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Music to Listen to While Coding

Chris Achard

October 15, 2019

Software Development

Music is a very personal thing, so there's no "one size fits all" for music that will put you in a good mindset to tackle a complicated coding challenge.

Music Guidelines

With that said, here are the guidelines I follow when choosing music for a coding session:

1. Limited Vocals

If there is a vocal track in music, my brain tends to focus on the words being sung - so when I want to get deep into a coding problem, I'll select music that doesn't have any vocals.

That way, I can focus on the work, and not on the music - the music will just fade into the background.

2. Familiar Music

For the same reason, I tend to select the same music (or type of music).

If I'm listening to music that's new to me, then I will focus on the music instead of the coding - so by selecting music I've heard many times before, my brain can separate the music from the coding.

3. Good Beat and Pace

If music is too slow or ethereal, then it signals my brain to move more slowly.

If music is too fast or intense, then I feel rushed or stressed.

Neither condition is good for deep work! Instead, I focus on finding music that has a consistent (but not intense) forward motion - pushing me to keep working.

Specific Music Choices

So: what types of music fit those criteria?

1. Movie Soundtracks

I love movie soundtracks of "big", epic movies - they are often orchestral (so limited vocals), and build in a really unique and positive way.

Soundtracks will also be a few hours long, so there's plenty of consistent music for a nice long coding session.

Suggestions

Interstellar Soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY8nqIfsQkU

Lord of the Rings Soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SBQvd6vY9s

2. Video Game Soundtracks

Keeping in the soundtrack theme is an often overlooked genre: video games!

Video game soundtracks are great because you know they were specifically designed to keep players "in the game" - so they're repetitive, and focused on a mission; that makes them great for coding!

I recommend picking video games that you're familiar with, but here are a few that I listen to:

Suggestions

Final Fantasy Soundtrack(s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Iweue-OcMo

Outpost 2 Soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ilJcs7JL4M&list=PL0G3yY9NMFWcCdapK2ub5-XVgftyDVE3g

3. Electronic Study Music

Not all EDM is good for coding, but there's a specific sub-genre of electronic music that is specifically designed for keeping you "in the zone".

It often goes by the name "study music", (so you'd expect it to be good for studying!) and I really like it for coding as well.

Suggestions

Electronic Music for Studying: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=study+edm

4. Orchestral Music

If you're a fan of classical music, then there are endless options to choose from here.

I like to listen to entire concerts, because there are usually a variety of songs played (different tempos, etc), which can be a nice way to break up the day.

Suggestions

Beethoven 9 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOjHhS5MtvA

5. Lounge / Elevator Music

This is music designed to be played in the background!

There are endless hours of lounge music available, and they all create a nice backdrop for getting real work done.

Suggestions

Relaxing Jazz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOjHhS5MtvA

Ambient Chillout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-tEQzU3fwY

6. Coffee Shop Background

Sometimes, you just want to feel like you're not in an office :) That's where coffee shop background noise can help!

There are hours and hours of coffee shop background tracks online, and it can be a nice way to feel surrounded without any people actually being around.

Suggestions

Coffee Shop Sounds: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=coffee+shop+sounds

Why Listen to Music

I don't always listen to music, but when I do, I want it to get me in the zone - and not to distract from the work I'm doing.

Remember: there are no rules here! Whatever works for you, works for you; but hopefully this post has given you some new ideas about what to listen to the next time you need some background music.

Happy listening!

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