Who here is both a musician and a programmer?

I would also be curious to know which instruments you play, the ages at which you started programming and playing music, your personal experiences, etc. Perhaps we can find a relationship between these two things.

I'll begin: Piano since 10, Computer since 12, I am 21.

Note: Question originally from pheze.myopenid.com.

Related: Jazz Programmer


Read Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

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If you've ever learned to read sheet music, you would recognize it as a programming language. It even has subroutine-like structures in it. The algorithms aren't expressed directly in the language itself but in music theory, i.e. the meta-programming language.

I've played the piano and clarinet in the past. Haven't played either in a long time, though.

15 accepted

49 now. Played guitar since age 8. Programming since age 35. Both share a mathematical base and employ both sides of the brain to various degrees.

Good code "feels right", just like a good piece of music :-)


The discovery and application of Patterns.


Both playing Dream Theater and numerical computing need g00d math skillz. I'm a keyboardist and learning The Dance of Eternity taught me to count in new ways.


I've been programming since I was little, and playing music since I was littler. Currently, I am working on my Masters in Computer Music.

Both disciplines are related to math and both are very creative activities.

EDIT: Miller Puckette's Theory and Technique of Electronic Music <- free computer music text that may interest some


I play keyboard off-and-on, but have had no formal training in it. However, I consider myself to have a musical mind hindered by my digital (meaning finger) skills.

I believe that music and programming are both creative endeavors.

I further believe that programming can open doors to new types of musical creativity. For example, we can now explore music that is created with algorithms, or interactively with the user.

For these reasons, I created JFugue, a Java library that lets you create and play music easily. For example: player.play("C D E F G A B");


This is an interesting question but no volume of answers in this forum will allow anyone to "find a relationship between these two things."

Since the vast majority of the answers will be from people who play an instrument, the only discernible pattern will be that "some programmers are also musicians". I don't need a forum post to tell you that.

More importantly, we fail to identify what percentage of non-programmers are musicians. Programmers may be the least likely profession to also be musicians despite all the up votes you might get in a programming forum.

Lastly, how can we define musicianship? I can pick out a few tunes on the piano, guitar, recorder and such but I wouldn't call myself a musician by any stretch. My wife, on the other hand, has been playing violin since 8 and is on the road most of the year playing concerts with some of the leading baroque orchestras in the country -- she has recently learned how to add up a column of numbers in Excel. This evidence would suggest that the better you are as a musician, the worse you are with computers.

That is all.


Guitar since 10, programming since about the same age (well, print/goto statements on a Spectrum 16k ;-)). I'm 31.
I don't really see a relation between the two though, except that I consider both to be creative endeavors.


I built algorithmic music devices, then learned keyboards and composed MIDI songs, then learned to program. Now I play guitar obsessively. I find the music helps me program, it keeps my brain in balance. I can listen to music with much greater appreciation now that I can compose it. I find myself typing to the rhythm in the song I am listening to. For composing it is about building abstractions. Notes are bytes,riffs are functions etc. With orchestration, timbre,layers, sound editing, chords, solos etc. There is as large a creative toolset to choose from in music as in programming. What I like about playing is the real-time challenge. To be as interesting as possible without making a mistake in a complex context as fast as possible. Very much like an athlete. Only occasionally do I have to conjure a programming fix in real-time (while my customer is watching). I usually defer to stage fright and say "I have to go think about this". So both music and programming are about "flow" just the real-time constraints differ.


I started playing saxophone when I was 8. I started programming when I was 12. I'm 28 now. Today I play saxophone, bassguitar, and a bit keyboard(I love synthesizers). When I'm not programming, I play/write music. I play mostly jazz on sax and rock on bass. My compositions are always electronic and experimental.

I don't think there's a direct relation between music and programming. You can come a far bit by letting a computerprogram compose music, but there's never that feeling a musician can put into his music. I think there opposites of eachother. One is technical and based on libraries and patterns, the other can be totaly free and is not bound to any rule.

Try improvising in visual studio or eclipse...


I'm 34. I've been a programmer since I was 8 (learned Basic on the Apple ][, if that can be considered programming). I have programmed in Basic, Pascal, FORTRAN, C, VBA, Java, Perl, and countless other less significant languages for specific projects.

Counting instruments I've performed on, I've played (roughly in order) piano, clarinet, drums, saxophone, bassoon, oboe, French horn, trombone, tuba, and euphonium. I've also been a professional singer for ten years and have been paid to arrange pop pieces for a minor regional orchestra.

Just like programming languages, the first one is the hardest to learn. Thereafter, a mathematically-minded person can find patterns that enable the second, third, etc. language/instrument to be learned much, much faster. Both have to do with manipulation of symbols, understanding of time and sequence, and potentially infinite levels of sub-division.


Played guitar professionally since I was 12. I'm now 22 and pretty much burnt out on music. It's not the lifestyle I wish to live and after attending a demanding and competitive College of Music it just got the best of me.

For a couple years I was lost in career limbo wondering what I was going to do, when it hit me that computers and technology are also a great passion, and I can't quite get the high out of my head that composing and creating from nothing gives me... therefore I opt to program, because to me, it seems to be the same interaction my right and left brain craves with a new and fresh start.

And personally, although it wasn't "cool" in school; Math absolutely amazes me, and I love how intense it can get with certain types of programs. The more I look into it, and think about it, music and programming seem hand-in-hand in some not-so-weird alternate-universe way.


I used to play piano, back through the ages of 9 - 15. I started learning programming at the age of 13 - 14. Lately I've been meaning to pick the habit of playing piano back up, but at 23 this will necessitate some relearning I'm loathe to go through.


They are both mathematically oriented.


they both uses the left and right brain at the same time to produce beautiful work :)


Guitar at 15, programming at ~16
Still doing both and have expanded my "languages" for both.


I used to play guitar and, to some extent, piano. My musical interest started around the same time as my programming interests, at around the age of six. In fact, my major (after changing majors twice) was in Computer Science, with a Music Minor.

I have lost interest in playing, almost completely, though. However, I still enjoy what I do for a living. No answer as to why I lost interest - it just happened. Thought it was strange, but never really dwelled on it much.

As to why I was interested in both, I can only assume that both are strongly rooted in mathematics, which has been another interest of mine. I have very much enjoyed the jobs that I had that were either in the financial or mortgage industries in the past, because they strongly drew upon that interest.


i am DJ and producer for electronic music since 8 years. i do programming since 13 years :)

i am 27

these are completely different hobbies and professions, so that i combine them wherever i can :)


I took piano lessons since I was 7 until... 16 or so? Pipe organ for a couple years - my piano teacher was the church organist; I'd always been into Bach, so that was really neat to try. That was when I was maybe 12 or 13. I played upright bass in middle school orchestra, and noodled around with an electric on the side. I quit after two years, though; didn't really like the bass parts as they were either boring (Pachabel's Canon) or insane (i.e. how can I play this; the strings vibrate too slowly to change notes this fast) and I got sick of practicing two instruments every day.

I still play piano a bit (I'm 24 now), but just noodling around on my own, I don't take lessons anymore. I have a guitar (cheapo Yamaha folk acoustic), and mess around with it a bit, but I've never taken lessons and haven't really gotten any good at it because I generally just pick it up and play around with blues licks for twenty minutes, then it sits in the corner for a week.

I started getting interested in computers (and doing some simple BASIC programming) around 5th grade, so I'd been playing piano for a few years at that point. I didn't get into doing any serious coding until a C++ class (AP Computer Science) in high-school, though.


I didn't play an instrument much as a child outside of some very basic instruction; however, now as an adult I'm trying to slowly learn to play the piano and as others have noted, you can see how programming and music overlap. I was actually in to computers well before I tried to learn an instrument, in fact I was programming for about four years before I bought my first keyboard but lost interest in that. It wasn't until I was able to afford a digital piano that I became interested in trying to learn to play again.

If you go and do some reading on the subject of music theory I'm sure that most of you would see the similarities between musical notation and programming languages. This could explain why there seem to be a lot of programmers and computer scientists that play some sort of instrumental. So far most of the people I have met have played some sort of instrument to some extent and even Knuth has done some research that blends the line between music and complexity theory.


I started playing music (Cello, Violin) and programming computers (Commodore Vic-20/64) around the same time in middle school. I've been doing both since then. Now (30 years later) I regularly play electric guitar and bass as well as develop software professionally.

I think there is a definate relevance between the two tasks related to the regions of the brain that are used for both skill sets. Additionaly, both are very creative endeavors that have a unique blend of concrete and abstract metaphors.


Outside of the fact that music is in essence mathematics (see Godel Escher Bach post) and that math and programming have a lot in common, there are some types of music and music production that intersect directly with programming.

Take for instance generative music, music created by algorithms; often times it is written using a music specific programming language such as CSound or PD or MAX/MSP.

A lot of electronic music is partially realized using some form of programming.

Then there's virtual instruments and effects; there is some hard core programming behind these.

I picked up programming and music making roughly at the same time. The laptop is my main instrument, although I play everything I can get my hands on (guitars, percussion, asian instruments...)


Drums since 4, programming since 15, I am 42.


I took piano lessons for 4 years, flute lessons for 6 years and 2 years of music theory. My parents both teach music and I've been singing most of my life. I started learning C when I was 16 and got my first job as a professional developer at 19. I'm 28 now.


Played trumpet for a number of years, but gave it up as I found it uninteresting. No real interest in music.


I've played drums in cover/bar bands since I was 16. I've been a programmer since I was 12. I guess you could say recording with a band is similar to programming an application: You write your source code as a programmer / reherse as a band; You de-bug your code / you yell at the bass player who keeps messing up the song until he gets it right; You compile your code / you lay down your tracks; You link your code / you mix your tacks; You (try) to sell your application / You (try) to sell your recorded album.

Yeah I think there is a relationship there :)


Keyboards since 12, programming since 15 and now 48. I currently own 5 (music) keyboards and 3 computers. Not sure if that says anything about my relative abilities but I haven't yet learned to write two apps simultaneously with right & left hands. I do remember that an unusually large proprtion of engineering students played instruments back in my University days.

  • Voice since age 7;
  • Clarinet age 12;
  • Guitar/Bass Guitar age 14
  • Programming at age 18, while majoring in Physics, minor in Math and Voice
  • Age 46? Still singing and writing software.

Music, harmonies, dissonance allow us obsessive/compulsive, detail oriented personalities a creative outlet -- we can make it up as we go along, yet go back and concretely document, analyze and quantify what was done. Music is math - relationships between tones, rythm, volume.

It also keeps me sane. Sort of. ;-)


I wonder if the fact that I can program in so many languages (and therefore expert in none) reflects my lack of ability to stick to one musical instrument. I've tried, since quite young, to do piano, organ, tuba, clarinet, guitar, mouth organ, tin whistle, and now (I'm in my late 40s) the ukulele.


Guitar player for 12 years, composer and developer. Programming is an art like music. Not only it MUST feel right... but also the best solutions hit you out of the blue!


Cello since age 6, Programming (Basic/Batch, we should maybe discuss when you really begin to "program") since age 9, Piano since age 12, more or less "serious" composing (orchestral stuff) since 18,

and I am 23.


Piano at 5, trumpet at 10, programming at 17, voice at 30. I combined the two interests nine years ago to design the MusicXML format for common Western music notation.


Piano since 6ish, trombone and programming since 9ish. Actually, my first "real" app was music theory & aural skills software. I'm positive that writing Obj-C classes for intervals, scales, and such helped solidify my music theory.


Guitar and drums since about 12/13, programming since 10/11. Am 19 now, still doing all of it.


I've been studying music (starting with piano) since I was five, and programming since I was 18 (I'm 22 now). I'm completing a B.S. in Computer Science along with my B.M. in Music Composition right now.

I actually believe that music is not as tightly related to "math" as others claim it is. There are certainly some musical phenomena that can be explained mathematically (intervalic consonance and dissonance is a simple example) but most other aspects are more clearly explained by stylistic traditions.

A good parallel is visual art: one could use proportions to explain what makes something beautiful, but usually there are subjective things at play which are much more important.

Pattern recognition, however, is as important in the study of music as programming. Studying modal counterpoint requires recognizing the patterns that make sounds pleasurable and developing a mental algorithm to recreate the patterns, without necessarily explaining why the patterns work.

Another parallel: I find it much easier to understand numerical patterns when I map numbers to diatonic pitches. My brain then recognizes the "sequencing" that happens in the line and I can "hear" what the next notes in the pattern should be.


Violin since 6, viola since 15, violin again now. Programming since 10. 30 now.

It is great to do something completely different than programming; and you get to know a lot of interesting people, socializing isn't easy for programmers.


Hello! I'm new here, so this is a comfortable first post for me. I've played piano since 5, drums since 12, and bass since 28. Most of my professional work has been in music - performing, composing, teaching. Find myself in many technical areas of music such as theory, production, electronic music, sound synthesis and analog synths.

I've been programming (PHP) for only 6 months (although did a little Visual Basic in college for sound synthesis)

I find the similarities between programming and music plentiful. Particularly the need to be aware of the micro and macro simultaneously, have all the parts fit into the whole, and thinking very right brain and left brain at the same time - thinking linearly AND holistically.

Love them both. I'm 30.


I got a drum set and began lessons at 11 years. My dad had pointed out that I was treating everything in the house as if they were drums, so I had really been playing for atleast 2 years before that ;P

I also began programming 3 months later (give or take a month). My brother had been doing it for ages, but I never knew about it. I had actually never thought about what makes a computer do what it does, until I walked in on him programming, and convinced him to teach me the basics of Python.

I'm a fairly logic-oriented guy, always been good at math. I think that's why both of these subjects appealed to me. Programming utilizes a ton of logic. Music mixes it with a bit of creativity, but is still based on patterns. With drums, I build up a rhythm much like I construct a program.


I play classical guitar since eight (my Youtube channel), and I'm self-teaching some piano now. All very amateur, though I know the basic theory and to read scores.

I like to play very much, as hobby, but I hardly see any relation with my programmer (and scientific) side. I have the typical math-programming skills of a 80-90 percentile electronic engineer (and StackOverflow user), and I have some taste for literature, poetry and philosophy; but I evaluate my musical skills and sensibility at below the average person - almost as low as my social and sporting abilities :-)

It's true that music theory has a strong relation to mathematics, but I don't believe that that relation goes to the essence. And I disliked "Gödel, Escher, Bach", for example.

  • Programming: age 6 (BASIC, and I don't think it ruined me...)
  • Music: age 12 (saxophone, many other instruments since)
  • Age: 32

All my degrees are in music. I have a Bachelor of Music Education (instrumental emphasis, mathematics minor/teaching endorsement), Bachelor of Music (composition), and Master of Fine Arts (saxophone performance, music theory pedagogy minor). I am nearly finished (A.B.D.) with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance. My thesis research is in the area of computational musical analysis.

I make my living for now as a software developer. I have little formal training, though I did take some graduate-level courses in computer science as part of my doctoral program (Algorithms, Compilers, and Databases).

I would say that I find a certain artistic elegance in well-constructed code akin to the elegance I would find in a well-constructed symphony.

There certainly are mathematical constructs that describe music; such is the basis of (some) music theory. My research as well as those of my mentors seeks to find whether certain "traditional" observations in musical analysis can also be reached through mathematical formulae. Programming is used to test hypotheses in this regard.


19 now. Programming since 13.

I've been improvising on the piano and composing on the PC for an year. I love finding patterns in composition and piano playing that let me make stuff that really sounds good (with very little practice). Same with coding :)