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Favourite albums to listen to while coding

Hussein Al Hammad
Developer at flourishworld.com (Dubai 🌴). Creator of grabapipit.com. Co-founder of wajad.art
・2 min read

Like many developers I often put my headphones on when coding. It helps me get in the zone, block out other distractions and get into that flow state.

Not all types of music helps me though. I find what works for me best is listening to instrumental albums, particularly progressive rock/metal. The tracks feel structured and often flow nicely.

And the flow is not just on a track-by-track basis. The whole album just flows and, as a result, so do my thoughts. So I don't play these on shuffle (who plays albums on shuffle?). I also occasionally play them at the gym too!

Below is a list of my favourite instrumental albums to listen to while coding. And here's a Spotify playlist containing them all.

1. (II) by Toundra

2. Mozaic by Sunset in the 12th House

3. Back to Earth by Exxasens

4. Boundless by Long Distance Calling

5. (III) by Toundra

6. O by The Gentle Art of Cooking People

Discussion (110)

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milan997 profile image
milan997

I almost exclusively listen to albums by Aphex Twin while coding. It's electronic music but very diverse genre-wise, spanning from ambient all the way to acid house. Also try Boards of Canada, Autechre, Venetian Snares, Squarepusher, all great artists.

There's no lyrics, I can't learn or code with any music that has words in it.

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Michael Kohl

If you like the ambient stuff by Aphex Twin, check out Loscil.

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Chris Oram

I certainly can second the Venetian Snares suggestion in this - i think the best album to start off with would be - Rossz Csillag Alatt Született.
On the progressive-rock/metal leaning by the OP i tend to err that way too. My go-to 'rotation' would be, the California band - ISIS (unfortunately their name has been a tad appropriated now...), Red Sparowes, And So I Watch You From Afar, Bossk and Explosions In The Sky.

Otherwise i tend to feel if i am on too much of a playlist consisting of electro-glitch type music that I feel like I am pretending to be in Swordfish...

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Hussein Al Hammad Author

Thanks for the suggestions. While I'm not usually into electronic music, these seem good!

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milan997

Actually, I'm really a rap/metal guy, usually very extreme metal, including the above mentioned ISIS, one of my fav bands since I heard Oceanic first time.

But for 'productive' purposes such as coding I strongly prefer simpler, minimalistic music. Helps me focus on the work and not the lyrics.

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emiguelt profile image
Edwin Miguel
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Jay Thompson

My favorites: episodes 6, 12, 13, 28, and 47.

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Matthew Daly

Anything by the Cocteau Twins is good, particularly the early stuff. Because Liz Fraser's lyrics were famously incomprehensible, and the guitars were swamped in effects to create a very unusual sound, it doesn't command attention in the same way something with comprehensible lyrics might.

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Hussein Al Hammad Author

Just checked a few of their songs; I'm digging it!

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Matthew Daly

First three albums are the best, Garlands, Head over Heels and Treasure. The later stuff where Liz Fraser's voice becomes more comprehensible isn't as good IMHO.

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Fran González • Edited

I'm really amazed that a couple of albums of your list are by a band from my country! Yay Toundra!

On a side note, what I usually listen to while coding:

Singularity by Jon Hopkins
Tunnel Blanket by This Will Destroy You
Wild Light by 65daysofstatic
Fair Youth by Maybeshewill

And well, I put some of their albums but really all the albums by those guys are perfect for this. Generally just Post-Rock, IDM and such is the way to go since it's interesting music but not too distracting.

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Javi

I was here too to give kudos for listening to Toundra, definetely one of my favourites.

Someone mentioned Aphex Twin and I couldn't agree more specially Selected Ambient Works 85-92.

I also have been enjoying any Tool album or King Jizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

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Emil Georgiev

Also check out "The fall of math" by 65daysofstatic
Such an incredible album.

"The hawk is howling" by Mogwai - also pretty amazing.

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Hussein Al Hammad Author

Yeah Toundra are awesome!

I haven't listened to Maybeshewill's Fair Youth album in a while I forgot how good it is. Really easy on the ear. I should add it to the playlist!

From the ones you listed I'm also familiar with This Will Destroy You and 65daysofstatic, but haven't heard of Jon Hopkins. I'll give Singularity a listen.

Thanks, Fran!

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Erik Pischel

Check out "god is an astronaut" and "the third and the mortal"

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Hussein Al Hammad Author

'God is an Astronaut' is another good band! I haven't heard of 'The Third and the Mortal" though; I'll check them out. Thanks, Erik.

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Fran González

I'm not a big fan of God Is An Astronaut, but I'll surely check out The Third and the Mortal, thanks!

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Nick Janetakis

I listen to a huge assortment of melodic death metal and deathcore but also throw in some ambient / epic instrumentals too.

I have a private Youtube playlist with around 500 songs but I'm afraid to make it public because it'll be visible on my channel which is where I post videos on software development topics.

I can't just have people browsing around Docker and Flask videos and then they're suddenly hit with a song like this without any context youtube.com/watch?v=BCcdZPpPZRU -- and that's a pretty tame one.

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Akira

Hahaha I love it

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Hussein Al Hammad Author

I think you can make playlists "unlisted" now so you can share it, but it won't be listed if someone visits your channel.

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Gabriel Arazas

I'm more into epic/orchestral music whenever I code seriously, it makes me go into the adventurous mood 😁. My main go-to is the music of games such as Cities: Skylines and SimCity (the reboot). When coding casually, I just put some white noise from A Soft Murmur and an ambient music.

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Chase Stevens

Here are ten albums I like to work to, from least jazzy to most jazzy (note: none of these are actually jazz). Enjoy!

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Miguel Ben

These are my favorites while coding:

  1. Castlevania - SOTN

  2. Chrono Trigger ost -snes

  3. Soul Calibur VI ost

  4. x-men V streetFighter ost

  5. Megaman X

Note: From time to time I switch to FCC youtube live music stream.

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Frank Carr

In a good mood, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here are two of my favorites. Otherwise something prog rock to jazz-rock.

In a cranky mood or wanting to build up energy, Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power or Social Distortion's Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell or self titled album. Otherwise something punk and angry.

At other times I listen to a wide variety of music although it will be guitar oriented 90% of the time. Last week I listened the new Larkin Poe album and Johnny Marr's latest one.

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José Guilherme Tavares Monteiro

"Music to flow by" songs are my favorite. They are made by a programmer. Has the exact lenght to make it easier to do the pomodoro technique and it is indeed good music!

musictoflowby.libsyn.com

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Nikola

Arch Enemy / Jinjer (any melodic d.m.) - Getting started, motivational
Lords of Iron (Celtic metal) - This is for most of the time,
Star Trek Enterprise noise - Heavy concentration
New Retro Wave

Sometimes just having headphones with no music does the trick
( I probably don't even notice that the playlist ended and got replaced by my internal humming/singing )

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equiman profile image
Camilo Martinez

I never seen something more geek than Star Trek Enterprise noise LOL!

It's like programming at maximum warp!

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Antonio Radovcic

For heavy concentration I listen to C418-One, Jim Guthrie and similar indie-game-soundtracks. For regular work I listen to nothing in particular, usually Ryan Adams or Rockstah. For no-brainer-work like HTML/CSS or while cycling I prefer podcasts.

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CJ Odina

I mostly listen to EPIC music. Anything by Audiomachine and Two Steps From Hell. Recently, though, I've added the Pray The Wicked album by Panic! At The Disco and The Attractions Of Youth by Barns Courtney.

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Jason Steinhauser

I usually listen to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" when I need to focus, anything by Girl Talk when I'm writing tests or debugging, and lots of Pantera, Metallica, Lamb of God, or anything else metal while doing tedious work.

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Andrew Jackson • Edited

Favour electronic music whilst I code, my two go to's are

Geometry by Tripswitch when I need to focus on something.

20 Ximer by Orkidea has a really nice fast hard beat to it which is great for banging out repetitive code.

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Mohsen Seifi • Edited

I have a large prog rock/prog metal record collection, but I listen to these albums very often

1- Fear of a Blank planet(Mostly from "Anesthetize" live DVD) // Porcupine tree
2- The incident // Porcupine tree
3- The dark side of the moon // Pink Floyd
4- Sky moves sideways // Porcupine tree
5- Raven that refused to sing // Steven Wilson
6- To the bone // Steven Wilson
7- Hand cannot erase // Steven Wilson
8- Blackfield, Blackfield II (Mosy from NYC live DVD) //Blackfield
9- A natural disaster // Anathema
10- Cheating the polygraph // Gavin harrison
11- Rajaz // Camel
12- Stationary traveller // Camel
13- In the cort of the crimson king // King crimson
14- Wish you were here // Pink Floyd
15- Distant satellites // Anathema
16- Arriving somewhere... (LIVE DVD) // Porcupine tree

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kremsku

Movie soundtracks!!!

Gladiator, Inception, Interstellar... Anything Hans Zimmer really 😅 There are many, many others of course 😊

I can’t really listen to anything with lyrics, they throw me off...

And definitely not Lion King soundtrack by Zimmer. ’A view to die for’ is ’A song to cry for’ for me.

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Jason C. McDonald • Edited

You may particularly enjoy the instrumental versions of the albums by Les Friction, which was founded by one half of the legendary ES Posthumus. Also, check out Kai Engel and Sergey Cheremisinov...when I'm in the mood for cinematic music, those are the composers I'm usually listening to. (That said, Hans Zimmer is amazing!)

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AsParallel • Edited

I inevitably go back to Portrait of an American Family by Marilyn Manson. It's more or less been on loop for 24 years at this point. Its not particularly good or anything, it just matches the cadence of my coding and functions as a form of meditation now that I know every word, movement and note.

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apes

Generally I just listen to music I like, so right now that's Simulation Theory (Muse), Hydra (Within Temptation) and some other artists (Against Me, Death Grips, Gorillaz)

The TF2 soundtrack is pretty underrated if you like instrumentals.

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Darkø Tasevski • Edited

I see that we have similar taste 😄
Check this band, they are great! This album in particular:
If These Trees Could Talk - Red Forest

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Hussein Al Hammad Author • Edited

To prove we have similar taste I'm already familiar with the band 😁

Thanks for reminding me of them. I may end up adding the album to the playlist!

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Alex • Edited

I usually listen to piano (Ludovico Einaudi, Fabrizio Paterlini...). Here’s a playlist of my favorites in the last 7 years.

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Andrea Pavoni

This post and its thread of comments is awesome. My tastes range is pretty wide, it just depends by the mood. For programming, I enjoy a lot soundtracks from films and series, such as Batman or Stranger Things (they give you a lot of drama during debugging). Sometimes I go for electro music, other times with Disco '70-80 🕺. The rest comes from Spotify Discover Weekly playlist :-P

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jmscavaleiro

All type of EDM music is good depending on the mood you have on each day. Normally I go for Tiesto or David Guetta on dinner or when I'm to much excited. Other times I go for Pan Pot it Mind Against. Cheers!

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Dave Jacoby

I can't stay on one album or genre too long, but I do use music for motivation and for audio-firewall purposes, and the tendencies are for long, rhythmically-oriented songs with few distractions such as vocals or musical improvisation. I love jazz, esp. Coltrane, but while I can listen for hours to even his longest tangents for fun, it throws me off my game while programming. So, what do I like?

Dub Reggae

A main point of dub reggae is that it gets hypnotic, and Sly & Robbie are a key rhythm section for the genre.

Motorik

Motorik is a beat, not a genre, but it is highly associated with Krautrock, and "Hallogallo" by NEU! is a prime example.

Techno

This playlist is one I tend to go back to, but before that, I would often go to Paul Oakenfold or John Digweed. The same characteristics that keep the crowd moving all night keep me in the right flow. I've been looking into hour long DJ sets from Ellen Allien and Allison Wonderland, but I haven't done that often.

I've tried live jam band tracks, like "Dark Star" or "The Other One" from various Dick's Picks releases by the Grateful Dead, but there's something about it that draws my attention away, which doesn't work.

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Vincent Dedo

I tend to alternate between catchy music and very chaotic music. In the catchy section it'll be anime music or electro swing and for chaos I go for metal, although the only band I really have on repeat is Archspire.

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Jason C. McDonald • Edited

I've got a few, depending on mood. Here's some of my top albums:

  • "Until We Have Faces" - RED
  • "Release the Panic" - RED
  • "Of Beauty and Rage" - RED
  • "Hello Hurricane" - Switchfoot
  • "Vice Verses" - Switchfoot
  • "Eleventh Hour" - Jars of Clay
  • "If I Left The Zoo" - Jars of Clay
  • "True North" - Twila Paris
  • "6.1" - Out of the Grey
  • "Declaration" - Steven Curtis Chapman
  • "Portable Sounds" - Tobymac
  • "This Is Not A Test" - Tobymac
  • "Unbreakable" - Fireflight
  • "For Those Who Wait" - Fireflight
  • "Now" - Fireflight
  • "For The Love of the Game" - Pillar
  • "Where Do We Go From Here" - Pillar
  • "Les Friction" - Les Friction

However, my tastes vary from jazz to classical, swing to rock, contemporary to symphonic metal, and just about everything in between.

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Camilo Martinez

I'm usually play my own Rock/Metal Playlist, but sometimes Classical music it's my best friend.

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Jason C. McDonald

"The Planets" is one of my all-time favorite symphonies! I especially love the London Philharmonic Orchestra version conducted by Sir Georg Solti, which I'm happy to report I have on vinyl. :)

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nayonnapurnell

I was shaking my head yes through this entire post. I love listening to classical music for the same reasoning of the flow of instruments. I don't get lost in the words. I find myself more productive listening classical music for both writing code and writing papers.

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Davis • Edited

This is an excellent playlist! Thank You.

I have been a fan of this playlist lofi hip hop beats

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Gil Creque

I totally agree with music that contains no words. I got inspired by the Minecraft Soundtrack and ended creating my own Spotify playlist here open.spotify.com/user/gilcreque/pl...

I also started listening to ChilledCow over the summer and got hooked. I now have an iPad in my office that plays it all day long for me and my coworkers.