Nathan’s blog about software development, design and the people behind it.

Programming Musical Tastes. What do you listen to while you Code?

Written on May 3rd, 2009

cat-retroMost of the people reading this blog will probably agree that programming is one of the most mentally engrossing tasks out there. I believe this certainly has an effect on the variety of music listened to by people who write code.

Michal Marcinkowski, the creator of the infamous popular online action shooter called Soldat, is a huge fan of programming to heavy metal music. Michal listens to metal bands such as Manowar, Amon Amarth and Moonspell. He compares listening to metal as absorbing pure energy, using that energy in his programming efforts.

On the other hand, Dan “Data” Tabar, the main guy behind Data Realms, tends to listen to softer music such as chiptunes (including demo scene music) and retro video game music while programming his game, Cortex Command.

Personally, and surprisingly enough, I am partial to silence when programming. I’ve done some of my best programming and deepest thinking with a pair of earplugs. Although I do admit, some music is great to keep the thought process flowing; and in this case, my musical choice varies depending on what I’m working on. If the ideas I am translating into code are fairly complex, I will listen to something non-lyrical. This includes classical music such as Beethoven or Mozart, electronica, or similar to Dan, even tunes from retro video games.

Here are some sites that stream music I enjoy programming to: – Old school game and demo scene music. – Electronica, classical and much more. – Low tech music for high tech people! – Demo scene music. – Good for everything else you can think of.

What do you listen to while you code? Feel free to share your musical recommendations and add your thoughts below!

Posted in Game Development, Programming

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18 Responses to “Programming Musical Tastes. What do you listen to while you Code?”

  1. Josh Says:

    Nightwish or Within Temptation provides a certain amount of epicness with every keystroke, or if you don’t want to be bothered by track switching, the online radio at, Tiesto Club Life podcast or the House Nation UK podcast!

  2. Dryw Says:

    Nightwish and orchestral music in general does impart an epic feeling while programming – - I usually listen to it while I’m doing mundane programming. However, like Nathaniel, when I’m working on a complex problem I actually fare much better with no music at all. Then again, I am easily distracted :) .

    The other neat thing to think about is how the programmers musical tastes are reflected in their work. I know that Soldat is a much “heavier” and darker kind of game than Cortex Command.

    Maybe there is no correlation, but it’s interesting to think about. I know that I listen to different types of music to get into different mindsets. Anyone else here do that?

  3. Data Says:

    I’m listening to’s premium streams right now :)

  4. Data Says:

    Another recommendation:

  5. Tori Says:

    I’m with you on the silence. Silence is by far the best music out there. Unfortunately it’s also quite hard to achieve (I live next to a soccer stadium full of humanity’s lost children (or idiots, in other words) taunting each other.). Sometimes even earplugs fail to provide it. So I shield myself off with headphones full of full-spectrum music. It has to have this shielding effect (have near-constant sound on frequencies which I want to suppress) and it has to be nice. used to do that for me, but over time I’ve found better. Neo-classical dynamic music (so-called “cinematic” music, “soundtrack” music) and NDH music (esp. Unheilig) does it for me.

  6. Cygon Says:

    Hey, count in another one for Nightwish. That and Rhapsody [of Fire], Thy Majestie get me going all the time. But for the most time, I prefer something a bit heavier and faster, like Norther, Dark Tranquillity, Ensiferum, Catemenia or Kalmah.

    So it’s mainly Melodic Death Metal, sometimes Power Metal and other Metal variants for me.

    There’s always some good stuff going on at SnakeNet Metal Radio, so that’s what I listen to if I can’t decide on anything from my personal collection.

    (This is more or less a rehash of my reply to your post on :p)

  7. ICY Says:

    I find the best music for myself to listen to while programming is psy trance and progressive trance without vocals. A constant beat helps me beat boredom but doesn’t distract me while I am solving a problem.

  8. Brent Says:

    We need more posts like this!

  9. Seth Gholson Says:

    I’ve recently developed an affinity for Trance music while coding. I decided to see if anyone else thought it was a good match and found this post.

    Thanks for the links. My officemate and I got a kick out of (while simultaneously seizing from looking at it).

  10. Jonathan Says:

    I listen to everything from Godflesh to Throbbing Gristle to Death in June. I guess I’d say electronic, metal, industrial, and noise(Merzbow is great). Depends on what mood I’m in. I use to listen to only classical but now I never listen to it anymore. Late night jobs require more ambient stuff like DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin, and Boards of Canada tho ;-) .

  11. toby Says:

    The Prodigy fits in perfectly with coding! Particulary the album “music for the jilted generation” – just fantastic!

  12. Nameless Says:

    Try listening to Cafe Del Mar tracks while coding. Astonishingly perfect.

  13. andhar Says:

    My music style depends on how I am programming. Is it a more complex thing I like to hear classical music or no music at all. While programming something where I exactly know what to do I need some kind of music pushing me forwards like trance/psytrance/goa.

  14. Leslie Michele Says:

    I agree with andhar. If it`s something highly complex that I have to concentrate on, I prefer lounge music or no music at all. If I code from imagination or automatically, I`ll go with something harder.

  15. Carl Says:

    I used to listen to rap or whatever I’d happen to find. I found that first radio you listed, Kohina, very interesting, though. I prefer it to extended periods of silence – or extended periods of repeated rap (if you only have 9-10 albums, no matter the genre, you’ll hate it soon enough).
    Thanks. You made my PHP and java coding less boring!

  16. Vanessa Says:

    i’ll listen to your links and hit you back, i usually listen to beats and stuff with no lyrics so i won’t get distracted, not very rhythmic because i don’t want to get agitated but rather something calm and nice

  17. Greg Says:

    Tangerine Dream.

  18. Josh Says:

    I usually listen to the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack or something similarly epic and classical.

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