3s and movies/tv being on the network, i took my own pc in and scavenged up a 9" monochrome CRT which runs Winamp in double size perfectly with some cheap logitech speakers. my co-erkers don't tend to complain about the noise, i have headphones but can't be completely blocked off from whats going on in the office. they either aren't bothered or are too scared :)

just been playing with 8tracks.com and put up a mix of some random stuff i listen to. 8tracks.Com\MattRitchie. it plays the songs in your mix randomly, lots of other non-metal stuff up there too, lots of cool jazz mixes.

13

I know that it doesn't work well for everyone but I tend to focus better and actually type faster when I am listing to trance and techno. Currently I tend to like DJ TiŽsto the best but I usually change genre if I get stuck...

9

I'd prefer silence, but Bose noise-canceling headphones and jazz at low volume are the best I can manage.

7

If I need to drown something out, I find Electronic or Industrial music works, particularly if it's in a foreign language (It's less distracting that way). Rammstein works well for this purpose, since I don't speak German.

If there's nothing in particular to drown out, then ambient is the way to go.

7

Unlike everybody else, I actually like podcasts with talking while coding. It can be IT related, but not exactly on the problem I'm working on now. It helps me from going to the browser while things are compiling and testing. Sometimes for particularly heavy problems, I prefer silence, but most of the time I'm just crunching away on coding/testing/debugging/documenting something I already figured out. I notice that I don't actually hear very much of the podcasts, so I can listen to them multiple times.

7

When I was a freelance contractor I listened to the sound of money being deposited into my bank.

Now that I'm a permanent employee I listen to the sound of my shares plummeting downwards.

5

For me works best bands like "Explosions in the Sky" or electronic. Most importantly there should be no vocals.

4

If the coding problem I'm working on is particularly gnarly then I code in silence with the window open and listen to the birds and ambient background noise (I live/work pretty much outa town and there is a nice rural feel).

If it's day-to-day coding stuff then I'll listen to music (http://last.fm/user/cosmicklev). I'm also quite lucky that I work from home and so don't have to listen to music with headphones on which I find quite annoying after a while.

4

I listen to the neighbors fight until my kids get home from school. Then I listen to my kids fight.

4

Goldberg Variations played by Glenn Gould, 1982 edition.

3

I've got the variety going through my iPod touch since they've blocked all the streaming audio at work 8^D

I have some tech podcasts that I listen to in the mornings during the morning log/e-mail/news check. I keep a variety of rock for the general stuff and an assortment of trance and ambient music for the heavy programming times. Oddly enough the repetitive beats or "zone out" music keeps me focused and clear headed.

3

I grew up in a large family, so I'm used to a certain amount of chatter, except when that chatter touches on things I'm involved with - then it gets distracting because my brain keeps picking out keywords

So, I listen to podcasts or pandora - and I can listen to podcasts 3 or 4 times before they get old because I'm not paying attention to them.

3

I listen to some real heavy stuff :D Im a metal head, and also work in a relatively large office with teams that make shedloads of noise (I have no idea what management were thinking when they decided on this!) So I drown out the noise with headphones on..

On the rare occasion that is quieter, I like to listen to podcasts while coding the more mundane bits..

If its tough code, then I tend to put some easier listening stuff on loud (to drown out the noise) this helps me focus more on the code..

3

I mostly like listening to music (primarily classical, Aphex Twin, NIN, and mash-ups), but occasionally I listen to a podcast or TED talk.

3

Music. Melodic alternative metal/rock stuff.

example 1

example 2

example 3

example 4

example 5

example 6

But, if I really have to concentrate, I prefer silence.

3

I find it impossible to listen to music whilst coding. If I'm listening to music, then I'm listening to music. If I'm coding, then I'm concentrating on that. Wasn't there a study in Peopleware that showed that developers who listen to music whilst programming are as productive as those who program in silence, but produced code that contained more mistakes?

3

I like to listen to trance or electro house while coding, something with no or minimal lyrics. Industrial music works too. Hip Hop or others are distracting. However, i find about 5 minutes after i put my headphones on, it's time for a meeting or someone has a question for me. Also, i like the whitenoise generator listed above. Thanks to the crappy drivers on my laptop, that staticy noice is always on and it's a feature i can't turn off.

3

No music at all. Just a quiet workplace without much distraction or phone calls.

2

The one thing I don't listen to, is anything containing words. Except for certain low-key songs. So no Stackoverflow podcasts for me during work hours because I invariably get latched on to whatever ridiculous thing Joel or Jeff has just trotted out ;) and end up losing focus on the code.

2

I do listen music and podcast, but after a few minutes I just ignore the music, I do not pay attention to it, but I need to hear the noise, if I do not do that I get distracted very easy.

2

I have my iPod shuffling through all my songs when I code. Sometimes it's distracting, but usually a better song is one button-press away.

Music has certainly become more of a necessity now that I'm in an open office with about 5 other people, and another 3 or 4 walking through on a regular basis. Even so, when I was in an office by myself, I still had the music going; I just had it playing through speakers instead of my headphones.

(Incidentally, now that I'm using headphones more often, I definitely second Jeff's post about the necessity of good headphones. The ones I'm using now are a huge step up from the iPod's earbuds.)

2

Music. Something heavy, usually. Power metal, like DragonForce and HammerFall, most of the time.

2

I find the music I tend to prefer (rock, etc) too distracting for coding, so I'll tend to listen to Drum 'n Bass / Ambient techno. My favorite station is probably Bassdrive. Extremely repetitive music, almost to the point of annoyance, but it seems to have a motivational quality that keeps you moving and productive. Maybe not best for situations in which you wish to code slowly and carefully.

2

No music during concentration on things to be done.

But I found out that headphones even without a music really can help - everybody around think that your are listening to something and so you can't hear them... and actually you are distracted twice rarer.

It helps to get things done even if you are lack of private/quiet office space. BTW, simplynoise or birdsong is a kind of ambient noise people can find quite comfortable with..

2

I usually only listen to music while coding if I can do so for some time (a few hours) uninterrupted. I recently started listening to music album-at-a-time, which I now prefer to listening and managing a playlist composed of individual songs.

I listen to a broad spectrum of genre, though I must confess that about half of my music archive seems to be composed of Metal and its derivatives. Metal music helps me concentrate unless I'm doing some heavy thinking. (In which case I prefer to get up and pace around)

That said, I've had some pretty long and constructive coding runs listening to the Warcraft II soundtrack.

2

I'm a big fan of Soma FM's Groove Salad. I suggest you try it out even if you're just chilling with a beer staring at your monitor screen. Soma is a pretty good internet radio broadcaster, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy something they have to offer if Groove Salad isn't for you.

2

Well, I like rock. Paradoxically, it quiets my mind and allows me to concentrate. Things like Third Eye Blind and Coldplay

2

Anything electronic with minimal lyrics and a fast steady beat.

2

I listen to classical music. Studies show it helps students increase their concentration while listening, compared to silence. Plus I like classical music.

EDIT: BTW, my favourite is Toccata and Fugue in D minor... (I like being evil.) >:D

1

If I'm doing something boring I usually listen to DotNetRocks or Hanselminutes. Otherwise I find Trance, Techo & House is good to program too. I like rock/metal but find them distracting while coding.

1

When doing design work or documentation or research or stuff like that, I can't listen to music, but I love music when coding -- anything from Sarah McLachlan to the Beatles to Dream Theater.

I cannot listen to podcasts while coding though. I tried and found that I either (a) missed the entire podcast or (b) sat motionless listening to the podcast and got nothing else done. Luckily I have a long commute so I listen to podcasts then.

1

I have over 5k songs I listen to at work, ranging from Donna the Buffalo to Kraftwerk, Neil Young to Switchblade symphony, Orbital to Eminem, or Digital Underground to Avec laudanum.

1

If I'm having to do a lot of reading (research/help files/etc.) I don't like to listen to anything except instrumental music. If I'm in the mode of just translating my PDL to the language I'm using then I can listen to just about anything and I typically will listen to podcasts. If I'm debugging I don't listen to anything.

1

If I'm listening to anything it's usually ambient music from iTunes radio. The only other way I can listen to music is to play the same song over and over again until the lyrics don't capture my attention anymore. You don't want to be my office mate when that happens :)

1

I like listening to Streaming Soundtracks.

It plays user-requested movie soundtracks, TV themes, and computer game music. Quite geeky.

Oh, and according to the Peopleware book, listening to music whilst programming will reduce your creativity, because it occupies the creative side of your brain... so you are less likely to have aha-genius moments of breakthrough.

1

I'd prefer absolute silence. Music is better than conversation though, but I find lyrics distracting. If I'm working on a difficult problem I reach for Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. If I'm doing general work, I go for either russian trance techno or ambient.

1

I'm quite an unorthodox person in this department. I watch movies/sitcoms on one screen and studio/eclipse/netbeans on the other. Comedies relax me as hell and relaxation is what I need to write code. I usually watch comedies such as: Knocked Up, Mouse Hunt, Zack and Miri make a porno, Tommy boy, Snatch, etc.

1

I'm listening to loud hard rock music. Makes me concentrate in my office while 9 people are talking around me ...

1

Peopleware mentions a study regarding listening to music while coding. According to its conclusions, it doesn't make you less productive in general - it does make you less creative. Of course, by being less creative, you will lose one element in productivity, so you'll be less productive overall, especially if you're working on a new design.

Of course, if you always listen to music there'll be no other scenario to compare you against, and noone will be able to claim that you are "less" productive :)

1

White noise is meant to help concentration. I use a set of noise cancelling headphones, these play white noise so even when not playing music the noise from the rest of the office is blocked out.

1

Jesse Cook - Vertigo (Album)

1

The Requiem for a Dream soundtrack

or

Wu Tang Clan - 36 Chambers :)

1

The album "Live After Death" by Iron Maiden.

1

SPOTIFY is a free application that allows you to stream whatever tunes rock your world

1

Most anything from the electronic genre is listenable. And no, not all electronic music is "techno" -- classifying all electronic as "techno" is about as accurate as lumping together hip-hop, R&B, jazz, and blues under the umbrella term "rap".

Sample songs listed on workstation's playlist, in no particular order:

Awesome.

1

Personally: Spoon, Beta Band, Bonobo, Voodoo Trombone Quartet and Dave Matthews Band. Sometimes I throw some Kaki King on too.

If it's new music, my brain seems to switch into audio-comprehension mode which means that it'll be spending some of its juice memorizing the melody for next time. Once I've internalized the music, that doesn't happen. The flipside is that I seem to be more creative when my brain is making new connections.

So when I'm looking to max productivity, I play stuff from the above list. If I'm trying to max creativity, I play something new that seems like I might enjoy it.

1

I have around 150 movies that I rotate on/off my iPod that I listen to. I get too much "culture shock" when I'm listening to music because I have such varied tastes that if I put it on shuffle, I'll go from Karen Carpenter to Metallica or something. With the movies, my mind always knows what is coming, what to expect, so it's very easy to drown out the noise without shocking myself into submission.

1

I have a subscription to Napster (under $10 / month), and have about 12,000 tracks in my playlists (if it was iTunes @ 99 cents apiece, I would be broke by now). I listen to music via wireless headphones so I don't get hung up by the cord.

0

Squarepusher.

0

I couldn't survive without my iPod.

Typically I listen to podcasts, but I also find my favourite tunes to be a great way to stimulate creativity. When I'm up against a particularly hard problem though, nothing beats something with a fast beat and no lyrics - Infected Mushroom has been a favourite this week.

0

In those particular cases when I really need to concentrate I can generate pink noise under ALSA with this command:

speaker-test

I just let it run in the background for the time needed, which can be hours.

0

The weekly Off the Hook. Indie rock, J-Pop, the occasional youtube lecture.

0

I usually listen to music. I've tried listening to podcasts but I'm unable to follow both the podcast subject as well as my task at hand.

0

Streaming's not allowed at work so I use my xm radio and iPhone as sources. On xm I'm tuned in to POTUS08 as the day starts and the I switch to ethel (alternative rock) when it's time to get productive. I typically switch to Pandora in the afternoon where I have a fairly eclectic mix of Metallica, NIN, Cake, MIA, Ting Tings, Muse, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and some classic rock for good measure.

When I need to really concentrate I adjust the volume.

0

Yes, yes. DJ Krush and Autchre.

0

I love listening to music, generally up-beat 80's music but anything is good including rave! It really helps me concentrate as I have a real problem concentrating when I can hear people talking about stuff in the background.

For the last 6 years or so I have worked at my current employer we (the developers) have always listened to music but with the introduction of a new development manager the music has been banned, the reason being; the manager works in the same room as us and finds it difficult to concentrate.. Needless to say the decision was accepted with open arms. .

0

I'll often listen to Pandora through the AIR Application. Work is pretty locked down, but this one luxury is just enough to make me <3 it. If I get sick of the streams, I'll fire up my iPhone and hit my Recently Added playlist.

Kinds of music I'll listen to:

  • Foreign music
  • House/Techno
  • Pop (yeah, yeah I know)

The one thing I can't/won't listen to while working is the spoken word. I can't juggle a podcast or tutorial video while working. Sure, I'll try it sometimes but only when I'm not actually working. I call those mini-breaks. :)

0

Definitely music. Anything with talking like a podcast splits my concentration and I lose efficiency in my coding and I don't really focus on the podcast enough either.

As for the kind of music, it needs to be high energy. Something that elevates the heartrate/adrenalin levels helps my focus tremendously. Disturbed, The Offspring, Metallica, or even oldschool like AC/DC.

Oddly enough, if it's something repetitive like trance/techno, it has the opposite effect on my focus. It's like my brain gets stuck in teh same loop the music is in.

0

Music with words is too distracting for me when I need to concentrate, but listening to classical or ambient music while I code is really nice.

0

The gentle humming of my own awesomeness.

Also sometimes BBC Radio 4, quiet enough to be background noise, loud enough to let me occasionally recognise interesting bits to give myself a break.

Also sometimes instrumental electronica and jazz.

0

Listening to a stream of my local radiostation in the evenings works best. No adds and live mixes from clubs around the country/world.

Mostly electronic stuff, dave clark at the moment

During the day it's more mainstream pop and rock

After a while all sound becomes background noise when you're really into what you're coding at the moment

0

Hard and Dark Drum and Bass at all times. Anything else and my programing level drops down.

I can't listen to podcasts (like the SO podcast) due to the interesting topics there.

0

If I need to concentrate I listen ambient albums.

Most of the other time I listen post-rock like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Mono

0

Like some people has already said, I'd rather not listen anything to concentrate, but much better some music than listening colleagues chitty chatting or laughing and shouting. Chill out/lounge music does it for me, no lyrics better to keep focused and get things done.

0

A lot of progressive or psychedelic rock...also I just found that metal gets me going wen I'm about to start coding..

0

Let's see how far I can drive down my own answer.

0

Can't believe nobody mentioned SomaFM yet! I usually listen to the Groove Salad channel because most songs do not have lyrics.

0

I generally find music distracting, but I also remember doing quite great coding while looped on Enigma's Principles of Lust and Push the Limits. These are the two songs that are conducive to programming!

0

Instrumentals or Bob Dylan in his early days (you know, his "mmmm ... mmmm ... senor! ... mmmm" days) - not much difference, really.

0

Quiet relaxing music (possibly w/o vocals, but it depends).

0

I have several programming playlists on my iPod, made up of instrumental music. Two reasons for this words can be distracting and sometimes I forget I'm in work and sing along

0

For most of the day it's either silence or instrumental music (classical music or Ghosts I-IV), late afternoon I tend to listen to rock music like Jimi Hendrix etc. I can't stand listening to podcasts, they are very distracting and I just don't have the time to spend on them.

0

me, Guano Apes

0

I find that non-vocal music such as Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tomita - or 'classical' music (orchestral music, non-vocal music) from Bach to Glass - is good. I find that music with words is distracting. To a large extent, it works as a background noise that keeps other distractions out; if things are going well, I'm seldom fully cognizant of what I'm listening to. And an iPod plus Bose Quiet Comfort headphones work wonders in an office maze of cubicles.

0

I almost always listen to music while coding. Typically, it is electronic or ambient genre. I have some playlists on my iPod and in iTunes containing The Orb, OTT, Shpongle and similar things.

0

Pandora, Eyes Set to Kill station. It's the right kind of music that both drowns out outside noise and lets me work.

0

generally, a quiet workplace is ok. But due to my coworkers listening to pop music on the radio, which usually leads to the "damn, I can't get this stupid song out of my head" syndrome which is quite bad for my concentration, I have headphones on most of the time and enjoy some jazz, especially bebop, or classical music.

0

Pandora (mix of random stuff for variety) while generally knocking stuff out / busy work, but I turn it off completely and do silence when I really need to concentrate.

0

Atlas' Battles (mp3 link) can be good....

Also Space Station - SomaFM is effective...

space station soma

0

Within Temptation, Lunatica, Mind.in.a.Box !

0

Video game music, especially from Final Fantasy, is great as background music, since that's what it's created to be :)

0

If I need to think hard about a problem, or ponder some software design, then either silence or Baroque/Minimalist classical.

Once I know my solution, I'll listen to Metal/Hard rock music to actually get it implemented.

0

Faith no More
Prodigi
Vanessa Mae
FortiSaharov (For the Israeli guys)
Carmina Burana
The more louder stuff in Classic Music (Like Halls in the mountain king/ Sanse)
David Bowie
Maddness
Gorillaz Oldfield
Beastie Boys

And various

0

Pink Floyd, especially The Dark Side of The Moon, and random rock music from my library; but if I'm on really hard parts of code I have turn the music off.

0

I'm listening to the Avalon movie soundtrack (a science fiction film by filmmaker Mamoru Oshii), especially when coding in WPF.

0

As your deadline approaches in the wee hours, and you're not sure you can code that next function, try this: Disco Inferno by The Trammps.

"Burn that mother down!" "Just can't stop... when my Sparc gets hot!"

0

RainyMood.com is an awesome alternative if - like me - you can't quite get into white noise. I find it really strange working without it now.

If the problem I'm working on isn't too hard, I'll usually play some electronic music in the background with it.

0

These days I listen to www.trance.fm to get into the zone.

0

Two things work wonders for me: Rainy Jazz & Groove Salad.

Rainy Jazz = RainyMood.com + Light Jazz

Groove Salad = http://somafm.com/play/groovesalad + iTunes

Very chill, relaxing, enjoyable.

0

I'm definitely a big fan of music on Pandora. It tends not to repeat, but you also can't pick specifically what to play on it. I'm personally like the already existing Programmer Radio that's on there; I've made my own Heavy Programming station that features more vocal, moody music, too. GrooveShark has a pretty good library of music you can just play.

0

I listen to Music while programming, I find myself programming better code and I work much faster, after few minutes of playing Music I don't hear it anymore nor do I hear anything else like my mom yelling right behind my back.

So I prefer to listen to Music but only Music that I already know of, like listening to FM Radio which could put a Song that I do not know of could be a distraction and listening to any kind of words like Podcast is totally bad idea.

0

I was a Music Major with Jazz emphasis for a while, and when studying for anything in school I'd have headphones on to jazz standards. They had to be standards, stuff you've heard over and over and without lyrics. Ironically (being a guitar player myself) jazz guitar was easiest to tune out with because of it's flat tonal response it favors in the genre.

It seems there's a formula for something easy to forget about, but enough to drown out, without needing to use the restroom or "getting a headache". Be in Drum n' Bass, instruments, classical unknowns, etc. they all seem to show:

  • Long songs with:
  • Repetitive choruses (solo after solo for jazz, etc.)
  • The simple concept of variation on a theme

These seem to be distracting enough to drown out without actually distracting you. Then again, some people can't stand noise (or silence) at all.

0

Progressive death metal.

0

Live 365

My favorite channel is Trance Euphoria.

0

I really like Chopin, it sounds like he's programming on the piano.

I like Canadian fusion bands like Harmonium, Sloche, don't like Machavishnu Orchestra.

Progressive rock especially Yes (except Trevor Rabin era) and King Crimson. I think that this complex, overloaded music of Yes brings me a lot of inspiration and creativity.

Guitar jazz, I liked Bill Connors "Assembler" album.

I really like to listen Moraz when programming. He wrote tracks like "Machines programmed by gennes" (with Bill Brufford), "Video Games", "Pilot's Games", "Flippers", "Modular Symphony" etc I used to think that I share his point of view on music ;).

I also like some Tangerine Dream albums, Brian Eno and many others