What's playing in your headphones while you code?

ben profile image Ben Halpern Updated on ・1 min read


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A mix of ambient, electronic and jazz. Disparition, explosions in the sky, Adam Young, Miles Davis and Antonio Carlos Jobim.


Mostly instrumentals because the lyrics can sometimes distract me and lead to a solo performance that no one needs or wants to hear.

Here are some of those:

  • Black Metal
  • Trash Metal
  • Folk Metal
  • Power Metal
  • Heavy Metal
  • Nu Metal
  • Symphonic Metal
  • Death Metal

There is another kind of music?


Prog Metal. Otherwise you are missing Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, Leprous, Haken. And what kind of life is that?


Almost anything from Beatles to Taylor Swift to Daft Punk to Rachmaninoff when writing boilerplate code or simple stuff, but I need total silence when writing complex algorithms or debugging, so I always carry a couple of rubber ear plugs from hardware stores.


Right now Lost on You by LP. What I listen to varies with my mood and what I am working on.


Usually heavy and high-energy. Usually metal. I put together some of my favorites albums and removed anything that wasn't high-tempo: open.spotify.com/user/mikengarrett...

If you're looking for somethign new, here's the best metal releases from 2016: open.spotify.com/user/mikengarrett...


Oh yes, metal, dubstep or anything high energy. An absolute must!


Exactly the same here. It works so well.


Agreed.... metal of all kinds, though I tend to shy away from doom/black/death...


Same here, preferably with harsh, mostly indecipherable vocals. Prevents me from getting distracted by the lyrics.


The entire soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is great. A day of writing code can sometimes feel like a bare-footed journey from the comfort of the Shire to an ork-surrounded volcano via the lair of a giant man-eating spider, so it's really quite thematically appropriate: youtu.be/_SBQvd6vY9s


Yes! Bit too dark sometimes but works great anytime after lunch


I usually forget to put headphones on. Once I start coding time flies and I forget about music. When I do remember, I find music without too much lyrics does the trick. Mogwai is a good band to listen to.


You must not work in an open office!


I'm usually creeping my spotify discover playlist for Liquid / DnB tracks, and chill EDM. Nice, ethereal background.


Very similar. Chilled dubstep, a lot of instrumental hip-hop (anything by Blue Sky Black Death!) ambient tracks. I try to stay away from action movie soundtracks because the turns of pace make me anxious.


So you're usually looking for new tracks, or do you listen to the same ones a lot?


It's about a 50/50 split. When I really need to focus, I use songs I know I like from my saved (most of which came from discover). When I can focus a little less, I casually look for new ones.

That's pretty much what I'll do.

  • Fastfall Dustforce OST
  • Tron/Tron Remix
  • Chipzel/FantomenK/EnV (electronic, not rap)
  • Dunderpatrullen/Rymdkraft/Bossfight
  • Lindsey Stirling
  • Moby (esp Play)
  • Fatboy Slim
  • The Glitch Mob
  • 65daysofstatic
  • Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy
  • Muse
  • David Guetta - Nothing But The Beat disc 2
  • Ludovico Einaudi - Divenire
  • Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (as embarrassing as that is)
  • Papa Roach/Disturbed/Evanescence ...probably more

Love the range there. Add the Atmospheric Black Metal playlist from Spotify and Netsky dnb stuff. Mood dependant always.


Ludovico Einaudi! I love Divenire, especially when I'm frustrated by something. I haven't tried Lindsey Stirling while working, but I'll have to now!


I recently got into the sound track from The Social Network movie and I find it to be the perfect mix of tempo for me. I definitely recommend it. Great sound track in and of itself, but also reminiscent of a movie all about building a pretty damn popular website.


Great album, as almost any OST by Trent Reznor. I also enjoy listening to Lost Girl and Before the flood ones.


Likewise. Great choice for coding.


Such a great soundtrack, I can never skip it when it comes on!


The Skyrim soundtrack (or any Elder Scrolls ones) as well as electronic or ambient music usually.


This! Spotify has a good collection.

Anything by Jeremy Soule is good.

  • Blizzard game Soundtracks
  • Hans Zimmer
  • Aphex Twin
  • 65daysofstatic
  • Celldweller

Seriously, within seconds into listening to the focus mode, I get thrice the concentration level. In about 30 minutes I'm almost in a trance. I recommend taking breaks from time to time, though; if I listen to it for too long I feel weird and disconnected from the reality.


According to last.fm, I mostly listen to Ambient, Electronic & Jazz. Artists like:

  • Nils Frahm
  • Ólafur Arnalds
  • Gustavo Santaolalla
  • Floating Points
  • Rival Consoles
  • Boards of Canada
  • GoGo Peguin
  • Bonobo

and many others.

I used brain.fm previously, and while it works it can get tiring after a few weeks of listening to the same drone sounds. Too me what most helps me get into flow is calm, smooth, deep background music.


Depend on the mood but here's my overall genres

  • Psychedelic Rock
  • New Age
  • 80's, 70's, 60's and 50's in general
  • Metal
  • Classic Music

== Geek Stuff Incoming ==

  • Movies OST
  • Video games OST
  • Anime OST

Am I the only one listening to Interstellar OST? It's pure bliss, it takes us to whole new dimension.


I mostly find any music with lyrics, etc. is sometimes too distracting.

So ambient / electronic is always nice.

Also, I've always found SomaFM Defcon music - is always good.


I like SomaFM. I made a simple page for me to listen Groove Salad :)



Metal, 90's rock (nirvana, pearl jam, alice in chains, etc), tons of hip hop (E40, Too $hort, Snoop, Dre, Biggie, etc), Alt rock/Indie (Coheed and cambria, Spoon, Arcade fire, The Shins, etc), and finally sometimes I will put on various forms of electronic music, but I tend not to pay too much attention to who the artist is.


Sharing my personally curated EDM/Electronic music playlist here (has almost 600 songs and growing. I also update it almost every day). I listen to it everyday and it works well for me!



Electronic. Dubstep, Trance, Techno, whatever. Lots of Lindsey Stirling, actually.


Noise Cancelling headphones without the music (QC35, previously QC15). I've tried many things like brain.fm, focus zen, simply noise, focusmusic.fm - all of them became boring after 2-3 weeks.

I also have a 'debugging' playlist on spotify - when I need less concentration. 'Fast' music without vocals - liquid Drum 'n' Bass, Daft Punk's TRON: Legacy OST. Sometimes i switch to classical music when I'm working on something frustrating - Tchaikovsky symphony 5, Vivaldi Four Seasons, Camille Saint-Saens or Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet.

I like to thing of myself as die hard death metal fan, but I can't code with this music.


It totally depends on the situation. When i am in a greenfield project i like to hear some electronic tunes. I like things without lyrics like Jean-Michel Jarre or Rival Consoles. Or on other occasions i really enjoy David Hicken (piano artist which if you did not know him you should definitely check it out ).

If i'll have to bugfix something in a legacy code base (it happens from time to time) i sometimes need some energetic or aggressive tunes. E.g. Carpenter Brut or The Algorithm are quite good for this kind of work. Even though sometimes i hear music with lyrics i find it most of the time distracting while coding.


case 1:
Atmospheric/ Epic/ Ambient Metal
case 2:
Post Grunge/ Stoner Rock
case 3:
Old School Rap/Hiphop/RnB/Pop/Electro
case 4:
The Weekend haha
Shuffle all

  • Ludovico Einaudi
  • Mattia Cupelli
  • Ramin Djawadi
  • Zack Hemsey
  • John Powell
  • Byetheway-May
  • Iván Torrent
  • Tartalo Music
  • Kai Engel
  • Kevin MacLeod
  • Harry Gregson-Williams

Yes, I like obscure instrumental artists. Any more anyone can recommend?


You don't have Max Richter or Yann Tiersen on this list? I'm surprised. Also: Johann Johannsson, Nathan Barr and the Sunshine OST (John Murphy!)


Oh hey look, my playlists just grew by a couple hundred songs! Thanks a ton!

I actually do have some stuff from John Murphy. I just didn't stick it on the list because the number of songs was so low compared to those other ones.


Working in an open office means headsets with noise cancellation is a must. I used to listen to well-known Rock / metal music. I've found more that the more variation there is, the easier it is to et distracted.

After discovering mindfulness I've started enjoying silence, and that's the music of my choice these days: silence (noise cancellation almost works for that)

I've found the TRON / Social Network soundtracks to be quite enjoyable when not doing brain-taxing work.


Depends on the day, but I really like those lo-fi hip hop streams on Youtube. You know, the ones with the looped old anime backgrounds? youtube.com/watch?v=h8W73zB4VMM

I also enjoy liquid dubstep/chillstep. Anything that's relatively low tempo and mostly instrumental, really.

I tried listening to the music I usually like while working (mostly rock), but felt I was concentrating on the music instead of my work.


It can be anything really, mostly pop and hip hop; sometimes k-pop, or classic rock or big band. What I tend to do is play the same songs over and over and over again.

Anytime my music starts up after being stopped, I start at the beginning of one giant Spotify playlist I've been adding to over the years. I know how many times I've been interrupted by how often I've heard the first song today, or how deep into the playlist I got.


Zachtronics' games soundtracks, e.g. SHENZHEN I/O OST: zachtronics.bandcamp.com/album/she...

Some Ben Prunty, e.g. Cipher: benprunty.bandcamp.com/album/ciphe...

In general, preference for electronica.

    music = randomPickOne([
    "keygens music compilation", 
    "Epic music", // (Hans Zimmer)
    "Game OST remix/compilation", //(mirror edge is awesome)
    "Electro house/chill"

I am a big fan of LukHash. He's a Polish artist who produces chiptune, fused with electro and dubstep. Everything from his tunes to the album and track names put your brain into coding mode.

Have a look at his site: lukhash.com

You can download his discography at jamendo.com/artist/353807/lukhash


Any time need to get work done, I have a couple small playlists I set on shuffle & swap every 30 - 60 minutes. A mix over lively Irish jig & some-what funky smooth (metro?) Jazz. It's a strange combo but they blend surprisingly over long periods of time on repeat.



For focussed work I prefer Indie-Game-Sountracks (e.g. C418, Austin Wintory, Disasterpiece), mostly easy and silent stuff.
For easier stuff like styling, markup and handling tickets I listen to podcasts or audio-books.


Lots of electronic stuff. EDM, trance, drum'n'bass, dubstep. But also some trip hop, soundtracks, sometimes a bit of metal, even some Americana made in Hamburg!: open.spotify.com/album/6OvZVQQZyW6...

Current favourite: open.spotify.com/track/6hYyiunELXz...

Mixed fav playlist


Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Itamar Assumpção.


I like to code with rock (heavy metal, power metal, progressive, rock and roll, Psychedelic) but sometimes when the coding session is intense I switch to electronic. I think the difference relies on the tasks and my mood. I'm big fan of Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk; and of course good music comes with a nice pair of headphones. I recommend Bose QC25 or QC35


Mostly hans zimmer instrumental. also Braid Soundtrek (Downstream my fav.)
Mainly instrumental only as I don't want to lose my concentration repeating the lyrics.
Different Guitars cover do as well :)


I usually search for some keywords like dubstep, glitch, gaming, epic music (yes, you already guess it: I'm not a metal guy). I really like how the violin sounds, so right now I'm listening to Lindsey Stirling


Most of the time nothing. You know, you have the headphones on but you forget that for some reason or another you forgot to turn the music on.

A while back I read a post where Oliver Emberton shared his music list on spotify and so I have been using that. The main attraction is they most are instrumentals so they do not distract me


Trance, primarily from DI.fm. I'm a big fan of their Vocal Trance and Epic Trance channels. I'm usually either streaming one of those two channels, or listening to songs I first heard on those channels and added to my collection.


Gazelle Twin, Disasterpeace, Andy Stott, Headless Horseman, soundtracks that fall into the "weird electronica/ambient" category (e.g. Arrival, Mr. Robot, Stranger Things, We Know the Devil)—I figured out a while back that I do best working to music that's like... slightly jarring white noise that's minimally distracting but not too soothing.

Either that or really bright upbeat K-pop. I don't really have an in-between, ha ha.


Dragonforce, Helion Prime, Halestorm, Rise Against, if I want something hard-hitting with guitar and drums.

Danny Baranovsky, MDK if I feel a need for an electronic beat.

Or soundtracks from any number of movies and games (seriously, check out the Horizon Zero Dawn OST, it's gorgeous).

Occasionally some Simple Plan, a bit of J-pop, Tokelauan band Te Vaka comes up, and a weird, eclectic mixture of things.


For some reason, if I really need to concentrate and get stuff done, Pink Floyd's "Animals" album is my go-to. I suspect it's some combination of the fact that I like it, but also that it has a bit of a trance-like nature to it that does not pull my attention away from what I'm working on.


while coding or writing i find that i can't listen to people saying words; that includes podcasts or new music. but i can listen to music that i've known for a long time -- i can even sing along with stuff i know by heart, while i type new writing or code.