The Definite Guide to Pick the Correct Music While Working

perigk profile image Periklis Gkolias Originally published at medium.freecodecamp.org on ・1 min read

I only know few semi-god-concentration-giants who don’t work with headphones, while being productive at their company’s -usually noisy- office and I really admire them..

For the rest of us co-mortals, we need our headphones/earphones, to make it through. But have you ever thought, what should you listen to, at work? And I mean, in terms of best value regarding your current state.

Below are some hints, about how you should pick the sound that will entertain your ears. Of course, they are not a silver bullet. It is the outcome of my personal experience and tons of experimentations during the past years.

But first, what equipment should I use to listen?

Thanks for asking. For starters, please, do not listen from your computer’s speakers directly. No one gives a f*ck about your music taste and no one needs your help in order to entertain himself. And now that we got this fact sorted, let’s answer the question. :-)

You can use any pair of semi-high-quality headphones/earphones. Avoid buying very cheap ones, but if you don’t have the budget, don’t go to ultra-quality-noise-canceling ones, even though they will totally upgrade your hearing experience.

Personally, I use these and I am very happy with their performance and level of sound quality, but I would love to try a portable and budget noise cancellation pair.

Inspect your mental state and your tasks ahead

In order to decide what kind of sound will keep company to my ears, I first take an “inside look” on how I feel and what my task ahead is. There is a different kind of music to hear if you want to do “shallow work” and reply to your emails comparing to the one you would hear if you were designing the next Mars Rover(wink-wink Elon Musk).

Without further ado, let’s start with the suggestions. All sound sources, are summed up in the last section of the article. I will focus on the most common cases, as the potential combinations are too many to fit in an article.

Mental state: Mommy-I-dont-want-to-go-to-school

Task: Mentally challenging:

Here is the Mars Rover case. My first choice would be beta/gamma binaural beats. You can help yourself to enter the zone more easily and temporarily reduce any lack of motivation, if you use them.

It is not a magic wand(if you want to procrastinate by all means and at all costs, you will eventually procrastinate) but it has helped me, quite a few times, especially on cases like “last day before my 10-day holidays”.

You can find binaural beats everywhere, from YouTube and Spotify to mobile apps, but my favorite place is a sound generator called fractal panda.

Task: Not trivial, but I have done it a lot of times:

If you are a frontend developer, that would be to make a login and a registration form, from scratch. Or if you are Batman, to drive the Batmobile.

In this case, I would pick instrumental music, maybe from my favorite genre(that would be power metal). Why instrumental and not my favorite band, I hear you asking, my wonderful reader?

The “favorite band” choice is great, but lyrics might distract you with higher probability than pure music. Up to you though, feel free to experiment a bit. If you really insist, try and put a couple of songs in a loop, so that your brain is not reacting to ‘shiny-new-songs’.

Lo-fi music(how about freecodecamp radio, ambient sounds like trains and rain (have you used ambient mixer and its great collection?) and classical music are good choices as well. As always, YouTube and Spotify, are our best friends.

Task: I need creativity, as I am a content creator:

I encourage you to utilize the coffee-shop effect. As Barbara Oakley would mention in her great MOOC Mindshift working in a coffee shop would help you enable the diffuse mode of your brain.

I can’t brag that it had helped me a lot, but I recognize not everyone is the same. Instead, I see that calm violin tracks are giving me a good shot of creativity, so I am tapping on them when I have the chance.

I also know that some people enjoy the sound of a fan for that matter, although most of us find it annoying.

Task: Chilling and reading:

Ah, that wonderful time of the day. Chilling time, to be precise. I think it goes without saying that you should pick your favorite band(s). Relaxing genres(like jazz), are a good fit, as well. Especially, if it is before bedtime. Also, it is worth giving alpha/theta/delta binaural beats a chance.

Now about reading:

  • If it is reading for university/exams in general(or for an equally important purpose) consider monotonous sounds, without lyrics. My favorites are violin(yep, again) and train sounds accompanied by thunderstorms(not sure why maybe I get the illusion of bad weather and thus I find no reasons to procrastinate).
  • If it is casual reading , like reading your favorite novel, then my best bet would be nature sounds. Forest and creek sounds always bring me good memories and put me in a relevant mental state.

Mental state: Bring it on:

Here things are easier.

First of all, I would like to insist you to stay away from gamma binaural beats. You are already motivated you have a good amount of beta/gamma activity in your head, so under normal circumstances, there is no need to enforce it even more.

Binaurals are considered safe in general with no health side effects, but you might get mentally exhausted easily, in such case.

Otherwise, using the same path to choose your perfect music track, as in the unmotivated state, will work for most people. Though, my favorite choice here is to pick, a playlist from my favorite band and increase the volume(only a bit, because we only get one pair of ears).

I would stick to up beating tracks, as they help you feed your enthusiasm through music.

That’s all folks

Thank you for reading this article. Let’s start by giving our best work-company, music, the attention it deserves. Below you can find links to all the sources I mentioned above. As always, I would be more than happy to listen to your own “music strategies”.


Originally published at perigk.github.io

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Periklis Gkolias


In love with Python, but I admire all the stacks that offer solutions without testing my patience. Avid productivityist, great-food worshipper, always-smiling.


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Wow, this is one of the more thorough examinations of this subject I've ever read.


Super glad that you like it, Ben :)


Awesome article!

Small thing I'd like to add though: for people listening to a lot music (meaning: often and for long periods of time), do prefer a headset to headphones.

Long story short, headphones sound isolation is poor, making you increase the volume. In-ear headphones are even worse because they increase pressure in the ear.

Also, prefer a headset that encompasses your whole ear, that's more comfortable on the long run and it also provide a better isolation.

My last advice would be to go for a wireless headset (like a bluetooth one), these are quite affordable today and, again, if you use it for long periods of time, not having a cable is a true relief.

Take care of your ears and earing :)


Great, thank you for the great sharing. You can find out some more free mp3s at: Beste klingeltöne


Totally agree. Wireless has some cons for me, but it is really handy.


Great article! I imagine that's what most people would think coders listen to. I say that because people are shocked that I listen to rock/metal music a lot, but generally, that's only when I need some inspiration. If I'm wanting to zone it, I normally put on a few hour long mix of House or Trance music.


Thank you. Metal music is great, I still believe we are a minority in the software world, though. Most people I believe prefer more dancy hits.


If you want to zone out to some heavy metal, give the DOOM soundtrack a listen (the 2016 game)

It's from 2016?
Wow, seems like yesterday.


A solid article is always pleasant to read.
From everything you've listed here, I'm only familiar with freeCodeCamp Radio, reason being that I've found early on the effects of OST's on my work habits.
OST's tend to do the trick for me as they're designed to boost listeners focus and be relaxing at the same time.
So go to youtube and search "<your favorite title here> OST", tune in and see if it'll work for you.


I listen to OSTs of (mostly) Japanese video games for the same reason 😀


Thank you, I knew OST, I just didnt know the name of the genre.

@michaeltd @perigk
Kill la Kill OST vs Transistor OST?


Sweet! Great list! I'm glad I'm not the only one microwaving my brains with binaural beats. I use a site/app called Brain.fm as well as the excellent resource mynoise.net/


Mynoise really rocks. I will totally donate.

Why are you calling binaurals, microwaves? I think microwaves are potentially harmful, whereas binaurals seem quite more innocent, unless abusing them(like all things of course)


That was just a joke, the thrumming of the binaurals only seems like it would melt your brain.

That makes sense and I agree. Thats why I usually combine them(fractal panda has such mixer) with nature sounds

If you like Fractal Panda's mixer, I suggest checking out calmyleon.com/. It's by the same guy who does the myNoise stuff but in a much more simple UI. It's worth paying a couple bucks to unlock all the options as well.


Wow, this is some interesting stuff to check out. Typically I just use Spotify and play a track or list of songs that suit my mood or needs. Fractal Panda looks really interesting, I may have to check that out more. Thanks!


I generally tend toward "liquid dub" and/or less chaotic techno-ish music, when i need to concentrate.

Have you heard of music to code by? Carl Franklin from dotnetrocks/2ketodudes is behind this - I haven't listened to the new stuff, but at least tracks 1-7 I thoroughly enjoyed.


Thanks for mentioning it, I didnt know it


Nice post! I like a bit of new wavey stuff but more 80's and less kygo-y haha. Also love the cmd.fm interface even though it's just pulling SoundCloud it makes it less noisey and it has games! Also radio.newretrowave.com/ which is the fancy site for a great youtube channel. React Rally also puts out awesome annual playlists too :).


Very interesting links, many thanks :)


Everytime I'm writing CSS,I put on some downtempo instrumental in the background. It puts you in a state of 'concentration trance' as I like to call it.

This is what I'm listening to right now.


Bookmarked it :)


This guide is amaaazing! I would always find myself trying to literally pick the right music that wasn't boring but also wasn't distracting.


I'm not sure how Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies fit into this equation but that's what I was streaming yesterday while working on some SQL queries.


Nice coincidence :)


I'm missing classical music in that list. For example, Bach's Suite No. 3 "Air" on the G string is excellent for concentrated work.


I am mentioning classical music in the article's body, but I think you are right, I should have put a good reference in the last section.


Yes, thank you very much. I know how to find and choose my own ringtone (klingelton)


"Instrumental Music makes me smile" - I read this in my batman voice o_o^

Also, nice article!


Thanks a lot :)


Cult of Luna - Mariner. Thank me later.


Nice channel, thanks for the suggestion.


no brostep
no bossa nova
no lofi hip-hop for studying (with anime background)
no tibetan throat singing

What kind of article is this?

Is this what Python does to people?


Never was able when music is on, it really distracts me. But for some people it helps to stay focused somehow...


You are keen on no sound at all? Have you tried ambient mixer or noisli or fractal panda?

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