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P. Schreiber 🧙🏻‍♂️🔮🐐
P. Schreiber 🧙🏻‍♂️🔮🐐

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12 great music records for programers

Our senses can really influence our mood, actions, and ideas. Great art is inspirational, and it is a wholesome companion to our day to day work.

Many programmers I know are music geeks, or at least have some interest in music. So, I want to give my recommendations for 12 music albums that I think are great to listen while programming. I have put these albums in three categories:

  • Inspirational: for when we want to discover, explore and come up with great ideas
  • Energetic: for when we need a boost of energy to power through the work
  • Chill: for when we just want to enjoy our happy lives

Searching for inspiration

These are albuns for when we know what we need to do, but still need to discover how to do it. We want inspiration, and this is exactly what they provide.

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"Stone Flower", Antônio Carlos Jobim

Widely recognized as the greatest composer of Brazilian music, every album of Antônio Carlos Jobim's discography is worth the listen, as an exploration of the wide range of his musical creativity and influence in the most varied genres: samba, bossa nova, jazz, classical music, and more.

"Stone Flower", released in 1970, features some of Jobim's classic songs in orchestral arrangements that elevate even higher the already esteemed sounds of bossa nova and jazz. It is a mostly instrumental, elegant, and joyful record.

Highlights: Sabiá, Brazil

"Peer Gynt", Edvard Grieg

It is a little scary to talk about classical music, as its aura produces such awe and the fear of blasphemy. But let me try, if only to inspire readers to try this great record.

"Peer Gynt" was composed around 1870's by Edvard Grieg as a musical accompaniment (a soundtrack, so to speak) to the play by Henrik Ibsen, and later worked into a standalone musical suite. The music has a distinct dramatic and narrative sound, and the listener can really feel immersed in the different settings of the story that is being told: a story of dangerous adventures in distant lands.

Each track in the suite paints a distinct picture, and it is very album-like in this sense. Some give the vibe of the idyllic Norwegian countryside village, while others present the otherworldly setting of fairy tales, magical woods and eerie dungeons.

While this is not my favourite work by Grieg (that would be the magnificent Piano Concerto in A Minor), it is a truly pleasant and fun listen.

Highlights: Morning Mood, In The Hall of the Mountain King

"The Inner Mounting Flame", The Mahavishnu Orchestra

The 1971 debut record of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra is a turning point in modern music, stretching the limits of the avant-garde music explorations initiated by Miles Davis' jazz fusion classic Bitches Brew. The band applies unparalleled technical prowess to the most different sounds, with influences from Eastern and Western music, to create a truly spiritual experience.

Take, for example, "A Lotus on the Irish Streams". Luckily for us, the name of the track gives us a hint of what to expect: it is a mix of celtic folk, beautifully led by the melody of the violin, with some Indian-sounding guitar reminiscent of a sitar. I have to admit that it can be hard to grasp what is happening sometimes, when everything in this record is so fast and crazy. But there are beautiful moments, such as the aforementioned track or the contemplative "You Know, You Know".

To some people, this record may sound self-indulgent. But if you like to hear some crazy guitar shredding, insane drums, that kind of stuff, give this one a try.

Highlights: Meeting of the Spirits, Vital Transformation, You Know, You Know

Powering though

When programming, sometimes what we need is a boost of energy, some nurturing of our will to exist, in order to power through challenging tasks.

This is a list of albums for when you want to code while headbanging, playing air drums and singing (or growling) loudly.

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"Blackwater Park", Opeth

The sheer brutality of this record is almost unmatched, even when we talk about metal music. Even in the first moments of "The Leper Affinity", this album throws the listener into an absolute maelstrom of dark matter.

This is the prime example of progressive death metal, taking inspiration in the inventiveness of progressive rock giants such as King Crimson or Genesis, and applying that to the technically challenging and insanely fast sound of death metal. By using a mix of weird scales and odd tempos, the band achieves such face-melting riffs unheard since the times of the first Black Sabbath albums.

Highlights: The Leper Affinity, The Drapery Falls

"Saosin", Saosin

Arguably one of the best albums in the post-hardcore genre, this album is an unbroken string of bangers from start to finish.

The guitar work is beautiful, with thick riffs and fast arpeggios, tastefully mixed to sound not like pretentious guitar metal, but balanced, impressive, and super cool.

The singing does away with the violent growls that are a staple of the screamo genre, which can sound too harsh or tiresome for some people, and rather focuses on high-pitch screams on the livelier passages. The lyrics are much clearer than the arcane verses of previous iterations of this band, making them super catchy and making the listener feel in a concert, screaming, "We speak in different voices!" while banging keys on the code editor.

Highlights: It's Better to Learn, Come Close, Voices

"Inspiration is DEAD", Ling Tosite Sigure

Ling Tosite Sigure plays a mix of post-hardcore and shoegaze that features all the characteristics of both genres, while also presenting a unique and immediately recognizable sound.

You can expect to find shoegaze walls of sound, intensely distorted, delayed and reverbed guitars; also, post-hardcore screaming high vocals, fast-tempo guitar arpeggios and insane drum rolls. But what makes this band special is that it has so much character.

First, the band is a power trio, i.e. drum, bass, guitar. This is a perfect band formation because you can hear each instrument very distinctly. Not having two guitars makes the bass really slap: think Black Sabbath, Rush, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Second, the vocals are so weird that it may take some time to get used to. At first listen it may even sound bad. But at the same time, they are super cool. TK and 345 both sing, and the boy-girl dynamic makes a colourful mix of sweet, aggresive, soft and harsh sounds.

Highlights: Disco Flight, am 3:45, I Not Crazy Am You Are


Different moods are good for different tasks. Sometimes, what we need is to just chill and do what we are confident in.

These are records for when you want to code while vibing and enjoying life, thinking about the weekend that is coming.

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"No. 4", Serge Gainsbourg

Last year I decided to dive deep in Serge Gainsbourg's discography, and while there is much to talk about many of his records, I believe this the masterpiece. No. 4 is a mix of many artistic expressions: poetry, jazz, rock, bossa nova, samba, pop.

Though time has made records made in the 60's sound old or vintage, this record is incredibly modern and forward-driven in its artistic explorations: For example, "Baudelaire" sets the lyrics of XIXth century poetry to the sounds of bossa nova and samba, offering a sunny, tropical and sensual take on the words of a poet whose work is commonly associated to a sinister aesthetic of dark rooms, smoke and absinthe. Also worthy of note are the sick electric organ solos that sound like a weird French precursor to The Doors.

Highlights: Black Trombone, Baudelaire, Intoxicated Man

"At Home", Paddy Reilly

"The voice of Ireland", wrote some wise YouTube commenter.

Paddy Reilly, the great guitarist, singer, and one could even say at one point frontman of the legendary band The Dubliners, dropped this killer record in 1972. There is no mix of styles here, no avant-garde sound explorations, just the purest, most beautiful sound of Irish balladry.

Paddy's voice is powerful and heartwarming, and while marked by a strong and beautiful Irish accent, his words are clear, and wrap the listener in the most varied stories, from heroic war songs of rebellion to the love stories of whiskey-filled drunks. This is a record that just makes me want to take arms against the British and die in the arms of a golden-haired maiden.

Highlights: The Foggy Dew, Come Out Ye Black and Tans, The Limerick Rake

"Canta en Español Con Los Panchos", Eydie Gormé

I first heard this record when searching for the original Spanish version of the Dalida song "Histoire d'un amour". The Frech version is beautiful in its own term, providing a mix of the Latin rhythm of bolero with the melodramatic charm of the chanson française. But Eydie Gormé's version is superior to my ears for being livelier, more cheerful, showing, even if the lyrics are sad, the inherent beauty of a love story.

The 1964 record is a collaboration between the American singer and the Mexican trio, and is a beautiful display of the warm and colourful charm of Latin American music. Eydie Gormé's voice is soft, sweet, and elegant, with the perfect dose of drama (a character that can sometimes be excessive in such a genre as bolero), and a clear and charming accent. Los Panchos' guitars are expressive, sharp, and act like singers themselves.

This is definitely a record to put us in a good mood, reminding us of warmth, sunshine, dancing, love, and other joys of life.

Highlights: Historia de un Amor, Quando Vuelva a Tu Lado, Sabor a Mí

Top comments (2)

jess profile image
Jess Lee

While this is not my favourite work by Grieg (that would be the magnificent Piano Concerto in A Minor), it is a truly pleasant and fun listen.

+1 for that concerto, the only one he ever completed!

ronenelson profile image
Ron Nelson

Hilary Hahn plays Bach Is an old favorite of mine, partita’s work well for coding. Also any of the albums used in the soundtrack for the movie Hackers 😁