Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

what kind of music do you listen when coding

me, britpop lover - britpop stuff mostly, and/or us bands who writes good pop songs.
prefer not to use headphone.

what about u guys?

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Pink Floyd.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I can't listen to music with English words, it breaks my concentration.  A guy I work with got me into electronica.  I like it for when I'm coding or reading.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I used to work somewhere where we listened to a lot of drum'n bass - and every day around 5pm we'd religiously bring out a dodgy happy hardcore tape of a London pirate radio show from Xmas 1994. It was (is!) great, but it was more of an unwinding tool than a productivity tool.

If I'm wearing headphones that changes the kind of stuff I listen to (up until now I've been lucky enough to not have to wear ear goggles). Music with too much percussion (particularly hihats and cymbols) really puts me off when it's right there in my ears.

So, in my current pile I've got stuff like Mazzy Star, Chet Baker and the Twin Peaks and Wild At Heart soundtracks. I tend to focus when it's dark and gloomy outside, so dark and gloomy music helps me focus (I always wonder if this is why Microsoft is based in rainy Seattle and not sunny California).

Re: britpop - I can't listen to the Stone Roses because I can't help singing along (and doing a kinda of seated Madchester baggy shuffle), but I've been listening to the last Charlatans album (Wonderland) and it's a good afternoon pickup.

Walter Rumsby
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

For me, it generally has to be something without words. I find the trance playlist excellent (and long-lasting), or my Tangerine Dream CDs which I ripped to MP3 long ago.

If I'm using headphones, they have to be the sealed type, like the Sony MDR-V600 model... I love the sound of those in particular, and after a few minutes, a good sweat seal forms and I can't hear the junk around me. I made a new friend at an old job because I noticed he was shutting me out with the same headphones model I was using to shut him out. I went so far as to buy an extra pair of them (at $100 a pop) just in case Sony ever stopped making them.

Troy King
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

At home I listen to film soundtracks and classic while coding, mostly, or sometimes rock or folk music. Sometimes I turn the radio on, even though I do not really listen to it. It is just the silence that botheres me when no music is playing at all. I live on my own and silence drives me crazy.

We are not allowed to listen to music at work, not even with headphones, before 5 p.m. At the beginning this bothered me a lot because I was really used to work with the music on. By now I am not missing it any longer. It is never silent in the office anyway.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I listen mostly to instrumental/ambient stuff - Some of my faves being Cusco, and the Solitudes series.

As for music with vocals - if it's in a language I can understand, it tends to ruins my concentration. So far, I've found only 3 exceptions: Enya, Loreena Mckennit, and Blackmoore's Night.

At the office, I always always with headphones, and I need it. It's an open space, and I need something to keep me away from the noise.

Paulo Caetano
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Depends on what I'm doing. If I'm experimenting I'll listen to country and 60's rock. When I'm designing code or architecture I don't like vocals so I'll listen to classical. If I'm going to be spending a few hours pounding out code then it's hard rock, simpler the better (the Kiss Alive & Alive II CDs work well for me!).

Mark Williams
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The soundtrack to "Run Lola Run".  It's like audio caffeine.

Chase it down with a sugar donut and a Mountain Dew.

Woodrow Stool
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Hum, I can see none of the posters in this thread have read Peopleware??

There is a interesting chapter in Peopleware that talks about music, and its effect on programming.

Most of us of course have heard about the right brain and left brain stuff. Basically most of use can have music in the background and easy read, study, or even do math problems. The music stuff uses the other part of the brain that most of us don’t need to use when working on code.

In Peopleware some studies where done in this area. A bunch of developers were given a fairly complex code problem to solve. The results were that NO DIFFERANCE occurred in the time taken to solve the complex problem. (ie: both groups, one with music, the other with none were the same).

However, there was a absolute mind boggling discovery in this study. It turned out that the complex re-factoring problem given to the developers actually returned the *same* output values as the input set. This is not such a big deal. However, the VAST MAJORITY of the developers that realized this came from the group with NO music.

Thus, that creative part of the brain, that part that goes “ah hah!!” is needed for those real breakthrough type discoveries. Or what we call innovation.

Thus, while your brain can do math while the creative part listens to music...those way cool discoveries and ideas may not come forth if you listing to music while you code.

Perhaps the Peopleware book should have studied this further, and broke this up into design vs coding. I suspect that the design stuff would be hurt even more with music as that takes a larger dose of creative thinking then does coding. If you have the design already, then the coding is usually the easy part anyway.

Of course this rule will not apply to everyone. Perhaps some people might even do better work with music. However, as the people ware study shows...that group without music was able to find a golden observation in the code much better then those listing to music.

Peopleware is a cool book, and many questions about music and noise are dealt with in the book.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I write professionally, and I notice that I can't write as clearly, concisely, and quickly with any type of music in the ears.

Right now it's Air Supply. :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I'm a bit amused to find many people here who prefer music without lyrics.  I'm exactly the same way.  Classical, soundtrack, and some ripped from games I've bought (Star Control 2, Diablo 2, Riven, etc.).

Dr. Kallal brings up an interesting point, too.  I will often keep the music on while I'm doing something relatively dull, like answering email or the grunt-work part of coding (the algorithm to implement is known, and merely needs to be keyed in).  When I come up on a problem that needs deeper thought, like a design problem or a tough bug fix, I'll turn the music off for a while.

Paul Brinkley
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I did read Peopleware. And I am aware of that experience, and its conclusions.

However, my options are: a) music or b) open-space noise.

I'll take a) anytime.

Paulo Caetano
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

1. I listen to everything from Pink Floyd to Paul Oakenfold to Bob Marley. I find that most of my good coding sessions come listening to classical or  electronica. I know that listening to music might distract me but I don't care. I love music and I'd rather be distracted and happy.

2. Why do people treat books like Peopleware, Death March, and The Mythical Man Month as if they are chapters in the Bible of development? I've read them and I don't take them as words set in stone. Don't listen to music! bah. bah i say.

Ian Stallings
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Albert, I want to second what Paulo said -- it's music or racket, and the real choice is which is least disrupting.

Troy King
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I read Peopleware and agree with its music example. For short time complex tasks (such as exams or complex problem solving), requiring high concentration levels, music will generally reduce the quality of the output.

However, IMHO this does in no way imply that music is always bad in a working environment. Work is not a infinite sequence of highly demanding tasks.

It depends on the person, but for many music is good for the long term health. You could see it as a mental relaxation massage which even helps preparing for high intensity periods.

My personal experience is that if tasks get very complex, I too switch off the music. Also the type of music is important. I can only work well with music that I have heard 1000 times already. The type you sing along with, without noticing that you are signing along (don't worry, I'm working in my own room, so I don't ruin anyone's else's concentration).

It's my feeling that being very well known with music will burden the creative part of the brain less. This could also be an explanation why many prefer music without lyrics. As soon as you start listening to the lyrics you start using the creative brain part.

But to answer the question: I like Tom Petty, Dire Straits (the old albums), Stephane Grapelli, Cuban stuff (Ruben Gonzales, Omara Portuondo), Manu Chao, Lenny Kravitz, Sade. So a bit of everything I guess.

Jan Derk
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Silence or Classical (prefer romantic chamber) or Jazz (not  "smooth Jazz", yech!).  I also find that playing music on my digital piano is better for the thinking process than listening.

Dan Sickles
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

For most of my tasks I prefer quiet to any background music.  Like other posters, I may turn on background sounds for routine non-thinking tasks.

A nit: the study on effects of noise mentioned by Albert D. Kallal was done at Cornell University and refered to in Peopleware.  DeMarco and Lister did not do the study themselves.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The only true american artform: JAZZ
Brazilian Bossa Nova, Jazz or Samba if it's sunny and bright. :)

Beka Pantone
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Gregorian Chant
other medieval
"neo-medieval" (Arvo Part, recent Kronos Quartet albums)
"ambient" electronic such as Vangelis

or, if I'm doing a lot of "word-processing" (i.e., coding), I'll splurge on something boisterous - Beethoven, Chopin, whatever

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

astral projection! basicly its a trance group without words.

Vincent Marquez
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I listen to classical, classic rock, or acoustic rock.  Electronic dance music is good now and then.

For what it's worth, I can't recommend XM Radio highly enough.  Whether it's by design or accident, the channels I listen to most have no commercials.  It's playing in the office most of the day.

Hardware Guy
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, or some other blues artists always help get the mojo going.

As for working without music, I find that the trade-off is being disturbed by all of the other noise around me.  The music is pretty much a filter and it helps me concentrate.  Working in a 'silent' workplace would probably drive me mad.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

When debugging, there is nothing like "Counting Crows" to maintain tempo and anger.  There is only one mood when finding bugs: anger.

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Nat, try any songs from Red House Painters, like Mistress, Grace Cathedral Park, New Jersey, etc. Cool stuff, Mark Kozelek's is a damn good singer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

When doing coding: ambient, not too loud.

When doing design: silence, unless there is noise, in which case, ambient very low just loud enough to mask the noise. Any sound can be distracting.

When doing drudge work that requires a careful eye like painting: moderately loud radio pop junk

When doing testing or graphic design: old-time, not too loud

When driving in a car: moderately loud rap & hip-hop.

Classical, baroque and new music are too intellectually demanding to listen to while doing anything else. These I listen to lying down with my eyes closed or staring at the ceiling.

I agree that playing an instrument is a good way, perhaps the best, to do design and substantially better than listening to other people's stuff. Also taking a walk is an extremely good way to do great design. Another way is sitting out somewhere in total isolation with no one else around. My backyard is about 1/2 mile long so I go out there  when I get stuck on a problem. Sometimes sit on the ground surrounded by the goats & find that to be helpful as well. The chickens are not helpful at solving design problems because they are too entertaining.

Helpful to take a notebook or large index cards when leaving the cave.

X. J. Scott
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Atari, I will take a look into some of your titles when I get back.  Thanks for the suggestions.

Nat Ersoz
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I lean toward the "Peopleware argument" of musical consumption, but I am the type of person who gets into classical music, and when I hear it I have to stop all else and enjoy, so it isn't a good background sound for me.  Same with electronica, another favorite. 

I think headphones are a way to get people to leave you alone as much as to help you drown out the cacaphony of the office - I prefer "nature" sounds like ocean waves breaking, thunder, birds chirping, stuff like that.  It doesn't engage my right brain at all, makes me feel peaceful, and is loud enough to drown out all but the loudest distractions.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Pretty much anything (classical, techno, rock, metal) without lyrics.  IME, lyrics simply distract me from what I'm thinking about, as I'm not the worlds best multitasker.  In fact, I'm fairly sure my brain still uses the Win 3.1 kernel for that :-)

Duncan Bayne
Wednesday, August 7, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home