Why do some developers listen to music while they code?

sathish profile image Sathish ・1 min read

I want my environment to be silent while programming. Listening to music actually deviate from what I'm doing. I wonder how it helps some. :-)


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I listen to music with no vocals. That does not need me to focus on the music and acts like background white noise. This helps me focus on the job at hand. I can avoid hearing people talking and getting distracted. It is a noisy kind of silence!


Yep, I second this.
I also listen to music that fits my current mood (either I need some motivating, pushing fast paced music or slow, calm, maybe classical) but always without vocals.

Some time ago I realized it also works if I just turn on some white noise (there is a Rainstorm Playlist on Spotify 😂) to avoid being distracted by other peoples conversations or other noise.


Would you mind sharing your playlist? I've been thinking about doing the same thing.


I though I'd share mine as well. It's a collection of Chillhop pieces I like. I always listen to those when I'm programming / studying. It helps me to block out the surroundings.



Not sure if this is the one that he is referring to but it is one that I follow.



If I'm learning something new, silence. If I'm doing something that I already know how to do, I listen to music to kind of get in a flow.


In my situation, I work in a kind of noisy environment, so I hear music to abstract myself from all the talking and laughing and whatnot. I mostly hear music I already know, and that's more rock, pop, hip-hop etc... to help me get in the mood. If I'm focused working, normally after one or two songs I get so into "the zone", that when I'm out, the playlist is over :p


I do it because the headset keeps my ears warm in our cold office!


As a "developer" (Read: Junior person who knows barely anything at this point), and an individual with Autism, music my way of drowning out unexpected noises. When there are people talking, or noises occurring around me , I will inadvertently attempt to isolate and figure out what those noises are. With music (Mainly stuff that I know the lyrics to) I don't focus on that, since I know what the noise is. It leaves me to concentrate on my problem solving.


I listen to music that matches the attitude with which I'm coding. If it's intense, my music is intense. Casual and relaxed, the music matches.


IMO, music helps you get into "flow".

From my personal observation when working & listening to music, I see two patterns:

1) There are times when coding with music makes you super-productive (often when you know what you are solving and need to actually code it).

2) There are times where you need silence to concentrate & solve / understand the problem at hand. If all your mental capacity goes towards that problem, then - music can be distracting.

But in the end - it all depends on the person & the context ;)


A list of things I listen to while coding:


  • John Hopkins
  • Steven Wilson


And many more.. anything with a good groove for coding fast without thinking, and no music at all for planning ahead without coding (whiteboard, note book).


Ulrich Schnauss is great!


I listen alternately to trance (Above & Beyond etc.), soundtracks (movie and game) and classical. While trance occasionally has vocals they are usually really short and simple so they are not much of a distraction. Overall electronica fits my silicon based lifestyle the best. Actually music not only does it help me focus, it keeps me from bothering the people around me. I tend to talk to myself a bit and I like interacting with my co-workers (to their detriment from time to time). With tunes that are not very singable I tend to not sing (not singing is my gift to mankind). As far as classical goes nothing for me beats Debussy.


I'm a person that enjoys good rhythm and doesn't notice lyrics in most occasions. When I start coding I need to have music with me (which depends on my mood but it's mostly some electronic). That music makes me to isolate surrounding noises, and makes me focus on the work that I'm doing. After some time I'm so into coding that I even stop noticing the music. It happened to me a couple of times that I ended from electronic music to some metal or so music without me even noticing that until I stopped working. :)


Sometimes when I'm stuck, a little bit of distraction will break the ideas loose. Having the right music (depends on my mood) can help keep my thoughts moving forward.


I pretty much agree -- silence when developing is my ideal.

I have found that having a ticking clock is quite soothing, but maybe it just gives some part of my brain something meaningless to focus on so it doesn't wander off making up conversations with imaginary people.

That happens with everyone, right?


I actually can't work in a completely silent environment, it makes me so nervous - especially if I have deadlines. With music everything just feels less stressed.

I love listening to old school rock music while coding, it gives me the motivation I need :)


I like to hear music when I program and when I study, mostly instrumental but sometimes I can deal with vocals if I'm not much into the lyrics (If I'm I could fall into the song and just not do anything (?) )

This is something that depends on the person, I like to do it while I do those things because it makes me feel more comfortable, also I work in my home and sometimes my family is too noisy and its just better to hear to something pleasant when you're trying to concentrate on a problem. I give you the studying too because its other thing that requires concentration and there's lots of people that just can't deal with music while they study too.


While some prefer music (myself included), others prefer some background noise to boost their productivity. I found that few people prefer actual silence, as they usually use sound blocking headsets to achieve absolute noise reduction.

IMHO, as some other comments said, music depends on your mood. Rhythm (fast/slow paced), lyrics (voiceless/voice) and genre widely depends on what you're doing, as it can distract you more than help. It really depends on the type of work you're doing at the moment: creative, repetitive, low skill + hard or high skill + easy (based on the "Flow" theory graph happenchance.net/wp-content/upload... or just search "flow skill" on Google Images).

Since playlists depends on each individual music style, the only tip I can give is coffitivity.com/, which is a site that simulates ambience noise.


I listen to music when programming because there's so much music out there, I feel like I'll never catch up!

Actually, I listen to music with headphones on at work because we have an open office plan. I guess I could have noise-canceling headphones on without music, but that just feels weird.

I also mostly listen to kpop, and I don't speak Korean very well, so lyrics aren't distracting.


I listen to music because:

1) Music allows me to "disconnect" from the "real" world and focus on my work. ( i suffer of difficulties to get focus)

2) Having earphones it's a way to say people: "don't disturb me... im focused working"

3) I was in the "business show" and talked with a Dj.. he told me that likes to "control" people with music, when he rises the beat, people tend to move faster... so i took that idea for me... and when i need to get "hard core" to get things done i use Psytrance so i experience a rise in my productivy and i start writing code so fast when "beat" rises and slowing when it go down this is amazing because i can code a lot with the music rhythm.

4) Allow me to relax sometimes or decrease stress.. when i'm coding sometimes i get stressed but using music it's different. Silence stress me out.

That's why i use music to code...



I'm convinced programming is the reason I got into weird surf music like man or astro man, messr chups, or the ghastly ones. I don't surf! Or even have much to do with the ocean, usually!

Also try searching these things on YouTube for some interesting instrumental finds in other genres:

  • cal tjader (latin)
  • explosions in the sky (post-rock)
  • tortoise (experimental rock - really all over the place)
  • pelican (metal?)
  • thomas barrandon (synthwave)

I also mostly listen to music without vocals when I'm developing, unless I'm doing grunt work. It gets me into a nice flow. Sometimes the music I make really jives with what I'm creating on screen and somehow it's really motivating. I mostly listen faux 80's synthpop while developing so I can feel like I'm a montage, but when I'm in a really pretentious mood I like some classical music as well (mostly string quartets / piano trio's because I find a whole orchestra to bombastic).


I use music, as many others said, to block out the environment but also to just listen to music while I'm programming. Working remotely I can switch from headphones to blasting the music at loud volumes with no complaints :-D

I tend not to listen to music when I'm reading something new but it's not a rule.

I even listen to music on the subway/train while I'm reading (books) so I can concentrate better and not get distracted by other people around me.

One thing I love about the Spotify app is that when I arrive home I can just "switch" the music stream from my phone to my computer and keep listening to the same song, magic!


I love listening to video game soundtracks with orchestral music because they are specifically engineered to not distract you. Other times, i'll listen to electronic music, but it depends on the task.

Sometimes, when I really want to drown out the noise, I play some ambient noise as a backdrop for the music. That's what led me to make a desktop application just for playing ambient noise. I call it Ambient Weaver (github.com/foresthoffman/ambient-w...).


I listen to music (with vocals) it helps me focus on the code alone, not my (typically loud) surroundings. Strangely it (sometimes) takes my mind off the code, I complete my work and have no idea what I did (or how); with music I "zone" out of the world. I don't believe I would be where I am today (as a developer) without music to help me concentrate and get through the tough areas of this field.


I used to program in a biology lab, so it was either listen to machines constant rumble, or listen to music. I've gotten a playlist of nearly 200 hours of non-vocal trance for this reason: I can only really program with music on.


I learned a long time ago that I could do two things at once with my brain, given that the activities were different enough to not collide. In some way, they complement each other and I end up more focused. Usually one is considered more mindless than the other, but I don't believe that to really be true. I think they just require different aspects of my attention and perhaps in some way I detach one of the "processes" to my subconscious.

To me, listening to music is one of those activities and can be a "planned distraction." It activates a part of my brain that I don't use for coding or writing and stimulates it, reducing the pull that other distractions may have.

Another example is doodling or drawing while listening to a lecture. I am less prone to drifting off or diverting my attention when I am focused on the paper in front of me with my eyes and fingers, leaving my ears to listen to the speaker.

If you drive, you probably do this already. At some point driving becomes that "mindless" task and you are able to have conversations or more actively listen to the radio or podcast.

Everyone is different, and a pairing that works for one person might not work for another.


When what I am doing is new/complex, I either listen to this playlist created by Oliver Emberton or sometimes "Hidden figures" sound tracks!

I like Oliver's playlist as they are mostly instrumentals, so it's just noise.

However, there are time when, for some reason, you turned the music off and forget to turn it back on, even though you have the headphones on you! Does that happen to anyone else?


I actually listen music as much as I breathe. It's natural, and it's part of my life. So programming with music is normal and desirable to me, specially in a noisy office.
Having said that, I use "predictable" music so it doesn't take too much attention from me. Predictable usually means already very known or very similar (bonus if instrumental), or things like instrumental post-rock, lately. I adore things like Toe's last two CDs, that keep me at a rhythm and give me something of a known background.

And yet, I have a couple of melodic Death Metal albums to use in case of mental breakdown and/or nerves. I use music that matches my mood to "synch" and then change if desired, not forcing music that my mood rejects.


As lots of people have written, it helps them from becoming a distraction. For me, I listen to music as well as things like youtube videos or podcasts as well.

There is always some part of coding that is rote and not as interesting as other parts. When I need to be working on the more boring parts, the music / other audio helps take up the part of my brain that is bored.


It drowns out all the background noise in my own head. Otherwise every moment I'm waiting for the compiler, or not fully engaged in my work, I'll end up getting side-tracked and thinking about something else.

It also soothes me. Though I tend to have music that sometimes matches the moods. I tend to listen to more ambient stuff in the morning, and more intense stuff as the day goes on.

I don't like headphones though, and thus when working in an office listen to a lot less music. I ususally work at home where I have a proper sound system, and no compressed sound files.


For me, there‘s two reasons to Listen to music. Also I go with the stuff that most will say is too distracting for them: Metal, Hard Rock Blues-/dirty rock and anything in between. Guess this relates to 2.):

1.) I am (and was in previous job) surrounded by people that are talking much in person and on telephone. Music helps me block these conversations out and replace them with something less interruptive, otherwise I would tend to concentrate on these conversations, at least partly, getting my focus taken away from the task at hand.

2.) and this is pretty personal I think - If I concentrate solely at my Task, I have to „listen“ to my thoughts, meaning I will concentrate on formulating thoughts in my head very much. Since I tend to jump between scopes and single modules (classes, functions, etc), this is mentally very exhausting to me. Listening to music takes part of this focus away - on most days exactly this listening thing - leaving enough focus on the task so I don‘t feel interupted. When laying out architectures or something, I mostly can‘t work with music since I need more focus, but with programming tasks, music really helps me. Also, in the last year or so, I notice thid „listening“ thing fading and being able to work without music more often, so it‘s also probably a habit.

Of course, there‘s also the signal sending factor. People approach you differently when they see you are wearing earphones or headphones.


I find that if I need intense focus, like when doing architecture, design work, or thinking through some complex application logic, then I need quiet. However, when the "hard work" is done, the music helps me get into a flow state, where I can just sit and bang out code really quickly.


Words like violence
Break the silence
Come crashing in
Into my little world

I listen to music mainly because it blocks out distractions and keeps me focused. I know this doesn't work for everyone but it does for me. I also enjoy music and it helps my mood to have music going while I work.


For me, it depends. I like listening to music as a way to tune out other sounds in the office. It usually tends to be pop, rock, or music in another language, and often ones I've listened to many times before. If I'm focused on what I'm doing, my mind tends to tune out or skip the song too, so it ends up being a kind of silence in a way. Though once a while, I do need complete silence to work when I'm thinking through something or find the music too distracting for my mind.


Open office made me do it.


I mainly listen to instrumental music just to get my head in the zone while coding. And listen to nothing when I’m learning something new.


It help me for motivation and also to focus more in noisy office.


I'm just a big fan of listening to music. It helps me get in the zone and overall just makes things more enjoyable.


Music is always going through my head. If I play it externally, then my entire brain can focus on code.


Sometimes (if current task isn't so hard) I can work with wineglass, not only with a music ))


I listen to the music while coding mostly to adapt with noisy environment and i believe that in the long term it can help me to maintain my focus in any environment.


For me it's relaxing and It helps me to work!


If you work in an office with an open floor, it helps to ignore the noise. I generally listen to instrumental stuff which doesn't impact my concentration much.


Cos our office has sales people it in and without headphones there would be only bad noise :(


Really loud music quitens the screaming in my head.


It gives rhythm while typing